5 Players Facing NFL Sophomore Slumps in 2011

Brandon LeopoldContributor INovember 6, 2011

5 Players Facing NFL Sophomore Slumps in 2011

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    It appears the term "sophomore slump" doesn't just apply to college football after all. The dreaded term is a widely-known phenomenon that plagues NFL players, too.

    To be fair, I am going to leave off players like Jordan Shipley, Taylor Mays, and Jahvid Best off the list, because they have been injured and haven't been able to produce. In Best's case, who knows when he will return again after suffering his second concussion this season.

    While there are some obvious sophomore slumps, there are also some not so obvious ones. This list was made entirely at random.

No.1: Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    There's no need to tell Mike Williams that he's off to a slow start this season. He knows, and he's just a little peeved about it.

    Last season, Williams amassed 65 catches for 964 yards, and 11 touchdowns; that's almost Pro Bowl worthy.

    This season, through seven games, Williams has 31 catches, 317 yards and one touchdown he scored back in Week 1 against the Lions.

    Through five games this year, he has 183 yards and one touchdown. He had 283 yards and three touchdowns through the same stretch in 2010.

    I mentioned in the previous slide there were obvious ones and not so obvious, he's an obvious one.

No. 2 Keiland Williams, RB, Detroit Lions

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    Let me make one thing clear about this selection: I am a Lions fan, and Jahvid Best is injured, so he gets a free pass.

    In 2010, Williams had 65 carries for 261 yards and three touchdowns. He also amassed 39 catches for 309 yards and one touchdown.

    This season, Williams has 19 carries for 41 yards and a touchdown.

    There's lots of things that can go into this. For one, the Lions are using Williams primarily as a fullback in their offense, so Maurice Morris is going to get the bulk of the carries until Best returns.

    Williams had a few big moments in 2010 in Washington, including back-to-back games in which he carried the ball 39 times for 157 yards and two scores.

    That wasn't enough to impress Mike Shanahan however. Washington cut him in September.

    I make this selection based on dropoff in  overall production.

No. 3: Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams

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    There is no need to hide the fact that Bradford is having an awful season in St. Louis. There is no doubt that the departure of Pat Shurmur to Cleveland has had a significant effect on Bradford this season, and new offensive guru Josh McDaniels is obviously not helping.

    In 2010, Bradford went 354-of-590 (60 percent completion), for 3,512 yards, 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

    This season it's been a complete reversal of fortune. He's gone 103-of-195 (52 percent completion), for 1,170 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions so far this year.

    Now, I don't blame this serious drop in production solely on Bradford. His favorite target, Danny Amendola, has been sidelined all year, and the offensive line is putrid, surrendering 22 sacks so far this year.

    However, that doesn't excuse Bradford completely. He has made several poor decisions, he's learning a new system, and the Rams are just overall a pathetic team. He's missed open receivers, and is barely completing half of his passes.

    Bradford was a No.1 pick a year ago. Maybe when he sat down with Jon Gruden, Coach Gruden should have given him the same speech he gave Jimmy Clausen: "No bad decisions. None."

    So far, however, that message hasn't gotten through.

No. 4: Devin McCourty, CB, New England Patriots

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    Last season, Devin McCourty would have won the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year Award had it not been for Ndamukong Suh. McCourty was all over the field, and was a huge cog in the machine that boasted the NFL's best record last year. His numbers proved that.

    In 2010, McCourty compiled 82 tackles (68 solo), seven interceptions, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, and 17 pass break-ups. This season, he recorded 38 tackles (32 solo), zero interceptions, zero sacks, zero forced fumbles, and three pass break-ups. Notice anything here?

    McCourty has been picked on a great deal this year. While it's unfair to judge a corner's production based on tackles, the entire Pats defense is in dead last this year, and McCourty has played a major role in that.

    As the Boston Globe noted, "McCourty has been targeted 36 times so far this season,with 24 receptions, meaning two-thirds of the passes thrown to receivers he’s covering have been caught. Last year, he was targeted 104 times, with a reception percentage of 55.8."

    If you own the Patriots' defense on your fantasy team, I suggest you drop it quick like I did.

No. 5: Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England Patriots

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    And speaking of the Patriots...

    Aaron Hernandez is mired in a sophomore slump big time this season. Last season, Hernandez was fifth out of 45 tight ends with 45 catches, 563 yards and six touchdowns. Pretty good for a second-year tight end.

    This season, however, through five games Hernandez has 29 catches, 298 yards, and four touchdowns.

    Nothing about his efforts in 2011 have come close to duplicating what he did in 2010 and his latest game against the Pittsburgh Steelers is typical of the season he is having.

    Against the Steelers, Hernandez caught only two of the four passes thrown in his direction for a pitiful nine yards, giving him a pathetic 4.5 yards per completion and 2.3 yards per pass attempt in his direction.

    With a quarterback like Tom Brady throwing to you, there's no excuse for that. Hernandez isn't living up to the standard he set for himself. Good news for Rob Gronkowski though.