The 25 Biggest Losers of the 2012 NFL Preseason
For a lot of players, the NFL preseason is a time of year when opportunities are available. However, not every player is capable of taking advantage of those opportunities. These players often find themselves on the roster bubble, losing a starting job or just heading into the season on a negative note.
The losers of the preseason don't always have to be the ones giving a poor performance. Sometimes, a player can be negatively impacted by the struggles or injuries of his teammates. Football is a team-oriented game, which means everyone relies on one another.
Read on for a ranking of the preseason's biggest losers.
No. 25: Jon Beason, Carolina Panthers
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After losing all of last season to an injury, Jon Beason is having a rough go of things this preseason. He's had to deal with another injury that is threatening his chances of starting Week 1. This injury appears to have happened because he was overcompensating for last season's Achilles injury.
Dealing with an injury isn't Beason's only problem right now. He's also dealing with the presence of Luke Kuechly, who has looked great this preseason. Kuechly looks like a natural, like someone that could easily develop into the top defender on this team.
With Kuechly playing so well, it's possible that he takes the middle linebacker spot way from Beason. So in one offseason, Beason is dealing with someone taking his job and another injury.
No. 24: Fred Davis, Washington Redskins
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Many tagged Fred Davis to have a breakout season for the Washington Redskins. However, he's had a very quiet training camp. His inability to stand out adds another thing to an already long list of disappointments. It's quite possible that Redskins management will keep a close eye on him this season.
On top of underperforming, Davis has had to deal with frequent drug tests. The team appears to be focused on ensuring that he isn't suspended again for taking a banned substance. It's hard to imagine the team will give Davis a long leash.
Teams are willing to overlook some off-the-field issues if the player is producing. However, it won't take long for Davis to wear out his welcome if his poor preseason lasts into the regular season.
No. 23: Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams
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Robert Quinn has all the physical abilities needed to be a major playmaker in the NFL. His quickness off the line gives him a chance to be an elite pass-rusher. The St. Louis Rams expect Quinn to make a major improvement and impact after his rookie season.
These high expectations could backfire.
Quinn doesn't need to play at an elite level to get pressure on the quarterback. Because of the presence of Chris Long, he should have plenty of one-on-one situations. This is part of the reason the Rams are expecting a big season from Quinn.
So far this preseason, Quinn has registered two sacks and a handful of pressures. This is a small sample size, but it's going to take a higher rate of production to meet expectations. Anything below the double-digit sack mark would be a disappointment.
No. 22: Austin Collie, Indianapolis Colts
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Austin Collie has had a very interesting career to this point. He found a ton of success as Peyton Manning's slot receiver but now is facing questions about his long-term health. During the second week of the preseason, Collie suffered what appeared to be a concussion. Over the past few years, Collie has been diagnosed with several concussions.
The NFL has become ultra aware of the impact head trauma can have on a person's long-term health. They've implemented several rules aimed at reducing the amount of head injuries suffered in the league. This is only going to increase the focus on Collie's health.
At this point, it's safe to wonder just how much longer he'll last in the NFL.
No. 21: Nick Fairley, Detroit Lions
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Nick Fairley has the the talent level to be an elite player in the NFL. His combination of size and quickness allows him to be a disruptive force along the defensive line. However, Fairley just continues to make poor decisions both on and off the field.
Both the Detroit Lions and Roger Goodell can't idle much longer; some sort of discipline is coming down the pipeline.
Last week against the Baltimore Ravens, Fairley gave a perfect example of how up and down his young career has been. He exploded past the offensive line, closing on the ball-carrier and making an amazing play. On that same play, he was penalized for targeting the head of the ball-carrier. It's maddening when a player makes a great play, only to negate it by a poor decision.
Fairley's decisions aren't limited to on-the-field mistakes. He's currently dealing with a situation surrounding an arrest for DUI and marijuana possession. This arrest is something Goodell is considering using to suspend the young defensive tackle.
No. 20: Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals
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Despite all his natural talent, Jermaine Gresham hasn't been able to develop into the consistent playmaker the Cincinnati Bengals imagined when they selected him in the first round. The biggest issue with Gresham is his inability to remain healthy. He's already missed three games in his two-year career and has been banged up in several others. Don't forget the major injury that cost him a full season at Oklahoma.
Gresham's durability concerns arose again this preseason when he suffered a knee injury versus the Atlanta Falcons. It appears that he'll be able to play in the first week of the regular season, but it's just another troubling occurrence.
It's possible that he'll remain healthy this season and be highly productive. However, he's giving the Bengals plenty of reason to question his durability.
No. 19: Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns
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The Cleveland Browns are counting on Joe Haden to anchor the back end of their defense. He's their top cover corner and also possesses the ability to create turnovers. Due to a failed drug test, Haden faces the possibility of a four-game suspension. This isn't the type of situation a franchise wants to see their top defender facing.
Haden has also had some struggles in training camp. Just recently, he was kicked out of practice for playing too physically. This occurred after several warnings from his coach. Mistakes happen, but Haden is developing a pattern of making poor decisions.
This season has an opportunity for Haden to work himself into the discussion of the league's top cornerbacks. However, he's now dealing with other distractions. He could also be costing himself some money, as he's due for an extension soon.
No. 18 Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
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I'm sure this is a happy time for rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but from where I sit, it's also a troubling situation.
Rookie quarterbacks always deal with some ups and downs. It's tough to adjust to the level of competition in the NFL. Tannehill isn't only dealing with that, as he also must take the field with unspectacular wide receivers and a struggling offensive line.
Prior to Chad Johnson's release, Tannehill at least had a veteran presence with some big-play potential. Johnson is the type of player that can help a young quarterback by making spectacular plays. The Dolphins' receiving corps now features Davone Bess, Legedu Naanee and Roberto Wallace. These are decent complementary pieces, but none are capable of being a team's No. 1 target.
Adding to Tannehill's troubles are the problems Jonathan Martin is having at right tackle. I have confidence that Martin will figure it out before the first regular-season game, but it's definitely something the team needs to be worried about.
All this piles on top of the fact that Tannehill is an underprepared rookie quarterback. The Miami Dolphins must watch out for his confidence and ability to develop, as he's the future of the franchise.
No. 17: Shane Vereen, New England Patriots
However, this means there's limited touches for the running back position. Shane Vereen is one of the running backs that hasn't done enough to guarantee a role in the offense.
At this point, his only chance of seeing the field is in pure passing situations. However, other backs like Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead are also capable pass-catchers. This is a major disappointment, because the Patriots had high hopes for Vereen when they selected him in the second round.
There's even a possibility that undrafted rookie Brandon Bolden earns more playing time than Vereen. Bolden has been extremely impressive throughout training camp.
No. 16: Stevie Johnson, Buffalo Bills
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During the offseason, the Buffalo Bills made a strong push to bring in a playmaking wide receiver to line up opposite Stevie Johnson. After losing out on Robert Meachem and Mario Manningham, the Bills were forced to head into the season with the same group as last season.
The issue facing the Bills is that opposing defenses can now focus their coverage on shutting down Johnson. This is going to make it much more difficult for him to have the type of season everyone expects. Don't be surprised if we see Johnson venting some frustrations at some point this season.
Buffalo is looking to someone from the group of Donald Jones, David Nelson and T.J. Graham to make plays. However, that group hasn't looked overly impressive so far this preseason.
No. 15: New York Jets Defense
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The struggles of the New York Jets offense have been well-documented. However, not many are focusing on the issues this will cause the defense.
New York's offense is going to be a three-and-out machine. The lack of consistency from the passing game and limited production of the running game will result in short drives.
As a result, New York's defense will be spending a ton of time on the field. They're going to get worn out and give up a ton of big plays. This Jets team is built to win with strong defense, so when they start to struggle, the media will attack.
Of course, nobody can expect a defense to perform at a high level when they're constantly on the field. I'm sure someone like Bart Scott will make sure that we know the reason for their problems.
This is a team of turmoil, and it only figures to get worse.
No. 14: Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants
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Ahmad Bradshaw was once the backup running back who was challenging Brandon Jacobs for the starting job. This season, Bradshaw is facing pressure from rookie David Wilson, who has looked very impressive. The New York Giants like to run a two-back system, but there's a possibility that Wilson ends the season as the lead back.
It's not that Bradshaw hasn't been productive, but he has dealt with a string of nagging injuries. Those injuries have limited his time on the field and his overall production. Wilson is a natural playmaker who has shown a ton of explosiveness.
The Giants aren't going to be able to keep Wilson off the field. He's just too much of a big-play threat to keep on the sidelines.
No. 13: Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
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The Cleveland Browns are subjecting Brandon Weeden to the same treatment as they did with Colt McCoy. Weeden is being forced to take the field surrounded by very limited talent, especially in the passing game.
During the preseason, he has had to deal with plenty of drops by Josh Gordon and Greg Little. Drops are the type of things that can kill a young quarterback's confidence.
Adding to Weeden's misery is Trent Richardson's knee injury. Cleveland added Richardson to bolster their running attack and, in turn, help the passing game. Richardson is the type of runner that will pull defenders out of coverage, which helps the quarterback.
Richardson is expected back by the first week of the season, but any knee issues are a cause for concern.
No. 12: Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions
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Jahvid Best has shown glimpses of the potential he possesses. However, injuries have kept him out of the lineup too often. There was some hope that Best would be able to have some sort of impact early this season, but that doesn't look very likely.
The Detroit Lions are weighing the possibility of placing Best on the PUP list, which means he'll be out at least the first six weeks of the season. A running back that has a hard time staying healthy doesn't have much of a future in the NFL. Detroit can't afford to head into next season counting on Best to live up to his potential.
This means that it's very important for him to get back on the field this season.
No. 11: Matt Flynn, Seattle Seahawks
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Everything since the end of last season has been a disaster for Matt Flynn. It started when he entered free agency and didn't get the type of offers he expected. After putting up excellent numbers when filling in for Aaron Rodgers, Flynn expected to have several teams vying for his services.
Instead, only the Seattle Seahawks showed strong interest.
After signing with Seattle, he expected to have an easy path the earning the starting job. However, it now appears that Russell Wilson has all but locked up the starting job. Quarterbacks don't get a lot of opportunities to lock down a long-term starting job.
Thanks to Wilson, it looks like Flynn has lost out on one of those opportunities.
No. 10: Jason Smith, St. Louis Rams
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Jason Smith has a ton of natural talent but just hasn't been able to put it all together. The St. Louis Rams took a risk when they selected him No. 2 overall in the 2009 draft. They saw all that upside and pulled the trigger.
However, Smith has officially earned the "bust" label. He was given every opportunity to win a starting job this preseason but failed.
The Rams feel more comfortable moving forward with veteran Barry Richardson in the starting lineup. Richardson will start at right tackle, while Rodger Saffold is the starter on the left side. Smith failing to beat out Richardson is a major disappointment. However, it can be argued that even if he ended up starting at right tackle, it would still be a disappointment.
Teams don't use the No. 2 overall pick to fill the right tackle spot.
No. 9: Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
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However, injuries have made it tough for the offense to build any kind of cohesion. Players like Eddie Royal, Ryan Mathews, Robert Meachem and Jared Gaither have all missed time.
A key to the additions of Royal and Meachem was that the Chargers hoped to increase the consistency of the wide receiver unit. Over the past few years, San Diego's offense has had to deal with top playmakers like Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates constantly out of the lineup.
So far, the Chargers' plan to find some consistency hasn't worked out. If these players aren't able to remain healthy, it could be another long season for Philip Rivers.
No. 8: James Starks, Green Bay Packers
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The Green Bay Packers have a real problem with their ability to run the football. They were counting on James Starks to take a step forward in his development. However, the young running back has really struggled to stand out. His poor play forced the Packers to go out and sign Cedric Benson.
Green Bay's decision to add Benson means that Starks is facing an uphill battle to earn carries. Benson's promising preseason debut only helps to push Starks further away from the starting lineup. The biggest concern for Starks has to be his future with the team. It's safe to say that Green Bay will make adding talent at the running back position an offseason priority.
Of Benson, one evaluator said, "[He looks] quick. He looks like he fits the offense well. Obviously, he'll start. He's much more consistent (than James Starks)."
No. 7: Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
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Larry Fitzgerald is an elite wide receiver, but his impact on the game is limited because of the poor quarterback play with the Arizona Cardinals. Despite the inconsistency of Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, Fitzgerald finds a way to be productive. However, his numbers would be much better if he had an elite quarterback under center.
Contributing to Fitzgerald's problems is the poor play of the offensive line. This group makes it nearly impossible for the Cardinals to open up the passing game and take chances down the field. They don't provide any of the quarterbacks with a enough time to look for Fitzgerald deep down the field.
Arizona selected Michael Floyd in the first round of the draft to come in and help draw attention away from Fitzgerald. Floyd has had a very slow start and hasn't been able to provide Fitzgerald with any relief.
No. 6: Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears
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Brian Urlacher has missed the entire preseason with a knee injury, and his availability for the first regular-season game is in question. Obviously, this has an immediate impact on the Chicago Bears' defensive production. However, it also has an impact on Urlacher's long-term future with the franchise.
Urlacher and the Bears have been talking about a potential extension for the pending free agent. To this point, the Bears seem hesitant to give the aging star a long-term deal. This knee problem could only increase the Bears' questions about striking a deal.
It's tough to let a player like Urlacher leave, but franchises must make smart decisions with their aging stars. Just look at how the Indianapolis Colts decided to part ways with Peyton Manning.
No. 5: Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals
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Both the Arizona Cardinals and Kevin Kolb are hoping that the quarterback can start to play a lot better. The price the Cardinals paid to acquire Kolb means everyone is expecting him to be the starting quarterback and produce.
However, this preseason has been a complete disaster for Kolb.
He entered camp locked in a battle with John Skelton for the starting job. At this point, neither quarterback has played well enough to lock down the starting job. This isn't because it's a close battle; it's because both quarterbacks have been terrible.
Kolb's biggest issue at this point is his inability to deal with pressure and remain healthy. He's been unable to make sound decisions when faced with a pass rush. This is an issue because the Cardinals' offensive line is terrible and doesn't promise to get much better.
No. 4: Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
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Maurice Jones-Drew's holdout has been a very public event. Both Jones-Drew and owner Shad Kahn have been very vocal about their stances. Both sides are adamant that they are unwilling to move from their demands. At this point it's going to come down to how committed Jones-Drew is to sitting out the season.
Players that hold out for more money are often looked at in a negative light by the fanbase. They also run the risk of giving another player an opportunity to replace them. This is sort of happening to Jones-Drew, as Rashard Jennings has looked great this preseason.
There's no doubting Jones-Drew's talent and the fact that he's a much better player than Jennings. However, organizations must deal with the the financial side of the situation. At some point, Jennings is going to look like a very cheap replacement for Jones-Drew.
This only lessens the possibility he has of receiving a new contract.
No. 3: Philadelphia Eagles' Super Bowl Hopes
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The Philadelphia Eagles have high hopes this season, as their sights are set on making a run to the Super Bowl. However, those hopes seem to take a hit each and every week. This team needs a healthy Michael Vick if they hope to reach the Super Bowl.
So far this preseason, Vick has been unable to remain on the field.
His durability issues promise to derail the Eagles' Super Bowl hopes. Contributing to the Vick issue is the struggles of the offensive line, most notably the left tackle spot. Philadelphia brought in Demetress Bell to replace the injured Jason Peters, but he has already been replaced by King Dunlap. Bell's struggles mean that the Eagles are going with a guy in Dunlap that's no better than a swing tackle.
It's going to be tough to keep Vick healthy with questionable offensive line play.
No. 2: Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
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Despite all the talent on this roster, there are plenty of issues that pose a problem for Romo. These issues range from injury problems to inconsistent performances by his top playmakers.
Dallas' wide receiving corps might be the most unreliable group in the entire NFL. Miles Austin hasn't been able to stay on the field, and Dez Bryant continues to have problems off the field. Romo has rarely had an opportunity to play with both of these players in the lineup.
Adding to the inconsistency at the wide receiver position is the injury to Jason Witten. Romo and Witten have a very good relationship. Witten is Romo's go-to receiver and the guy he counts on in pressure situations.
Probably the most concerning issue facing the Cowboys are the problems along the offensive line. Doug Free really struggled last season and has continued his problems into this season. Free's issues have been overlooked a little because of how poor the interior of the offensive line has played.
Romo can expect to spend most of the season dealing with pressure.
No. 1: Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
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The biggest circus of the entire preseason has been the New York Jets offense. This unit has failed to show any type of consistency or reason to be optimistic. A lot of the problems are a result of how poorly Mark Sanchez has played.
This is a team with hopes of making a run at the Super Bowl, but they don't even look like a playoff team.
Sanchez unfairly gets a lot of the blame for the offensive issues. He doesn't have a great supporting cast, especially in the wide receiving corps. Santonio Holmes is the team's top playmaker, with a very raw rookie in Stephen Hill as the No. 2 guy.
Wayne Hunter's struggles have resulted in a ton of pressure on the quarterback. Sanchez hasn't received a ton of time to locate open targets.
On top of all this, the Jets want to feature a run-heavy attack but don't have the pieces needed to pull it off. Shonn Greene isn't the type of running back capable of carrying the load.
All these obstacles make for a very tough situation for Sanchez. Unfortunately, the NFL is about results and not excuses.