Statistically, Who Are the Worst NFL Starters Entering Training Camp?

Tyson LanglandNFC West Lead WriterJuly 26, 2012

Statistically, Who Are the Worst NFL Starters Entering Training Camp?

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    With training camp upon us, each team will be looking to improve its roster and stack depth so it doesn't end up scrambling around like the 2011 St. Louis Rams secondary. 

    Most teams could use marginal upgrades here and there, but it seems as if every division has that one player who is just killing his team. 

    With the use of statistics from the 2011 season, let's take a look at which one player from each division could stand to be upgraded sooner rather than later. 

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AFC East: Wayne Hunter, New York Jets

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    What a rough year for New York Jets right tackle Wayne Hunter. 2011 was his first full season as a starter, and it's likely he will want to forget it as soon as possible. 

    Most of the struggles came in the area of pass protection. Out of all the right tackles in the league, none gave up more sacks and quarterback hits. Hunter surrendered 11 sacks and 11 hits on 646 pass-blocking snaps.

    When breaking it down, the numbers indicate that he would give up a sack or a hit once every 29 pass attempts. The Jets averaged about 40 pass plays a game last season, so it's safe to say Sanchez was on his back end at least once a game because of Hunter.

    Not really the kind of consistency an offensive lineman wants to be known for. 

    If giving up the most sacks and hits weren't enough, he was one of the most penalized offensive tackles, as well.

    His penalty breakdown looks a little something like this: one face mask, one illegal use of hands, two holds and seven false starts. 

    The Jets need help at right tackle, and it doesn't seem as if they will get it. Jeff Otah can't pass a physical, and Vladimir Ducasse seems to be a better fit at guard than tackle, so it's safe to expect another poor season from Mr. Hunter. 

AFC North: Ziggy Hood, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Let's forget the 50-foot box jumps and the crazy workouts for a moment and reflect on Ziggy Hood's play from 2011. When I watch Hood, I see a lazy, sluggish player who gets knocked off the point of attack way to easy.

    It didn't matter if he was rushing the passer or defending the run; his play stunk all season long. 

    In the run game, Hood's responsibility is to occupy blockers so the linebackers can shoot their gaps into the backfield. He does an okay job of taking up the blockers initially, but as soon as there is any kind of struggle, his foothold is gone, and offensive lineman free him with ease. 

    When a linebacker is trying to get into the backfield, his path to the ball-carrier is much easier if there isn't a 300-pound offensive lineman all over him.

    As bad as his ability is in the run game, his ability rushing the passer is twice as bad. The number of pass-rush snaps Hood saw last season is 522. Of those 522, he only generated pressure on the quarterback 15 times by tallying one sack, four hits and 10 hurries. 

    To put that in perspective, his backup, Cameron Heyward, had just as many sacks and hits on 401 fewer snaps. 

    Ziggy carries a lofty status as a first-round draft selection, but so does Cameron Heyward. It might not be a bad idea to give the latter a chance at starting if Hood's offseason workouts don't magically turn him into an improved player. 

NFC South: Mike A. Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    What happened to Mike Williams in 2011? Or better yet what happened to Tampa Bay's offense in 2011? Both issues go hand in hand as the offensive line and quarterback dictate how many opportunities a wide receiver will have, but when called upon you need to hold up your end of the bargain, as well. 

    By looking at just his stat line from NFL.com ,it's easy to see that he got worse in every statistical category except for receptions. In 2011 he averaged almost three fewer yards per catch, and his touchdowns dropped by eight.

    He also had one of the highest drop rates in the league. Williams saw 74 catchable balls from quarterback Josh Freeman, and of those 74 balls, he managed to drop nine of them.

    To go along with the nine drops was one of the worst yards-per-route-run averages. Out of 45 qualifying wide receivers, he was 38th on the list, as he averaged only 1.24 yards per route he ran.

    A pretty lousy number considering he was about 20 spots higher a year ago. 

    It will be interesting to see which Buccaneers offense shows up in 2012. They have made plenty of additions on offense, and Greg Schiano seems to be determined to fix things in Tampa Bay. 

NFC North: Amari Spievey, Detroit Lions

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    If someone were to ask me which Lions safety had a worse year last year, I would have a hard time answering, considering how poorly Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey both played.

    But I would eventually answer Spievey, only because he didn't excel at really anything, while Delmas was at least okay in coverage.

    Spievey's coverage skills were consistently bad all season, but they really seemed to fall off a cliff in their Wild Card Game against the Saints. In that game Drew Brees had a quarterback rating of 156.3 when throwing at him. Brees darted two touchdowns past him as well, one to Jimmy Graham and another to Devery Henderson.  

    On the season Spievey was thrown at 36 times, and on those 36 throws, he allowed 23 completions, for 358 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterbacks had a rating of 89.8 when throwing in his vicinity.

    Missed tackles also seemed to plague him for much of the season. Fourteen missed tackles for the season will land you at the bottom of safety rankings. Poor tackling is what caused most of the negative grading in the run game because at times it seemed as if he had turned things around. 

    Amari Spievey is young, and there isn't much competition behind him, but it would be wise for the Lions to go out and try to find someone who could push positive play out of the position. 

AFC West: Denver Broncos Offensive Line

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    I was going to start off by naming one player from the Broncos offensive line who should be replaced, but then I realized they could all stand to be replaced after last year's performances. 

    Outside of the New York Giants, Pro Football Focus had Denver's line as the worst in football. It's still amazing that the Giants won the Super Bowl with such putrid play upfront, and the Broncos made it to the second round of the playoffs with play just as bad.

    The area they struggled the most was the run game. I know it doesn't make sense since they led the NFL with 164.5 rushing yards per game.

    But that number says more about the abilities of Willis McGahee, Tim Tebow and Lance Ball than it does the inabilities of Ryan Clady, Zane Beadles, JD Walton, Chris Kuper and Orlando Franklin.  

    McGahee finished sixth in broken tackles among all running backs, with 38, while Tebow and Ball forced 13 missed tackles apiece. When you add all three players' missed tackles up, you get 64 total.

    One of the highest numbers in the league.

    Denver is set to improve on its 2011 season with the addition of Peyton Manning, but if the Broncos want to take that next step to become more consistent, they should look at re-tooling the offensive line sooner rather than later.  

NFC West: Paris Lenon, Arizona Cardinals

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    After 11 seasons in the NFL and a continual dip in production over the past three years, it might be time for Paris Lenon to hang it up. As you can see, Lenon is the captain of the Arizona defense, and he makes all the calls as the inside linebacker in the Cardinals' 3-4 scheme.

    The biggest reason his game may be slipping is father time working against him and the number of plays for which he's on the field. Only Adrian Wilson and Patrick Peterson logged more snaps than he did in 2011. Being on the field for over 2,200 snaps in two years takes a toll on your mind and body. 

    Last year his biggest pitfall was in the run game, with his pass-rushing ability being a close second.

    Against the run he seemed to get swallowed up by opposing offenses, which hurt the overall pursuit of the play. Not to mention that his legs seemed to be weak at times, which was most obvious when he was pursuing ball-carriers.

    The speed doesn't seem to be there anymore. 

    On 202 pass-rush opportunities, Lenon generated pressure only 17 times. If you break that down on a per-snap basis, he would reach the quarterback once every 11 snaps, not a very high number considering opportunities are limited.

    Reggie Walker and Stewart Bradley should be given shots to compete for the right inside linebacker position. Bradley isn't the player he once was in Philadelphia, but he can still contribute when called upon. 

AFC South: Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Poor Blaine Gabbert, it always seems as if he is getting picked on by the media for his awful 2011 campaign. But poor performances should be open to evaluation, even if it means your having to sit through all 16 horrendous performances.

    So, what went wrong during his rookie season?

    The first thing I picked up on was his inability to throw under pressure. Under pressure it seemed as though he would cave and not keep his eyes downfield. Tunnel vision would kick in, and he would see only what was directly in front of him.

    Thanks to our friends at Pro Football Focus, we can see just how well Gabbert did while he was under pressure:

    Pressure Drop-backs Runs Att. Com. Com.% Yds Yds / Att. TD INT Sk QB Rating
    No Pressure 322 11 311 169 54.3 1682 5.4 9 8 0 68.8
    Plays Under Pressure 153 11 102 41 40.2 525 5.1 3 3 40 54.6
    When Not Blitzed 325 19 280 154 55.0 1561 5.6 9 10 26 67.0
    When Blitzed 150 3 133 56 42.1 646 4.9 3 1 14 61.8
    All Plays 475 22 413 210 50.8 2207 5.3 12 11 40 65.3

    His 5.3 yards an attempt was last in the NFL. The next closest to that number was Colt McCoy, who averaged 5.9 yards an attempt.

    In comparison to those two, Aaron Rodgers averaged 9.2 yards an attempt. 

    The Jaguars brought in Chad Henne to battle with Gabbert. Competition either brings out the best in a player, or it speeds up the self-destruction process.

    Whichever ends up happening will help make the Jags' decision that much easier. 

NFC East: DeAngelo Hall, Washington Redskins

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    Talk about a player who is all name and very minimal game. DeAngelo Hall has been living off his reputation for as long as I can remember.

    Hall's play in 2011 really fell off a cliff after an impressive campaign in 2010. When opposing quarterbacks targeted him, they completed 67 percent of their passes, amassed a quarterback rating of 100 and zipped five touchdowns by him.

    The 858 yards surrendered by Hall was fourth worst in the league. When a player finishes in the top three in tackles at his position and second on his team, it's a pretty good indicator that his burn rate is extremely high.

    His worst game of the season was Week 2 against Arizona. Larry Fitzgerald ate him for lunch and decided he wanted to expose him in every way possible. Out of the seven attempted passes thrown at Hall, Fitzgerald caught six of them, for 109 yards.

    One reception went for 73 yards down the sideline and into the end zone.

    At only 28 years old, DeAngelo isn't done by any means, but his play needs to steady out if he ever wants to reach that elite status.