Danny Woodhead and 5 2010 Phenoms Who Fell off the Map

Andrea Hangst@FBALL_AndreaFeatured Columnist IVDecember 4, 2011

Danny Woodhead and 5 2010 Phenoms Who Fell off the Map

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    The NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, and just because a player has a breakout season one year doesn't mean that success will repeat itself the following season.

    Perhaps coaching or personnel changes have shifted the player's role on his team, or perhaps he's just suffering from an unfortunate slump. Whatever the reason, it's guaranteed that some of last year's stars will become this year's disappointments.

    Here are five players who ruled the field in 2010 but who have declined significantly this season.

RB Danny Woodhead, New England Patriots

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    The New England Patriots' Danny Woodhead was one of the most feel-good success stories of 2010, with the undersized back being very publicly cut by the New York Jets in the preseason only to land with the rival Patriots and made a significant impact.

    In 2010, the Patriots' offense was evolving on the field in front of us. Shifting within the season from a deep-ball reliant passing game to a shorter-yardage philosophy that relied more on slot passes to Wes Welker and unpredictable tosses to the tight ends, Woodhead was able to have a versatile featured role both in the running and passing game.

    That resulted in him rushing 97 times for 547 yards and five touchdowns and catching 34 passes for 379 yards and a touchdown.

    However, that evolving offensive gameplan solidified this offseason and now Woodhead is one of the Patriots' odd men out. This year, Woodhead has just 53 carries for 233 yards and 14 receptions for another 131, with zero scores.

    Woodhead's decline is more attributable to a change in the Patriots' offense rather than any specific faults in his style of play. However, it's made him little more of an afterthought this season rather than the surprising upstart he was in 2010.

RB Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns

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    Perhaps it's the Madden Curse that's at fault, but it's clear that Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis is having a rough year.

    Plagued by both injuries and illness and distracted by a lingering contract dispute, Hillis hasn't managed to produce anything close to his impressive 2010 that saw him rush 270 times for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns and catch 61 passes for 477 yards and two scores.

    Heading into Week 13, Hillis had played in just five games, which has clearly been the main factor as to why his numbers have been so low this season. Overall poor play from the entire Cleveland offense hasn't done him many favors, however.

    In 2011, Hillis has rushed 79 yards for 276 yards and two scores and caught 17 passes for 72 yards. Surrounded by all manner of issues, it's clear that Hillis had little chance to recreate his strong 2010 showing this year.

QB Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles

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    There were fewer things more exciting in the 2010 NFL season than the quality of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick's play.

    After taking over for Kevin Kolb early in the 2010 season, Vick managed a stellar year despite a number of injuries. He went 233-of-372 in the air, for 3,018 yards, 21 touchdowns and six interceptions and ran 100 times for another 676 yards and nine scores.

    This year, the Eagles have been a far different team. Problems coming together after adding a number of big-name free agents in the off-sesason first held the team down, and inconsistency from his receiver corps has also meant Vick's numbers are significantly lower.

    On top of those on-field issues, Vick's suffered from a number of more serious injuries this season, causing him to miss the team's last three games. On the year, Vick has completed just 181 passes, for 2,193 yards, 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and has rushed 65 times for 535 yards and zero scores.

    While few believed that Vick could keep up his 2010 pace this season, no one imagined he'd struggle so mightily or suffer such significant injury. He's yet again just another middling quarterback, too inconsistent to be considered elite.

QB Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Seemingly out of nowhere, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman ended up one of the best passers of 2010.

    In 2009, Freeman threw 18 interceptions to just 10 touchdowns, but in 2010 managed to complete 61.4 percent of his passes for 3,451 yards, 25 touchdowns and a mere six interceptions while also rushing 68 times for 364 yards.

    Many thought that Freeman's success was a fluke, and they appear to have been right. So far this season, Freeman has 2,715 passing yards for 12 scores and 16 interceptions and has rushed just 38 times for 157 yards.

    Injuries have been an issue for Freeman this year as well as his old issues with accuracy rearing their heads once again. It has been a year of regression for the Buccaneers, steered by Freeman's slide.

RB Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    While it's no secret that the once run-heavy Pittsburgh Steelers offense has become primarily a passing outfit in recent years, they also managed to have some significant success on the ground in 2010 thanks to the skills of running back Rashard Mendenhall.

    In 2010, Mendenhall was one of the NFL's top rushers, carrying the ball 324 times for 1,274 yards and 13 scores and catching 23 passes worth 167 more yards.

    In 2011, behind a Pittsburgh offensive line that struggled with run blocking for the majority of the early season, he's carried the ball just 153 times for 574 yards and six scores, while notching just 13 receptions for 87 yards.

    Though he missed one game with a hamstring injury, that isn't reason enough for Mendenhall's slide. The offensive line is but one reason why his numbers have been so low this year. He's also struggling to commit to a rushing lane, leaving him dancing around behind the line of scrimmage, easy pickings for potential tacklers.

    It's also the overall pass-first Steelers' offensive philosophy that's contributed to Mendenhall's lowered production. Though Pittsburgh has rarely found itself playing from behind, they're less interested in running the ball than in recent years.

    Combine that with Mendenhall sharing more and more carries with fellow backs Isaac Redman and Mewelde Moore, and it's clear that he's not going to reach 1,200 or more yards in 2011.