Marshawn Lynch and 9 NFL Players That Are Being Held Back by Their Teammates
Lynch started off the season slowly, but has been dominant since Week 9, with four 100-yard games in five opportunities.
The thing about Lynch's season so far, though, is that his form has been pretty consistent. The difference in Lynch's numbers came from the improved performances of his offensive line. His line was previously holding him back whereas now they are allowing him to flourish.
Here are a few other players caught in similar situations.
We may as well start off with a teammate of Lynch's on the other side of the football.
Chris Clemons is one of the most talented players in the NFL. As a defensive end, Clemons does a lot more than most that play his position. Clemons has the ability to drop into zone coverage, play man-to-man without being exposed as well as getting to the quarterback.
He sheds blocks to stop the running game and regularly faces double teams in the passing game.
The Seahawks don't have many pass rushers in their front seven, and their secondary is average. In spite of this, Clemons has still racked up eight sacks, three forced fumbles and three pass deflections in 12 games this season.
His range and strength, coupled with his intelligence and scheme discipline, make him one of the most underrated football players in the league. If he was on a more talented defense, playing with a better secondary or with a second pass rusher to stop teams double teaming him, then he would be a renowned star in the NFL right now.
Rashard Mendenhall is one of the most talented young running backs in the league that can feature heavily in both facets of an offense, as a runner or receiver.
However, playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers this year doesn't favor any running back. Some have criticized Mendenhall, and rightfully so, for not hitting the hole hard enough this year. However, more often than not, there is no hole for him to hit in the first place.
Mendenhall's offensive line has been in flux throughout the year and doesn't feature any blockers that are good at blowing open holes any more.
When Willie Colon went out after Week 1, the team's best run blocker was lost for the year. Jonathan Scott was replaced by Max Starks in midseason, and Starks is easily better than Scott, but he is a specialist pass protector.
Chris Kemoeatu was dropped because of a combination of his performance and a change in the team's identity. With Maurkice Pouncey not having a great second season and Ramon Foster being a solid but unspectacular blocker in both the passing and running game, there aren't many holes for Mendenhall to run through this year.
It also doesn't help when the offense has drastically changed because of the emergence of some talented receivers on the outside.
Santonio Holmes has started more games this year than he did last year, but his statistics are much lower this year. Holmes has 37 receptions to 52 last year and 494 yards to 746 last year.
While it would be easy to blame Mark Sanchez for the receiver's demise, the truth is that Sanchez is still the same quarterback that he was last year. Don't get me wrong, I don't believe that Sanchez has ever been capable of carrying the offense in New York.
The Jets have a worse offense than they had last year, as their offensive line, running backs and receivers aren't as good as they were previously.
Shonn Greene's inability to develop into a feature back and Ladanian Tomlinson's decline, coupled with Joe McKnight's general confusion and apathy, forced the Jets to be a passing team. The problem is, the Jets don't have the tools to be a passing team either.
Santonio Holmes is the only real threat that the Jets have at wide receiver. Plaxico Burress may have already caught as many touchdown passes as Braylon Edwards did all of last year, but he doesn't present as much of a matchup problem as Edwards did, despite his drops.
The release of Derrick Mason, who was never going to work out anyway, has left the team with Jeremy Kerley as the team's third receiver. Compared to Brad Smith, Jerricho Cotchery, Edwards and Holmes last year, it is simple to double team Holmes now and take care of the Jets' other receivers with ease.
It's easy to simply say that Eddie Royal has dropped off since his rookie season, when he had 91 receptions for 980 yards, considering the three seasons since then have been underwhelming at best.
However, the Denver Broncos' offense during that time has slowly reduced Royal's effectiveness to that of a bit-part player.
Even before the Broncos became a run on first, second, third and fourth down team, Royal's production was being hurt by the Broncos offense under Josh McDaniels. With Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall in Denver, Royal had a role in the offense that perfectly suited his abilities as a possession receiver.
Once McDaniels, and Kyle Orton, arrived in Denver, Royal dropped behind Jabarr Gaffney and Brandon Lloyd as fits in Denver's offense. Royal wasn't a favored target of Kyle Orton as McDaniels' offense focused on Lloyd and Gaffney.
Now that McDaniels is gone, it is Tim Tebow and his option offense that is reducing Royal to even less than a bit-part player. Only Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker can do anything noteworthy in an offense that is only looking to throw vertical routes.
Any other receiver on the Broncos' roster has no hope of making an impact no matter how good they are at their respective roles.
Philip Rivers is not having a good year throwing the football, regardless of who else isn't performing on the offense. However, Rivers isn't playing so badly that he should be leading the league in interceptions with 17.
What must be noted about Rivers' performances this year is the flux that has overcome the team's offensive line. The team's best pass protector, Marcus McNeill, missed the past two games and is now on IR.
His replacement, Brandyn Dombrowski, is hobbling ahead of this weekend, while Louis Vasquez has also missed the past two games. Left guard Kris Dielman only lasted six games before landing on IR. His replacement Tyronne Green went out as soon as he got his opportunity, before his replacement Scott Mruczkowski followed Dielman to IR.
When you consider that Malcolm Floyd and Antonio Gates have also missed time this year and the left side of the Chargers' offensive line was stronger than the right, you cannot put all of Rivers' struggles on him this year.
Realistically, you could put any of the Colts' skill position players here simply because of the woeful performances of Curtis Painter.
The Colts' offense as a whole has fallen apart without Peyton Manning, but nobody has been hurt more than Reggie Wayne. Being the team's best receiver and not being a receiver that excels in the screen game or with short quick passes, Wayne's effectiveness has been hindered.
He may have caught a lot of passes this year, 47, but he only has two touchdowns and less than 700 yards. Those aren't numbers of the elite receiver that Wayne still is despite being 33 years of age.
Maybe more so than any other player in the NFL, Maurice Jones-Drew is held back by the offense around him this year. The two things that previously worked in Jones-Drew's favor last season have not been there this year.
Last year, Jones-Drew had a mobile quarterback that forced the weak-side defender to stay home until the final second, allowing Jones-Drew to cut back with greater ease. The Jaguars released David Garrard, and Blaine Gabbert, with the team's receivers, doesn't threaten enough to take the eighth man out of the box.
The other thing Jones-Drew had was a stellar run blocking offensive line. This year, the Jaguars have had a seemingly endless list of injuries upfront. Since Eben Britton was injured during training camp, the team hasn't once put its best group of offensive linemen on the field together at the same time when fully healthy.
Running behind a patchwork offensive line, with a rookie quarterback, underachieving tight end and receiving corp that is lacking talent, it is a shock that Jones-Drew can achieve what he has achieved this year at all.
Sam Bradford's second season hasn't gone exactly the way he would have imagined. Following his impressive rookie year, the team tried to put the weapons in place around Bradford to aid his step to the next level.
Unfortunately, those additions haven't yet provided the boost that the offense needed.
Rookies Greg Salas, Austin Pettis and Lance Kendricks were brought in to give the team more reliable receivers, but the group has led the league in drops for most of the year. Kendricks, the tight end, in particular, has frustrated fans in St. Louis with his inconsistent hands.
Greg Salas was just coming into his own before breaking a bone in his leg and landing on IR, while Austin Pettis hasn't made a major impact. Brandon Gibson has been good, while Brandon Lloyd has excelled since arriving from Denver, but neither can consistently produce because of another issue with the Rams offense.
Despite the impressive play of Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith last year, both tackles have struggled on the field and with injuries this year. Couple this with Jason Brown, the team's original starting center, being dropped for poor play and Bradford has barely been able to get the ball out this year.
It's no surprise that he has already missed games this year. With receivers dropping passes and an offensive line giving him no time, Bradford's best play this year has been to hand off to Stephen Jackson. That is not why he was drafted first overall a year ago.
Marcell Dareus started off the season in great form for the Buffalo Bills. He was able to do exactly what he was brought to Buffalo to do: stop the run.
Playing alongside Kyle Williams, Dareus was able to hold his own, as opposing offensive lines focused on preventing Williams from getting penetration. Once Williams went to IR, Dareus had to move from left defensive end to nose tackle.
He did manage 2.5 of his 3.5 sacks on the year after moving to nose tackle. However, those sacks all came in one game, against the Redskins, when the team as a whole had nine. His overall impact from nose tackle, outside of that game, hasn't been as impressive.
The Bills' front seven isn't very talented. The fact that Williams went out has really put the pressure on Dareus and limited the impact that he can make on opposing offenses.
There is no doubt that he is still a star in the making, but he can't do it all on his own.
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