4 Second-Year Players Who Won't Match Rookie Production
Cam Newton put together the best season we've ever seen from a rookie quarterback in the NFL in 2011, but don't expect him to match his gaudy totals in 2012.
Last year was a crazy season in the NFL. The impact of the lockout cannot be overstated, and it threw all sorts of wrenches into how teams went about their business.
That's not the only aspect that's changed for these players, either. It takes a team effort to become a star, and every year presents different challenges.
Let's take a look at which second-year players will experience a sophomore slump in 2012.
Nate Solder: Offensive Tackle, New England Patriots
Nate Solder was phenomenal for the New England Patriots in 2011 at the right tackle spot.
Now, in 2012, he's being asked to take over on the left side for recently-retired Matt Light—a team mainstay and one of the best left tackles in the NFL until he retired.
There's really no nice way to say it, so I'll just come out and say it: Solder has been awful, as has the entire offensive line.
It's been so bad that offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia felt obligated to vehemently come to the young man's defense, according to ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss:
Did any of you think that it was going to be [easy]? Did you think he had any problems with it to start with? Well, hell ya. They all [have] problems. I think Nate Solder is a better player today than he was all of last year, so you figure that out. Next question.
I don't expect Solder to struggle like he has all year long, but the learning curve at the left tackle position is steep. He'll be going up against the top pass-rushers in the league on a weekly basis, and the talent coming in year after year at that position is only getting better.
By the end of the season, Solder and his mates on the offensive line should have most of the bugs worked out, but it's going to take some time. Hopefully Tom Brady doesn't get blasted too hard in the meantime.
DeMarco Murray: Running Back, Dallas Cowboys
DeMarco Murray came out of nowhere last year to become the unquestioned starting running back for the Dallas Cowboys. He put up some gaudy numbers, including a 253-yard effort in Week 7 that broke Emmitt Smith's old team mark for a single game.
Murray is still the same runner, but as we saw from the end of last season, he's no Barry Sanders. When his offensive line started struggling towards the end of the season, Murray struggled, too.
Things aren't looking good on the O-line this year, and that spells trouble for Murray's production. He's going to have a hard time finding holes, and as such will suffer a less-than-stellar sophomore campaign.
Andy Dalton: Quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals
Andy Dalton is going to struggle this year for the Cincinnati Bengals, though it's not an indictment on him as a player going forward.
There are two main reasons he's going to experience a drop-off in production in 2012.
First and foremost, Dalton is going to see more pressure in 2012 than he did last year. His offensive line is in shambles, as Travelle Wharton and Kyle Cook have both gone down with serious injuries. This impacts both the passing game and the running game, both of which will suffer.
Without an adequate running game, Dalton is going to be fresh meat for opposing pass-rushers.
Furthermore, Dalton's production was already taking a big hit late last year as teams started learning his tendencies and weaknesses. That's only going to increase in 2012, and given the sad state of affairs on the offensive line, things could get ugly real quick.
Cam Newton: Quarterback, Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton isn't going to suck in 2012, but he's not going to match his record-breaking rookie numbers, either.
When Newton hit the field as a rookie, nobody knew how to defend him. His numbers through the first eight weeks were staggering, but after the Carolina Panthers' Week 9 bye, teams had started figuring him out. The numbers tell the tale.
|First 8 Games||174||287||60.6||2,393||8.38||11||9|
|Final 8 Games||136||230||59.1||1,658||7.21||10||8|
It's clear from this breakdown that Newton didn't fare as well in the second half of the season. Game planning is a huge part of what makes teams successful, and teams learned how to adjust to Newton's strengths.
Newton is still dangerous as a runner, no matter how well teams game-plan. He's going to score a bunch of touchdowns on the ground, but I don't see him being quite so prolific this season as he was in 2011. The team brought in Mike Tolbert for his prowess in the red zone, which will in turn negate some of Newton's stats from last year.
The Panthers will be a better team, but Newton's production is going to fall.
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