NFL players can feel the sting of declining age and production from one season to the next. Life can come at you fast in the NFL. It seems like only yesterday that Peyton Manning came into the NFL guns blazing, rifling passes to Marvin Harrison left and right. This season we are seeing Father Time affecting another Hall of Fame talent from our youth. These days, Manning’s arm strength is about what your grandfather’s is like after a few beers. It’s not pretty.
While age is often the #1 enemy of any NFL star, production is the other question going into each season. Declining effectiveness can happen to any player for a number of reasons. Maybe you used to be a dominant defensive tackle on a Detroit Lions team but then signed a ridiculous contract in a sunny city with an organization that has absolutely no idea how to use you and is riddled with incompetence from top to bottom.
This isn’t just for the big-money guys. Players often have issues when they relocate to other cities even when its to teams that are seemingly tailor-made to compliment the players’ skill set. Other times, it can just be a matter of coaching, scheme changes or different personnel around you. Teams have turn over season to season on a personnel level on and off the field, and this can often create turmoil for a player that results in underperformance.
So while it’s still very early in the season, we’ll take a look at 15 2014 Pro Bowlers that will not make it there this year. There’s a very good chance some of these players still have time to get hot and turn things around but it’s not looking great right now.
15 Jordy Nelson
Kicking off with an obvious selection in Jordy Nelson as the perennial All-Pro went down with a torn ACL early in the preseason. This proved two things: 1) Preseason is a horrible beast that knows no god and 2) NEVER hold your fantasy football league draft anything earlier than after the 3rd preseason game. You’re just asking for sadness.
14 Tony Romo
Romo also went down early in the regular season with a broken clavicle in the game against the Eagles. Projections as of now are for Romo to return around Week 10 or 11 so it will be tough to rally his team to a playoff spot much less come back with no rust and set the league on fire for another Pro Bowl return in 2015.
13 DeMarco Murray
Murray was a monster in 2014. The former Cowboys running back amassed 1800 yards and 13 TDs during a stellar season. This season, Murray has been both disappointing and used incorrectly and infrequently in Chip Kelly’s fancy pants offense. So far Murray has 130 yards on a paltry 49 carries through 4 games. Murray finally broke through against the Saints so it remains to be seen if he can continue that kind of performance and whether Kelly trusts him enough to do so.
12 Peyton Manning
As mentioned in the intro, Peyton hasn’t looked his best so far in 2015. He’s got 6 TDs and 7 INTs to go along with his paltry 77 QBR. Not exactly Peyton Manning-like numbers. For years we’ve been waiting for his production to begin to drop off and it seems as though Father Time has, in fact, knocked on Manning’s door.
11 Devin Hester
While you can never rule the 32 year old future Hall of Fame returner out of anything given his electrifying ways of entertaining us over the years, time IS catching up with Hester. He may still be one of the fastest guys on the field at any given time but injuries are starting to pile up with Hester effectively missing most of the season due to a turf toe injury that has had him sidelined since the season began.
10 Julius Thomas
Ah, Jacksonville. Along with the Raiders it’s where NFL careers go to die. In addition, even Peyton Manning with half an arm is way better than Blake Bortles with both working arms and whatever that organ that’s supposed to be a ‘brain’ is. – no matter how hot Bortles’ ex-girlfriend was. Manning has been known to bring the best out of his receivers, while Bortles is a young signal called shouldering the weight of a failing franchise. You do the math.
9 Ryan Clady
The Broncos lost their stalwart left tackle for the entire season for the 2nd time in 3 years during OTAs this offseason. Clady tore his ACL during OTAs on May 28th and will once again not be there to protect Peyton Manning’s fragile backside despite his sizable, $52 million dollar contract.
8 Cameron Wake
Cameron Wake is now 33 and not nearly the feared quarterback-eating beast he’s been in past seasons with the Dolphins. Years playing in Canada robbed Wake of early success but he battled hard and made himself a defensive force for the Dolphins over the last 5 seasons. This season Wake has no sacks, no hurries and has spent a lot of crucial passing downs on the sidelines in Miami’s confusing defense. Unless Wake becomes his normal ferocious self in the final 12 games, there’s no way he’ll be back for a 5th Pro Bowl appearance.
7 Ndamukong Suh
Right alongside Wake is his newly minted defensive tackle, which the Dolphins paid a hefty ransom for (to the tune of $116 million) in the offseason. Suh has not panned out so far for the Dolphins. If he’s not scaring the bejesus out of London press staff members or participating in practice with his sneakers, he’s being routinely handled with one-on-one situations on the field. Things are not looking good for the marriage of Suh and the Dolphins.
6 Lawrence Timmons
This is a case of a player that will narrowly miss the Pro Bowl. Timmons is still productive and his numbers are very close to his 2014 totals to this point, but the emergence of Ryan Shazier (once back from injury), Sean Spence and 1st round pick Bud Dupree will likely affect Timmons’ totals for the season. Not as sharp of a production drop off as the others on our list but still enough to have him miss the Pro Bowl this year.
5 Brent Grimes
Again with the Dolphins defense. The unit (and team and franchise) are a total mess at this point and Brent Grimes has been gimpy since the start of the season. Plus, he’s got some person fish to fry considering his wife is a borderline sociopath that was arrested at the last home game for deciding that she was more important than the police and all the other fans by crossing barricades that were closed off to pedestrians. Rough times in the Grimes household, for sure.
4 Jimmy Graham
This one is simply inexplicable. Graham was an absolute beast working with Drew Brees and it made sense that the one thing the Seahawks were CLEARLY missing was a Red Zone threat given their boneheaded play-calling at the end of last year’s Super Bowl. Instead, the Seahawks have found a way to turn Graham into some kind of decoy, which does not seem very smart. Graham currently has 21 catches and 2 TDs through the first quarter of the season.
3 Arian Foster
Foster missed the first couple games of the 2015 season – then promptly fumbled as soon as he came into the game for his first taste of action. Foster has a 1.9 ypc average at the moment and is way, way below his career averages at this point in the season. The Texans need to find a way to center their offense around the All-Pro and right the mess that is that team at the moment given its lack of consistent quarterback play.
2 Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben and the Steelers dodged a bullet when the QB went down hard on his knee against a fierce Rams defense. Roethlisberger sprained his MCL during the contest and has so far missed 2 Steelers games with another possibility against the Cardinals and his old coach, Bruce Arians. Projections are for Roethlisberger to come back in November which would not give him much time to amass the volume needed to make his 4th Prow Bowl in 2015.
1 Jahri Evans
The Saints guard is much needed for a struggling Saints team in the midst of an eye-opening rebuilding campaign but the Pro Bowl guard has missed the past 3 games. The Saints desperately need him to help a team that is 29th in rushing and has allowed 15 sacks on an unhappy Drew Brees. Evans didn’t exactly have a stellar 2014 either so it’s important for him to get out there and prove he’s worth his status up until now.