This article might not make me many friends because it is skeptical by nature. That being said, the NFL exists in a real world where disappointments tend to outshine positivity throughout the duration of a season.
I think Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams fans can attest to this.
You are going to see certain players on each NFL team disappoint—that is just the way it goes, people. If this didn't happen everything would be "peachy-keen" around the world of football. We all know that isn't the case unless we are existing in a certain fandom that disables our ability to see the sun through the clouds.
Will Adrian Peterson be able to return healthy? Is Joe Flacco set for a breakout season? Can Steven Jackson still shoulder the load? These questions and more will be answered in this article focusing on one player from each NFL team set to disappoint in 2012.
It is also important to take into account what the Denver Broncos are going to do on offense with Peyton Manning at the helm and whom they have vying for carries with the veteran running back.
Manning really likes to use his running backs as receivers out of the backfield, which is clearly not a strength of McGahee's. In fact, he has a total of 176 receptions in seven seasons.
Denver drafted former San Diego standout Ronnie Hillman in the third round of April's draft. The talented young ball-carrier had 24 receptions last season and seems to possess above-average hands.
Also vying for rushes is Lance Ball, who combined for nearly 600 total yards on just 112 touches in 2011.
2011 Statistics: 43 receptions, 856 yards, five touchdowns
It is one thing to be asked to play a complementary role in the passing game. It is an entirely different monster to be asked to be "the guy."
This is the situation that Malcom Floyd finds himself in after Vincent Jackson departed the San Diego Chargers in lieu of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in March.
Can Floyd produce No. 1 receiver numbers? Will he be asked to? These are the primary questions that go into deciding whether Floyd belongs on this list.
The simple answer is "no" to both questions. The Chargers brought in both Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal via free agency. Head coach Norv Turner had some pretty lofty praise for Royal during minicamp last month.
"He's a real smooth receiver," Turner said. "He reminds me of Charlie Joiner, and reminds me of Henry Ellard, guys that I've been around. He's very deceptive. And sometimes he doesn't look like he's going that fast, and he's hauling."
The emergence of second-year standout Vincent Brown might also play a role in the number of targets Floyd sees. In short, he might not be asked to put up "No. 1 receiver-type stats."
Anyone expecting 1,200 yards and double-digit touchdowns is going to be sorely disappointed.
2011 Statistics: 59.5 completion percentage, 1,713 yards, 10 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 76.6 quarterback rating
That just isn't going to get it done.
The struggles were glaring and consistent in his nine starts. Cassel threw more than one touchdown in only two of his starts, going a whopping three games without reaching the end zone. Moreover, the veteran signal-caller failed to reach 200 yards in more than half of his starts. Link to stats here.
Despite the fact that I expect the Kansas City Chiefs to contend for the AFC West Championship, I am not sold on Cassel as much more than a game-manager at this point. Their offense is going to rely heavily on a ground-and-pound attack with Jamaal Charles, Dexter McCluster and Peyton Hillis.
In short, Cassel wont be asked to do much.
If you are expecting a repeat of the 2010 season, you are going to be disappointed.
2011 Statistics: 64 receptions, 975 yards, four touchdowns
Darrius Heyward-Bey definitely shed his bust label during an impressive 2011 campaign. The former top-10 pick nearly accumulated 1,000 yards and took off once Carson Palmer was inserted into the starting lineup.
The young receiver combined for 26 receptions and more than 430 yards during the final quarter of the season, which put him among the most reliable receivers in the league during that span.
So, why is he on this list?
It is pretty simple and really isn't a knock on the talented receiver. The Oakland Raiders have a myriad of different weapons in the passing game, mostly young and inexperienced.
You can expect Palmer to whirl the ball around Oakland like no other quarterback since Rich Gannon. That being said, he is going to mix it up and give each receiver an opportunity to contribute. In short, Palmer isn't going to feed the ball to one specific receiver.
As it is, Denarius Moore should and probably will receive the most targets of any Raiders receiver. This is going to limit the production from Heyward-Bey.
2011 Statistics: 57.6 completion percentage, 3,610 yards, 20 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 80.9 quarterback rating
Just to use numbers in order to help you explain how Joe Flacco fell off the map in 2011, take a look at the statistics.
The young quarterbacks saw his completion percentage, passing yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt and quarterback rating all take a dive from 2010, while his interceptions increased by a couple.
Moreover, Flacco was one of the most inconsistent regular starters in the National Football League in 2011. He went a total of four games without throwing a touchdown, completing well less than 50 percent of his passes and throwing three interceptions in those four outings.
Flacco saw his quarterback rating dip below 70 in a total of five games during the 2011 season, with Baltimore losing three of those games.
These are not the statistics of a quarterback that is prepared to take the next step. Rather, it is a horrible sign for his advancement as a quarterback to see him take such a dramatic step back in his fourth season as a starting quarterback.
Rookie offensive tackles tend to struggle a great deal in pass protection. Even the most "blue chip" of prospects see this happen initially. It is all about honing your technique and being able to beat the defender at the line and closing off the outside that these young tackles struggle with.
This isn't to say this is going to be a consistent issue for Mike Adams. Rather, it just indicates the learning curve is going to be steep.
If any Pittsburgh Steelers fans are expecting Adams to have the same impact as his rookie counterpart David DeCastro, they are sorely mistaken. Playing guard out of the gate is a much different monster than being asked to protect the outside from speed-rushers.
You are going to see a tremendous amount of growing pains for the 2012 second-round pick out of the gate this season. That being said, Adams does need to gain the experience and work through those issues.
2011 Statistics: four tackles, one pass defended
It really is hard to imagine Taylor Mays becoming anything more than a special teams contributor at this point. The former second-round pick was shown the door by his original team, the San Francisco 49ers, after he ignored the attempts of coaches to help him with his coverage skills.
That bitter divorce occurred after just one season as the 49ers literally gave Mays away for a seventh-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft. This is how much they wanted to get rid of him.
Mays then struggled a great deal in coverage during the preseason in 2011 and never really saw the field as a safety on a consistent basis.
Now Mays is pegged to start at strong safety for the Cincinnati Bengals after they were unable to upgrade at that position in the offseason.
Anyone expecting Mays to come on like gangbusters in 2012 is fooling themselves. He doesn't have the technique or drive to be a solid strong safety in the NFL.
It just isn't going to happen. Expect Mays to be replaced in the starting lineup rather soon after the regular season kicks off in September, if not before.
Cleveland Browns wide receivers caught a total of 159 passes in 2011. Compare that to New England's Wes Welker, who had 122 receptions all on his own in the season.
No quarterback, no matter the talent that he possesses, would be hugely successful in that type of situation. This is one of the primary reasons I didn't agree with the Browns' selection of Brandon Weeden in the first round of April's draft to replace Colt McCoy.
The Oklahoma State product is going to find himself in the same situation that McCoy, among others, found themselves in with the Browns over the course of the last few seasons.
In short, it is hard to imagine Weeden being able to have much success as a rookie without any help from skill position players on the outside.
Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed combined for 17.5 sacks last season and are entrenched in as the Houston Texans' two starting outside linebacker. Brian Cushing made the move inside but has the ability to play outside if need be. The Texans also have J.J. Watt, who can drop back into coverage from the defensive end position.
In short, there isn't a great deal of room for Whitney Mercilus to make an impact as a rookie in 2012. The Texans aren't going to limit the reps these aforementioned players see simply because they drafted Mercilus in the first round. Rather, they are going to go with the players that are most productive.
Moreover, the Illinois product is going to have to hone his pass-coverage technique and build more pass-rush moves in order to become a consistent threat.
I just don't see it in 2012.
There was a time when Steve Hutchinson was the best guard in the entire National Football League. At 34, those times surely have passed. The seven-time Pro Bowl guard has regressed a great deal over the course of the last two seasons and seems to have little left in the tank.
If anyone is expecting a performance reminiscent of 2007, they are sorely mistaken and will be greatly disappointed.
2011 Statistics: 343 attempts, 1,606 yards, 4.7-yard average, eight touchdowns
Depending on how long Maurice Jones-Drew holds out, we could be looking at a Chris Johnson-type regression from the reigning NFL rushing leader. We saw Johnson struggle a great deal out of the gate, never really getting it together until the latter part of the year in 2011.
Could the same thing happen with Jones-Drew?
I say yes. You also have to take into account whom the Jacksonville Jaguars have throwing the ball. Blaine Gabbert was easily the worst statistical starting quarterback in the National Football League in 2011.
Couple that with a slowed-down Jones-Drew and you have the makings for a down season from the Pro Bowl running back.
Of course this changes is Jones-Drew backs down and reports to training camp later this month.
2011 Statistics: 75 receptions, 960 yards, four touchdowns
While Reggie Wayne might act as a solid veteran presence on the outside for Andrew Luck, it is hard to imagine him instantly becoming the favorite target of the rookie.
Young quarterbacks tend to flock to the middle of the field and target tight ends as safety valves. This is only magnified if the quarterback is playing behind an inconsistent offensive line.
The Indianapolis Colts also selected two tight ends in April: Luck's former Stanford teammate Coby Fleener in the second round and former Clemson standout Dwayne Allen in the third round.
The combination of those two talented young tight ends should immediately become Luck's favorite targets. This leaves Wayne in more of a complementary role.
He caught a total of 14 passes in the Patriots' final seven games.
That just isn't going to get it done.
After adding Brandon Lloyd in free agency, the Patriots now have four passing targets that promise to be higher up on the ladder than Branch. Welker, Lloyd, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will definitely see more targets.
2011 Statistics: 56.7 completion percentage, 3,474 yards, 26 touchdowns, 18 interceptions, 78.2 quarterback rating
Surprisingly, Mark Sanchez has seen all of his major passing numbers increase in each of his first three seasons. The reality is that the enigmatic quarterback has progressed as a quarterback.
That isn't the issue.
Sanchez hasn't progressed as much as anyone would have expected after a relatively solid rookie season. His quarterback rating still sits under 80 and he has never had a season with a completion percentage totaling over 60.
Those are two indicators that Sanchez might never become more than a pedestrian starting quarterback in the league.
While I don't expect Tim Tebow to overtake Sanchez, I can fully understand why the New York Jets made the decision to provide some competition. You either have it or you don't. At this point I don't think Sanchez will ever have it.
2011 Statistics: 28 tackles, two passes defended in six starts
Terrence McGee has played in a total of 26 out of a possible 48 games over the course of the last three seasons. These consistent injury issues have pretty much derailed what was once a promising NFL career.
It remains to be seen how much the former Pro Bowl corner has in the tank at 31 and following numerous surgeries.
Additionally, the Bills have added a whole host of young cornerbacks in the draft over the course of the last few seasons, the most recent being former South Carolina standout Stephon Gilmore in the first round of April's draft.
Gilmore joins Aaron Williams, Ron Brooks and Justin Rogers as talented young cover guys that will definitely push McGee for time. In fact, it already appears that the 2012 first-round pick is slated to start opposite McGee on the right side.
2011 Statistics: 15 receptions, 276 yards, one touchdown
One thing that is really important to note is that Chad Ochocinco was playing behind the proverbial eight ball last season with the New England Patriots. He did not have the benefit of an offseason and had to learn a relatively complex playbook within the matter of weeks.
This is one of the primary reasons the future Hall of Fame receiver wasn't able to produce like Tom Brady and Co. had hoped when they traded for him last August.
Ochocinco now joins a Miami Dolphins team in desperate need of big plays on the outside. They traded away Brandon Marshall prior to the draft and really don't have that veteran figure at receiver that is needed to succeed in the NFL.
That being said, I just don't envision Ochocinco being that guy. He is going to be catching balls from one out of a trio of marginal signal-callers. If the veteran couldn't pick up chemistry with Brady, it is hard to imagine him being able to do the same with either Matt Moore, David Garrard or Ryan Tannehill.
2011 Statistics: 282 attempts, 1,211 yards, 4.3-yard average, eight touchdowns
This isn't to slight Frank Gore, his talent and what he has done for the San Francisco 49ers. Rather, it is an indication of a couple of different things.
First, Gore is at that age (29) when running backs tend to slow down. While the 49ers' all-time leading rusher might not have a great deal of tread on those tires, he still has the mileage that goes with being a starting running back in the National Football League for six seasons.
Secondly, the 49ers added a great amount of talent to the backfield in the form of Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James, who join Gore and Kendall Hunter at a suddenly crowded position.
The 49ers are going to want to save Gore for late in the season and the playoffs. This means he might not get nearly as many touches as we have seen in the past. Simple math indicates his numbers will take a dramatic blow because of it.
2011 Statistics: 57.7 completion percentage, 1,955 yards, nine touchdowns, eight interceptions, 81.1 quarterback rating in nine starts
We could easily set the calendar back a year and still have Kevin Kolb on this list. Many pundits, including myself, indicated the former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback would struggle with the Arizona Cardinals.
Boy did he ever.
Kolb just wasn't able to find any sort of rhythm or chemistry with Arizona in his first season in the desert. Instead, the previously overrated quarterback lost six of his nine starts and threw a total of nine touchdowns in as many games.
Now Kolb finds himself in a full-fledged quarterback competition with John Skelton, who surprised a great deal of people by winning five of his seven starts.
Kolb will be a disappointment if he sees the field in 2012. Additionally, fans who saw Arizona give up a second-round pick and Pro Bowl corner will be disappointed if the marginal quarterback is riding the pine.
It's a lose-lose situation for Kolb.
2011 Statistics: 18 receptions, 236 yards and one touchdown in 12 games.
Mike Williams is batting about .200 when it comes to productive seasons in the National Football League. After surprising many people by accumulating nearly 800 receiving yards in 2010, Williams struggled a great deal last season.
He went a total of four games without recording a single reception and caught two passes or less in all but three of his 12 games in 2011.
These are not the numbers of a receiver you can expect to get consistent production from. Meanwhile, the Seattle Seahawks seem to have other players on the outside who could contribute more than Williams in 2012.
Doug Baldwin was one of the biggest rookie surprises in 2011 after not getting drafted that April, Sidney Rice is returning from an injury, and Golden Tate is looking to improve on a down first two seasons in the National Football League.
I can easily envision a scenario where Williams becomes the No. 4 or No. 5 option in the Seahawks' passing game.
2011 Statistics: 260 attempts, 1,145 yards, 4.4-yard average, five touchdowns
As with some of the other running backs in this article, Steven Jackson is going to quickly become a victim of his "advanced" age. More so than any of the others, the future Hall of Fame running back has an incredible amount of tread on those tires.
He has touched the ball more than 2,500 times in eight NFL seasons. This is a major indication that Jackson is due for a dramatic drop-off in terms of production.
We got a glimpse of this in 2011 when Jackson accumulated his lowest yardage total in any full season since his second year in the NFL in 2005.
The St. Louis Rams also have other options in the run game to take the burden off Jackson. They selected Isaiah Pead in April.
2011 Statistics: 55 receptions, 767 yards, eight touchdowns
Jermichael Finley might have put up the best numbers of his short career in 2011, but the talented young tight end was an extremely inconsistent performer for the Green Bay Packers.
According to Football Outsiders, Finley caught just 60 percent of the passes thrown in his direction. This placed him among the worst starting tight ends in that category last season.
While there aren't specific numbers that indicate, without a doubt, how many passes Finley dropped in 2011, I think we can draw a conclusion he was among the league leaders in that category as well.
Aaron Rodgers isn't going to continue looking in the direction of a tight end that consistently lets the passing game down. This is something Finley did throughout last year. Moreover, the Packers have a ton of offensive weapons to go to in the passing game, so they don't need to rely on someone that isn't producing.
2011 Statistics: 39 tackles and four sacks in 14 games.
Talk about a sophomore slump. Ndamukong Suh saw every major statistical category drop from 2010 to 2011. He recorded 25 fewer tackles and six fewer sacks than his rookie season. Suh also seemed to struggle maintaining the gap against interior blockers, which enabled running backs to find a hole up the middle.
There is no questioning the talent Suh possesses. That being said, he needs to do better against the run and put more consistent pressure on the quarterback. The former Top-10 pick cannot continue to be taken out of the game going up against single blockers. This is something I noticed a great deal in watching tape of the talented defensive tackle.
Time to step up and become the elite player the Detroit Lions figured he would be following a stellar rookie season. I just don't have a great deal of faith in that happening at this point.
2011 Statistics: 25 receptions, 369 yards, one touchdown
By adding Devin Hester to this article I am not indicating the talented special teams performer is going to struggle in the return game. Rather, I am specifically writing about the possible impact Hester is, or isn't, going to make on the offensive side of the ball.
Hester's receptions and yards total have dropped in each of the last two seasons, which is telling of his ability to step up at receiver in 2012.
ESPN Chicago reported last month that the Chicago Bears believe "less is more" as it relates to their dynamic playmaker. This means he might not get on the field a great amount of time at receiver but will be in on certain packages.
That makes a great deal of sense considering the Bears traded for Brandon Marshall and selected Alshon Jeffery in the second round of April's draft. This is a vastly improved receiving group, which means Hester will see his production drop as a result.
In terms of special teams, the Bears also brought in Eric Weems and Devin Thomas to help in the return game. It remains to be seen what type of impact that is going to have on Hester's role in the return game.
2011 Statistics: 208 attempts, 970 yards, 4.7-yard average, 12 touchdowns in 12 games
There is one simple reason for the inclusion of Adrian Peterson on this list: his injury issues. Peterson, whom I view as the best running back in the National Football League, is dealing with a tremendously long recovery from tears to his ACL and MCL.
Head coach Leslie Frazier has indicated Peterson might start training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. It is, however, worth mentioning that Peterson wouldn't be forced to miss the first six games unless he is still on that list when camp breaks late next month.
Either way, the long road back to recovery is going to cause Peterson to start slow out of the gate. It is going to take him a while to get comfortable with a reconstructed left knee.
Anyone expecting Peterson to rush for 1,500-plus yards and 15 touchdowns is going to be sorely disappointed. That being said, once the Pro Bowl running back is fully recovered he should recapture his status as the best 'back in the league. I just don't think it is going to be in 2012.
2011 Statistics: 122 attempts, 474 yards, 3.9-yard average, five touchdowns in 10 games
A couple years back it looked like Mark Ingram would become the next great running back in the National Football League. He was coming off a Heisman Trophy Award-winning season with Alabama and looked to be every bit a "once in a generation" type of running back.
Boy, have the times changed.
Multiple injuries and surgeries later, Ingram is part of a deep running back position with the New Orleans Saints and could be further victimized by their pass-happy offensive attack.
Ingram also seemed to struggle in space as a rookie in 2011. He averaged less than four yards per rush and just didn't seem to have the field vision we had been accustomed to during his Alabama days.
It just doesn't look like a 1,000-yard, double-digit touchdown season is in the cards heading into 2012.
2011 Statistics: 301 attempts, 1,340 yards, 4.5 average, 11 touchdowns
Once again we find a running back that is on the wrong side of 30 on this list. Michael Turner has been one of the most productive players at this position over the course of the last four seasons, accumulating more than 5,000 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns during that span.
Those are some crazy numbers.
That being said, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting Atlanta expects Turner's workload to decrease in 2012. This seems to make a lot of sense as they are going to want to keep him fresh for late in the season and in the playoffs.
After all, Turner has struggled a great deal in the postseason since joining Atlanta prior to the 2008 season.
2011 Statistics: 60.0 completion percentage, 4,051 passing yards, 706 rushing yards, 35 total touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 84.5 quarterback rating
Define disappointment? This is where the ambiguity comes into play. Sure, Cam Newton will probably disappoint fantasy football owners the world over because he isn't going to put up the same crazy numbers that we saw in 2011.
That being said, Newton might be a more prolific quarterback if he cuts down on the tremendous amount of turnovers he had as a rookie last season.
That's why his inclusion on this list might be a bit tricky. If Newton produces 3,500 passing yards, 500 rushing yards and a total of 30 touchdowns while cutting his turnovers down, is it a disappointment?
I guess that depends on whom you ask.
2011 Statistics: 184 attempts, 781 yards, 4.2 average and five touchdowns.
Two words: Doug Martin.
The rookie first-round pick from Boise State is destined to take over for LeGarrette Blount as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starting running back. This means Blount is going to see his attempts and yards total drop a great deal.
While a myriad of different teams do utilize two running backs on a consistent basis, Martin seems to be one of the best all-around 'backs to enter the NFL in quite some time.
This means Blount wont see action on third down and will not be relied on in the passing game. I can easily envision a scenario where the former Oregon standout accumulates fewer than 500 rushing yards in 2012.
By including David Wilson in this article I am not indicating the New York Giants made a mistake by selecting him in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft. In fact, I am working under the assumption the former Virginia Tech standout is going to be a dynamic running back in the National Football League moving forward.
I just don't see Wilson making a huge impact for the Giants as a rookie in 2012. They are returning Ahmad Bradshaw, who promises to be the full-time starting running back. Despite struggling a great deal last year, Bradshaw does possess the ability to shoulder the proverbial load in the running game.
Moreover, New York has a couple of under-the-radar performers in the form of D.J. Ware and Da'Rel Scott. Ware impressed in limited action last year and Scott has shown flashes of brilliance in the preseason.
Expect Ware to start the season as the primary backup to Bradshaw before Wilson takes over at some point later. These are not indications of a rookie running back ready to break out.
Time will tell!
2011 Statistics: 59.8 completion percentage, 3,303 passing yards, 589 rushing yards, 19 overall touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 84.9 quarterback rating in 13 games
The Philadelphia Eagles didn't self-destruct last season despite good play from Michael Vick. Rather, he was one of the primary reasons they didn't play up to the level of their talent. That might sound a bit harsh, but truer words have never been written.
Just look at is through a pure statistical lens for a second.
Vick threw a career-high 14 interceptions and fumbled the ball another 10 times last season. This isn't indicative of a quarterback prepared to lead his team when the rest of the roster struggles. Great quarterbacks have a knack for being able to get through the difficult times and be a leader on the football field.
We just didn't see this from Vick in 2011.
Vick also struggled when it counted the most. He threw five touchdowns compared to seven interceptions with an accumulative quarterback rating of under 80 in the second half of games last year. Moreover, No. 7 wasn't too great when the Eagles were playing from behind. His quarterback rating dropped to under 70 as Vick threw twice as many interceptions as touchdowns when the Eagles were down by one score.
2011 Statistics: 127 attempts, 575 yards, 4.5-yard average, one touchdown in 12 games
This time last year the Dallas Cowboys were expecting Felix Jones to be their every-down running back. That never materialized as the former first-round pick had issues staying on the field and actually holding onto the ball.
Now the Cowboys are lucky enough to have 2011 rookie phenom DeMarco Murray returning from an injury to take over the role as their No. 1 running back.
While Jones will still make an impact as a third-down back and pass-catcher out of the backfield, the thought of him being a 1,000-yard rusher is over.
2011 Statistics: 70 receptions, 947 yards, six touchdowns
Rookie quarterbacks tend to struggle finding their receivers on the outside. This is one of the primary reasons they utilize the middle of the field and find safety valves in the form of tight ends.
This isn't going to be any different as it relates to Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins. Additionally, the young quarterback is going to have a couple solid targets between the hashes in the form of Fred Davis and Josh Morgan. Davis, who had a Pro Bowl-caliber season going in 2012, will help RGIII out a great deal as he gets acclimated to the speed of the NFL.
More so than Pierre Garcon, Morgan is going to have a dramatic impact as the Redskins' slot receiver. This is his natural position and he should be able to help the young quarterback out a great deal.
I have a hard time believing Garcon is going to be able to match his 2011 numbers this upcoming season.