With all these fancy new players who have emerged from nowhere this season, it’s easy to forget about some of the league stars of yore. But while you were distracted by Carson Wentz’s “aww shucks” routine, many of the league’s old stand-bys have also been enjoying excellent starts to 2016!
This list is not for them.
This week’s rankings ID some of the stars that aren’t up to their usual level of awesomeness. Unfortunately, many of the league’s (perhaps former?) greats have just had a dismal start to the 2016 campaign, and some won’t even get a chance to redeem themselves.
Presented to you now – in descending order so as to build suspense – is my ranking of the top-eight biggest disappointments of 2016 (so far).
NFL’s Biggest Disappointments thru Week 4
8. J.J. Watt
It’s hard to fault a guy for getting injured, as it’s largely a freak occurrence beyond one’s control. However, Watt isn’t totally without blame in this situation. After having surgery to fix a herniated disk, ever the competitor, Watt rushed back to be on the field for Week 1. His impact in the first three games was well below the lofty standards one holds the three-time Defensive Player of the Year to. Eventually, he had to call it a season and get a second surgery on his back.
If Watt takes a little extra time to recover, is he still taken away from us? We’ll never know, but it’s disappointing as hell either way.
7. Jared Goff
Somehow, without ever playing a down of regular season football, the first-overall pick has become an even bigger disappointment this season. After his dismal preseason showing and subsequent benching behind CASE KEENUM, it looked like things couldn’t get worse for Goff. But now, every rookie that trots onto an NFL field is lighting the damn thing up.
Six quarterbacks taken after Goff have seen significant playing time in the first four weeks (Wentz, Dak Prescott, Cody Kessler, Jacoby Brissett, Paxton Lynch, Trevone Boykin) and combined to throw for 2,883 yards, a 65.7 completion percentage, ten touchdowns, and only two interceptions. And Goff remains stuck behind the QB with the league’s worst completion percentage.
6. Khalil Mack
With the NFL’s premier pass rusher sidelined, now isn’t a great time for the next “great one” to struggle as well. But like the rest of Oakland’s new-look defense, Mack is coming out of the gate slowly in his third season. After his titanic second half to 2015, we expected more than one measly sack after four games. Despite the presence of other great rushers like Bruce Irvin, Mack has gotten chipped or double-teamed frequently this season.
Given that the Raiders new D is still gelling, and Mack did register 12 sacks after Week 4 last year, he certainly seems like the most likely candidate on this list to get things turned around.
5. Cam Newton
The reigning MVP’s struggles are not his fault, alone. If anything, the finger of blame is directed squarely at Mike Remmers, Michael Oher, and the rest of this Panthers o-line. Cam is getting beaten up like every weekend is Super Bowl 50. Perhaps he’s gotten his bell rung one to many times, because he’s on pace to throw the most interceptions in his career (if he lasts all 16 games, which already seems unlikely).
Given the excitement surrounding this offense after Kelvin Benjamin returned, this is one of the big shocks of the early season. I guess Jonathan Stewart’s impact on the offense was truly understated.
4. Dez Bryant
It’s been almost 21 months since we’ve seen Bryant play truly great football. After his injury hampered 2015 season, the receiver seems on track for more setbacks in 2016. Just don’t tell him that; he can’t bear to hear bad news.
Even when Bryant does return to the field, I’ll keep my expectations tempered. The receiver has caught just 47-percent of his targets this season (well below his career average of nearly 60-percent) and seems thoroughly uninterested in the game of football, reportedly skipping as many as eight meetings this season.
3. Jameis Winston
Both Winston and Mariota are in the midst of brutal sophomore slumps this year, but admittedly, I had much higher expectations for Famous. After a summer of stories about how Winston was slimming down and was going to be a better team leader, the former Heisman winner has sucked at his actual job of throwing the football.
In his second season, Winston has continued to look bad under pressure, and despite throwing to some trees at receiver, he’s still struggling with accuracy. He’s also making far fewer plays with his feet and his eight interceptions are second-worst in the league. He’s also only the second-worst sophomore slump on our list.
2. Odell Beckham Jr.
Apparently, “football isn’t fun anymore” for OBJ, which is a statement I’m having trouble with. Mostly the “anymore” part. So going 6-10 the last two years and having Eli Manning miss wide open throws was fun; but now that DBs are giving you the Lena Dunham treatment, now football sucks?
Beckham’s production isn’t even that far off of his norm, besides some comically bad drops and a goose egg in his touchdown column. But what’s disappointing about Beckham is we had him in the same conversations as Antonio Brown and Julio Jones before the season. As those two continue to thrive, Beckham is taking huge steps backwards, and it doesn’t bode well for the Giants future.
1. Todd Gurley
Looking back, the expectations for Gurley coming into this year were so large, it should have been a clear sign he was going to fall short. But having so few running backs to get excited about anymore, it sucks huge to see the one with the most potential struggle. Gurley has mustered just 216 rushing yards on 82 totes for a depressing 2.6 yards per carry.
If you only watched their Monday Night beatdown to the Niners, you might assume teams are throwing 10 or 11 defenders in the box to stop him. But since that game, terrible Keenum has been less terrible, and actually stretched defenses out a little. Gurley is facing a “stacked box” on 65-percent of his carries. That may sound like a lot, but considering DeMarco Murray sees looks like that on 88-percent of his carries, Gurley can’t really claim that as an excuse.