2012 NFL Preview: 9 Players Who Will Suffer a Sophomore Slump
Not every star rookie is able to build upon a solid first year in the NFL.
While players like Adrian Peterson and Hakeem Nicks didn't slow down after a torrid start, it takes a number of other athletes a few years to get truly acclimated.
A number of rookies may have had a great 2011, but look for the following players to suffer a sophomore slump in 2012.
Cam Newton set a number of rookie records in 2011, passing and running the football at a prolific rate for the Carolina Panthers.
The NFC South got a lot better defensively in the 2012 offseason (with players like Lofa Tatupu, Asante Samuel and Mark Barron entering the division), which should slow down the Auburn product.
Also, the Panther offense won't take teams by surprise (like it did in 2011). Opposing coordinators should now be prepared for Newton's college-style attack.
Teams started to figure out Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals as 2011 wore on, evidenced by Dalton's drop from a 61.5 percent to 54.8 percent completion rate.
The quarterback doesn't have the strong arm or size that most successful NFL quarterbacks do and it seems that opposing defenses began to take advantage of that by the season's conclusion.
Look for Dalton to regress to the mean in 2012, playing more like the second rounder he was drafted as.
DeMarco Murray did a lot of good things in Dallas last year, but he'll have a hard time matching his numbers from 2011.
The fact remains that Murray is a very injury-prone running back, which hurt his draft stock. Factor in that the rusher actually did get injured in 2011 and I have a tough time believing that he can stay alive in the NFL.
The former Sooner has the right stuff to play in the NFL, but the physical toll that his body has taken (and will take) may prove just too much.
Torrey Smith was a very pleasant surprise for the Baltimore Ravens in 2011, stretching defenses and racking up 50 receptions for 841 yards and 7 touchdowns.
The Ravens, however, lost a lot of talent over the offseason and may not have the luxury of dialing up creative route combinations and pass protection schemes to get this receiver open in space.
Couple that with the fact that defenses could begin to key in on a young Smith as the Ravens' No. 1 target (as opposed to Anquan Boldin) and it could be a long sophomore year for this pass catcher.
Denarius Moore finds himself on this list for almost the same reason that Torrey Smith did: Teams will likely key in upon Moore as the Raiders' No. 1 target in 2012.
The receiver racked up a cool 618 yards (five touchdowns) on 33 receptions in 2011, but established good rapport with quarterback Carson Palmer and should only look to be even more featured in 2012.
Should he be the Raiders' No. 1 target in 2012, Moore would have to face cornerbacks like Champ Bailey and Brandon Flowers in his own division (not to mention the other shutdown corners around the league), which would slow down the pass catcher a considerable amount.
This offseason, Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Jason Peters (arguably the best left tackle in the NFL) went down with an injury that will presumably end the player's 2012 season.
The pressure is now on the rest of the Eagle offensive line to pick up the slack, which Danny Watkins will likely struggle to do.
The former first-round draftee wasn't spectacular in 2011, but now he'll be exposed without stellar offensive line play around him.
As much as I loved this pass rusher during his rookie campaign, I see no feasible way that he repeats his almost-record-setting rookie performance.
Aldon Smith was a force off the edge for the 49ers in 2011, but teams will now game-plan for him as San Francisco's top pass rushing threat.
After a year in which NFL pass rushers put up an unheralded number of sacks, look for that number to regress in 2012.
The Denver Broncos struck gold with the undrafted Chris Harris, who ended the season as the rookie leader in tackles among defensive backs.
Now that teams will be passing the ball on Denver (trying to catch up to the Peyton Manning offense rather than run off time against Tim Tebow), Harris should be exposed as a mediocre coverage player.
While he performed well in 2011 (considering his undrafted status), it's feasible to predict that Harris will not be an impact performer in 2012.
The odds are against Patrick Peterson in 2012, considering the Cardinals lost cornerback Richard Marshall and will place an enormous amount of responsibility on Peterson.
Past that, with the biggest part of Peterson's game being his spark in the return game, teams are becoming leery to kick to the former LSU standout.
Look for the second-year corner to struggle in 2012 after a smooth rookie campaign.
Follow B/R Featured Columnist Eli Nachmany on Twitter @EliNachmany