10 NFL Players Who Have Taken the Biggest Step Backwards

Bryant West@bswest5Correspondent INovember 28, 2011

10 NFL Players Who Have Taken the Biggest Step Backwards

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    Disappointment is a natural part of life, and for the NFL it is no different. Players will underperform just as often as they over-perform, and that certainly is the case for the 2011 season.

    For every Cam Newton or Fred Jackson, players who unexpectedly dominate, there are players who come into new seasons with high expectations and fail to meet those lofty standards.

    What is even worse is when a player who we've seen before perform excellently suddenly can't even play average. And for the 2011 NFL season, there are quite a few of those players who are torching their own legacies.

    Who are some of the NFL's biggest names who have taken the biggest steps backwards? Let's take a look. 

Philip Rivers

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    Philip Rivers was expected to have an MVP-type season, and his San Diego Chargers were expected to easily capture the AFC West title.

    After a 30-touchdown, 4,710-yard season last year the hopes for Rivers were at an all-time high. Needless to say, he is easily the biggest disappointment in the NFL this season.

    He has 16 touchdowns but 17 interceptions and six fumbles, and his Chargers are a dismal 4-7 and all but out of the wild-card race.

    Everything is going wrong for the talented San Diego squad, and a ton of the blame is going on their coach, Norv Turner. But considering River's past numbers, perhaps more of the blame should be going onto Rivers for his utterly disastrous performance so far.

    He hasn't just taken a step back; he's fallen off a cliff.

Michael Vick

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    Michael Vick took the league by storm last season, breaking out with 3,018 yards, 21 passing touchdowns and adding nine rushing scores in 12 games.

    Philadelphia was also the hottest name on the free-agent market and they snapped up a ton of high-profile players. Entering the season, the Eagles were expected to be one of the biggest Super Bowl contenders.

    It wasn't to be. Everything has gone wrong for the 4-7 Eagles, but the highest-profile mistake has been Vick. He has just 11 touchdowns on the season and has been intercepted 11 times, and he hasn't had a running touchdown so far this season.

    And with his recent rib injuries, Eagles fans can only watch their $100 million quarterback on the bench.

Peyton Hillis

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    The Madden curse has struck again.

    After coming out of nowhere last season, gaining 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Browns, who were (and still are) in desperate need of some star power.

    Hillis' fantastic 2010 season has all but evaporated. He has just 276 rushing yards and two scores on the season, and has missed six games with a combination of issues ranging from contract disputes to hamstring injuries.

    Cleveland fans really deserve someone to cheer about, but it's not Hillis. 

Sam Bradford

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    You can slightly forgive Bradford for his underperformance so far this season. After all, he's currently on a team with a dismal offensive line and, aside from the recently acquired Brandon Llyod, he doesn't have a ton of talented weapons at his disposal. 

    But with a 2011 salary of $18.4 million, according to forbes.com, you can only forgive so much.

    He had 3,512 yards and 18 touchdowns last season as a rookie. So far in his sophomore season, he has just six touchdowns and five interceptions with 1,971 yards. Rams fans expected Bradford to take a big step forward and lead their team to the playoffs, and instead, he's just taken a huge step backwards. 

Josh Freeman

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    While a good many of second-year pros end up in a sophomore slump, Josh Freeman was anything but slumping last year. He finished with 3,415 yards and 25 touchdowns with just six interceptions.

    For Freeman, it seems "junior slump" is a bit more accurate. 

    Freeman has 16 interceptions and just 12 touchdowns so far this season and doesn't look like the same player who dominated for Tampa Bay just a season ago. He is a big reason why Tampa Bay, who entered the season as playoff-hopefuls but now sit at 4-7 on the year.

Chad Ochocinco

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    Chad Ochocinco left behind a rebuilding Cincinnati Bengals team and joined a New England Patriots squad with Tom Brady at the helm and a need for a game-changing wideout.

    After all, what were the chances that with a better quarterback Ochocinco wouldn't best his 2010 numbers of 831 yards and four touchdowns?

    Apparently, those chances were pretty good.

    Ochocinco has utterly failed to learn the Patriots system, and the dysfunctional play between he and Brady has been the talk of the town. He has just 11 receptions and 201 yards on the season without a single touchdown.

Braylon Edwards

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    Braylon Edwards signed a one-year partially guaranteed contract with the 49ers that would only pay him the full amount if he caught over 90 passes or made the Pro Bowl.

    Neither of those are possibilities at this point.

    Hampered by injures and an inability to consistently produce, Edwards has been an afterthought for the 49ers, who are still in need of a top-option wide receiver.

    After getting 904 yards and seven touchdowns for the Jets last season, Edwards has just 14 receptions and 172 yards in an utterly forgettable season so far in San Francisco.

Mike Williams

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    Aside from Sam Bradford, the sophomore slump hasn't hit anyone harder than Tampa Bay's Mike Williams.

    Williams, a fourth-round pick in 2010, had Pro Bowl-like numbers of 964 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. 

    Unfortunately for the Bucs, both Williams and his quarterback, Josh Freeman, have fallen apart in 2011. Williams has a decent 573 yards but just three scores for a Tampa Bay team that really needs its passing game to pick it up. 

Devin McCourtey

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    McCourtey, a first-round pick in 2010 by the Patriots, had a great rookie season with 82 tackles, two forced fumbles and seven interceptions.

    But, like the rest of the New England defense, he has failed to perform so far this season. He has 59 tackles but no interceptions, and the Patriots currently give up the most passing yards per game in the league.

    If New England wants to be a serious threat in the playoffs, their defense, especially their secondary, needs to start limiting teams' passing attacks. Getting McCourtey back on track would be an excellent start.

Chris Johnson

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    Chris Johnson entered the 2011 season with 4,598 career yards and an amazing 4.9 yards per carry average. After leading the league in rushing yards for three straight seasons, he was so sure of his own skills that he sat out training camp until the Titans gave him a $53 million contract.

    So far this season, Johnson isn't even worth a fraction of what the Titans paid him. He has just 699 yards and two touchdowns in what will go down as one of the most disappointing seasons by any NFL player ever.

    The expectations for Johnson coupled with the disastrous results makes it utterly sickening for any NFL fan.