5 players who are underperforming this season
John Breitenbach looks at five players, including Jordan Matthews and Brandon Flowers, who aren't living up to expectations in 2015.
5 players who are underperforming this season
Sustaining success in the NFL is not easy. History is littered with players who showed flashes but failed to maintain the high standards they set themselves. Below is a list of five players who have regressed since 2014.
RT Ricky Wagner, Baltimore Ravens
2014 grade: +18.2
2015 grade: -14.6
After essentially redshirting as a rookie, Wagner broke out in his second season in Baltimore. The fifth round pick invested in him started to look like an absolute steal, as Wagner finished as our 11th overall tackle and first overall amongst RTs. The three knockdowns he gave up in 2014 was bested only by perennial all-pro Andrew Whitworth. What a difference a year makes. Wagner is now ranked 51st out of 60 qualifying tackles, having already allowed more combined knockdowns than he did in the entirety of 2014. Overall he’s allowed almost as many combined pressures in seven games (22) as he did in 16 games in 2015 (23). Couple the regression in pass protection with a run blocking grade that’s fallen from +2.4 to -10.9 and Wagner has gone from a strength to a real issue for Baltimore.
WR Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles
2014 grade: +2.4
2015 grade: -6.9
There were few Eagles players who came into the season with more hype than second year receiver Jordan Matthews. After a good rookie season where he finished with a receiving grade just outside the top 30 (+4.2), much was expected of the Vanderbilt product especially with Jeremy Maclin departing for Kansas City. Matthews’ 1.87 yards per route run from the slot was second best in 2014 behind only Randall Cobb and he had a respectable drop rate of just 7.25. That number has shot up in 2015 to 13.64 including a critical drop in Week 1 that ended up as an interception and iced the game. He’s already dropped more passes in his second year than he did as a rookie. Matthews’ also has just a solitary score so far this season after grabbing eight TDs in 2014. All that culminates in a -7.7 receiving grade which leaves Matthews 108th out of 110 qualifying players.
CB Brandon Flowers, San Diego Chargers
2014 grade: +10.0
2015 grade: -13.2
Flowers’ career has been marred by inconsistency. Too often good seasons have given way to bad seasons and that’s been the case again this year. An indifferent 2013 in Kansas City led to his arrival in San Diego where he proceeded to look like the shutdown corner he is capable of being. Overall he finished as our 13th ranked corner, allowing just 1.36 yards per cover snap and a QB rating of 84.2. In contrast, 2015 has been a disaster. Flowers is 106th out of 108 qualifying corners, allowing 2.01 yards per cover snap and a QB rating of 136.5. Those numbers ignore the penalties Flowers has committed in critical moments, extending drives in games the Chargers have eventually lost. His tackling has also fallen off a cliff; after missing just four in 50 attempts in 2014, he’s now missed six from just 29 this season. Flowers has regressed in every category this year and it’s a big reason the Chargers’ secondary is struggling.
MLB Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks
2014 grade: +18.8
Amongst the multitude of issues the Seattle defense has experienced this year, the struggles of Bobby Wagner are perhaps the most surprising. While an injured pectoral has clearly had an impact, Wagner wasn’t playing well prior to getting hurt either. Our fifth overall inside linebacker in 2014, Wagner has fallen to 32nd out of 54 qualifiers. Wagner stood out against the run in particular last year, finishing with the second highest grade (+11.6) in that facet of his play. 2015 has been a different story as he’s recorded a negative grade (-2.7) with 12 missed tackles from 53 attempts. Wagner missed just seven out of 81 attempts last year. Coverage has never been Wagner’s strength but he’s regressed in that regard as well, allowing almost as many completions (26) through Week 8 as he did in 2014 (30). He’s also allowing more yards per catch and a higher QB rating. While KJ Wright has elevated his play to another level, his teammate is struggling to replicate the form he’s shown in the past.
RT Doug Free, Dallas Cowboys
2014 grade: +13.6
2015 grade: -9.8
The Cowboys have the number one offensive line in the league, but that doesn’t mean they can’t look at ways to get better. If Doug Free was experiencing one of his purple patches, like the one he had in 2014, they would be almost unstoppable. As it stands, he looks to be the lone weakness on the line. Free is our 52nd ranked tackle our of 74 qualifiers, after finishing 18th overall and fifth amongst right tackles in 2014. Free is yet to give up a sack this year but he’s given up 18 combined pressures, just five short of his total of 23 last season. The biggest regression has come as a run blocker, where his 2014 grade of +9.1 ranked him in the top 10. That’s fallen to -3.0 this season. Finally, discipline has proven a significant issue. Free’s six penalties culminate in a -3.9 grade which is worst amongst OTs. He committed just four penalties in the entirety of 2014.