NFL

Every NFL Team’s Worst Starter Heading into Training Camp

Every NFL Team’s Worst Starter Heading into Training Camp

Unhappy Faces
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In order for some NFL players to have great success others must deal with immense failure. Not every starter can be a superstar. Here is a list of each NFL team’s worst starter heading into training camp.

Included in this list are nine linebackers, five running backs, five safeties and four cornerbacks, making it easy to see why players such as Patrick Willis, Adrian Peterson, Earl Thomas and Patrick Peterson are so highly coveted.

Arizona Cardinals: RT Bradley Sowell

Bradley Sowell Arizona Cardinals
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals: RT Bradley Sowell

Bradley Sowell Arizona Cardinals
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals were responsible for the worst offensive line in the NFL last season, and Sowell was the face of this unit. Sowell was responsible for 10 of the 41 times QB Carson Palmer was sacked in 2013, accounting for nearly 25 percent of the times his QB found himself on his back.

Atlanta Falcons: LB Kroy Biermann

Kroy Biermann Atlanta Falcons
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Falcons: LB Kroy Biermann

Kroy Biermann Atlanta Falcons
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

In 2013, the Falcons ranked 27th overall in total defense, one of the main reasons the team regressed so dramatically from their elite status in 2012. The linebacker corps in Atlanta was dreadful, struggling to make tackles and maintain coverage. While Biermann did miss the majority of 2013, his presence this season should not make much of a difference, as he is arguably the worst of this group of linebackers.

Baltimore Ravens: DE Chris Canty

Chris Canty Baltimore Ravens
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens: DE Chris Canty

Chris Canty Baltimore Ravens
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Canty’s facemask may make him appear to look like a devastating defensive force, but he is essentially harmless. In 13 starts last season, Canty recorded a grand total of two quarterback sacks and 20 tackles, making him the weakest link on a regressing defense. It does not help his cause that he is being paid $ 6 million to essentially do nothing for his team.

Buffalo Bills: LB Nigel Bradham

Nigel Bradham Buffalo Bills
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Bills: LB Nigel Bradham

Nigel Bradham Buffalo Bills
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

In fairness, it really is not Bradham’s fault that he is the worst starter on the Bills roster since he was supposed to only be a role player this season. However, following the injury to Kiko Alonso, Bradham will have to step in as the starter. He’ll need quite a bit more tackles than his 2013 total of 29 this season if he wants to sufficiently fill Alonso’s shoes.

Carolina Panthers: SS Roman Harper

Roman Harper Carolina Panthers
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers: SS Roman Harper

Roman Harper Carolina Panthers
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After completely dismantling Harper multiple times over the past few seasons while he played for the New Orleans Saints, the Panthers decided that signing Harper to a two-year, $ 4.5 million contract was a beneficial move. Harper had his worst season to date in 2013, proving that his subpar tackling and coverage skills could indeed become worse.

Chicago Bears: FS Chris Conte

Chris Conte Chicago Bears
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears: FS Chris Conte

Chris Conte Chicago Bears
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Conte’s performance over the past few seasons really makes it difficult to justify whether he should even be on the field at all. Opposing quarterbacks have constantly targeted him throughout his career, resulting in big gains and plenty of touchdowns. The Bears free agent signing of Adrian Wilson last month may finally put Conte out of his misery.

Cincinnati Bengals: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis

BenJarvus Green-Ellis Cincinnati Bengals
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bengals: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis

BenJarvus Green-Ellis Cincinnati Bengals
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

In his first four NFL seasons with the New England Patriots, Green-Ellis was one of the better tough yardage running backs in the NFL. Since joining the Bengals, however, Green-Ellis has been absolutely useless. His 3.4 Y/A ranked fifth worst among starting running backs last season and only one of his 220 carries yielded 20 or more yards. He has also become a fumble-risk, despite not fumbling once during his four seasons in New England.

Cleveland Browns: LB Paul Kruger

Paul Kruger Cleveland Browns
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns: LB Paul Kruger

Paul Kruger Cleveland Browns
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

After recording nine sacks and winning a Super Bowl as a rotational player with the Baltimore Ravens in 2012, Kruger signed a big $ 40.5 million contract with the Browns. While Kruger may not be the worst starter on this Browns team, he certainly is being paid the most for the least, recording only 4.5 sacks and 26 tackles this past season. He is also a liability in pass coverage, making his huge contract all the more frustrating.

Dallas Cowboys: CB Morris Claiborne

Morris Claiborne Dallas Cowboys
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys: CB Morris Claiborne

Morris Claiborne Dallas Cowboys
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys' pass defense was downright horrible last season, giving up an average of 286.8 YDS/G through the air. Hoping to acquire a shutdown cornerback, the Cowboys selected Claiborne sixth overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, only to find out that he seemingly cannot cover an opposing receiver effectively. Claiborne lost his starting role last season, making 2014 a possible make-or-break season for him in Dallas.

Denver Broncos: DE Derek Wolfe

Derek Wolfe Denver Broncos
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Denver Broncos: DE Derek Wolfe

Derek Wolfe Denver Broncos
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos have one of the most elite rosters in the entire NFL, which makes it rather difficult to single out one player as the worst. After a plethora of offseason moves to improve their defense, the label of weakest link falls to Wolfe. Wolfe recorded four sacks and just 11 tackles in 2013, making it easy to see why his name may fall through the cracks on the Broncos roster.

Detroit Lions: TE Brandon Pettigrew

Brandon Pettigrew Detroit Lions
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Lions: TE Brandon Pettigrew

Brandon Pettigrew Detroit Lions
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Given the Lions' draft selection of Eric Ebron this past May, it is becoming clear that the team may be just about done watching Pettigrew struggle to reach his potential. He has the build and athleticism to be an elite tight end but has struggled with drops his entire career, is a fumble-risk and is too easily tackled for a player his size. Chances are that Pettigrew will only be a starter until Ebron has a good grasp of the offensive playbook.

Green Bay Packers: LB A.J. Hawk

A.J. Hawk Green Bay Packers
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Green Bay Packers: LB A.J. Hawk

A.J. Hawk Green Bay Packers
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Similar to the Broncos, the Packers have very few holes on their roster, making it difficult to determine who their worst starter is. Hawk was paid like an above average linebacker for multiple seasons until the Packers realized his production was no better than mediocre. He is a liability in pass coverage and is not a sure enough tackler to be a consistently productive defensive asset.

Houston Texans: LB Brooks Reed

Brooks Reed Houston Texans
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Texans: LB Brooks Reed

Brooks Reed Houston Texans
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

One would assume that playing alongside J.J. Watt could only improve a player’s level of production. With Reed, however, this is not the case. He recorded a mere 43 tackles and just three sacks as a pass-rushing linebacker this past season in Houston, making him the likeliest candidate to lose his job to the elite talent of Jadeveon Clowney.

Indianapolis Colts: RB Trent Richardson

Trent Richardson Indianapolis Colts
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Indianapolis Colts: RB Trent Richardson

Trent Richardson Indianapolis Colts
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

When the Colts traded a first-round pick to the Cleveland Browns last season to acquire Richardson, many believed that the Colts would become one of the most complete young teams in all of football. This thought was quickly derailed when Richardson managed to average just 2.9 Y/A in 157 carries last season, losing his starting spot to Donald Brown in the process. Luckily, Richardson still has time to reach his full potential.

Jacksonville Jaguars: FS Josh Evans

Josh Evans Jacksonville Jaguars
Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville Jaguars: FS Josh Evans

Josh Evans Jacksonville Jaguars
Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Evans may not only be the worst starter on the Jaguars, but possibly the worst starter in the entire NFL. Evans recorded just one pass defense in 15 games last season to go along with a very average total of 47 tackles. He struggles in zone coverage and is no better than a solid tackler, making him one of the least productive starters in the entire NFL.

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Donnie Avery

Donnie Avery Kansas City Chiefs
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Donnie Avery

Donnie Avery Kansas City Chiefs
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Avery is by no means a bad NFL wide receiver, but he certainly is not the ideal candidate to be a starter. This becomes especially evident since he plays opposite of Dwayne Bowe, one of the most inconsistent and underwhelming wide receivers in the NFL. Avery will never be more than an average wide receiver in the NFL, and if he keeps dropping seemingly every ball thrown at him he would be lucky to even be on a roster next season.

Miami Dolphins: LB Philip Wheeler

Philip Wheeler Miami Dolphins
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Dolphins: LB Philip Wheeler

Philip Wheeler Miami Dolphins
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

After a successful 2012 season with the Oakland Raiders, Wheeler signed a five-year, $ 26 million contract with the Dolphins. After just one season in Miami, Wheeler has upper management already regretting this decision. As a linebacker, his two responsibilities are being reliable in pass coverage and to be a sure-tackler. Wheeler struggled with both of these linebacker assignments, making him Miami's biggest defensive liability.

Minnesota Vikings: LB Jasper Brinkley

Jasper Brinkley Minnesota Vikings
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings: LB Jasper Brinkley

Jasper Brinkley Minnesota Vikings
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

During the offseason the Vikings brought back Brinkley, who last played with the team in 2012, following his release from the Arizona Cardinals. Brinkley was released due to being completely irrelevant last season in Arizona, making him the perfect candidate for the title of worst starter on the Vikings roster. However, this assumes that he will hold onto what appears to be his starting job to lose, which may be a stretch.

New England Patriots: SS Patrick Chung

Patrick Chung New England Patriots
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots: SS Patrick Chung

Patrick Chung New England Patriots
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

After four successful seasons with the Patriots from 2009 to 2012, Chung followed the money to Philadelphia, where he was consistently targeted and overmatched by opposing quarterbacks. Chung struggled in coverage and with his tackling ability, leading to his release and subsequent return to the Patriots. However, many players would be the worst starter in New England given their current surplus of talented starters on both sides of the football.

New Orleans Saints: LB David Hawthorne

David Hawthorne New Orleans Saints
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

New Orleans Saints: LB David Hawthorne

David Hawthorne New Orleans Saints
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

After fielding one of the worst defenses in NFL history in 2012, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan put together a top-five defensive unit in just one season at the helm. While many defensive players performed at an exceedingly high level, Hawthorne produced well below the bar he set for himself while playing in Seattle. His playmaking ability was nonexistent and his season total of 60 tackles was pitiful.

New York Giants: RB Rashad Jennings

Rashad Jennings New York Giants
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants: RB Rashad Jennings

Rashad Jennings New York Giants
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Jennings actually played well when given the opportunity in Oakland this past season. However, he has never been consistently successful and likely does not possess the durability to be a featured back for an entire NFL season. A case could be made for Jon Beason here, but this seems unfair given that his health issues have hindered him from being on the field consistently.

New York Jets: QB Geno Smith

Geno Smith New York Jets
The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

New York Jets: QB Geno Smith

Geno Smith New York Jets
The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

While Smith does deserve a bit of a break given that he won eight games as a rookie in 2013, his poor decision making and inconsistency cost his team multiple games. Smith's 21 interceptions and 55.8 completion percentage made time management difficult for a team built to play solid defense and run the football. Some may argue that he is not even the best quarterback on the Jets roster as a result of the team's choice to sign Michael Vick.

Oakland Raiders: RB Darren McFadden

Darren McFadden Oakland Raiders
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Raiders: RB Darren McFadden

Darren McFadden Oakland Raiders
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

McFadden is a lot like Richardson in that he has yet to live up to the potential scouts saw in him when he was drafted fourth overall in 2008. The only difference is that McFadden has been failing for a much longer period of time than Richardson. Injuries and inconsistency forced the Raiders to sign Maurice Jones-Drew during the offseason, begging questions about McFadden’s future as the starting running back in Oakland.

Philadelphia Eagles: CB Cary Williams

Cary Williams Philadelphia Eagles
The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles: CB Cary Williams

Cary Williams Philadelphia Eagles
The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles have been searching for a shutdown corner for years now and seemingly have bad luck signing cornerbacks through free agency. Williams regressed significantly in 2013, reminding many Eagles fans of the team's failed experiment with Nnamdi Asomugha back in 2011. In his first season with the Eagles, Williams consistently performed inadequately in pass coverage and frequently allowed opposing player extra yards with failed tackle attempts.

Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Ike Taylor

Ike Taylor Pittsburgh Steelers
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Ike Taylor

Ike Taylor Pittsburgh Steelers
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

There was a time when Taylor was one of the best cover corners in the NFL. However, Taylor's skills have dramatically regressed with age. He has been forced to adjust to his diminishing skills, leading to a natural regression in his overall performance. Not only have Taylor's skills noticeably diminished, but his annual salary of just over $ 7 million handcuffs the Steelers in contract negotiations as well.

San Diego Chargers: LB Manti Te’o

Manti Te'o San Diego Chargers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego Chargers: LB Manti Te’o

Manti Te'o San Diego Chargers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When Te’o entered the 2013 NFL Draft, many scouts suggested that he does not possess the coverage skills or natural ability to be a successful starting linebacker in the NFL. While 2013 is a small sample size, it would appear that these scouts’ projections were dead on, as Te’o failed to have consistent success during his rookie season. An improved Chargers defensive secondary makes Te’o arguably the worst starter on the team.

San Francisco 49ers: CB Chris Culliver

Chris Culliver San Francisco 49ers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers: CB Chris Culliver

Chris Culliver San Francisco 49ers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers have put together a nearly flawless roster with exception to the inconsistent cornerback play of Chris Culliver. He has streaks where he plays exceptionally well in coverage and other times it appears as if he has no idea what is going on. Culliver was beaten badly twice during Super Bowl XLVII, leading many fans to use him as the scapegoat for the 49ers loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Seattle Seahawks: G James Carpenter

James Carpenter Seattle Seahawks
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Seahawks: G James Carpenter

James Carpenter Seattle Seahawks
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout his tenure, Seahawks general manager John Schneider has rarely missed with his first-round draft selections. The one exception to date is Carpenter, who has been the weakest link on an otherwise strong Seahawks offensive line. While his ineffectiveness as a starter did not hinder his team from winning the Super Bowl last season, he is not in the Seahawks' future plans, as the team chose not to exercise his 2015 option this offseason.

St. Louis Rams: WR Chris Givens

Chris Givens St. Louis Rams
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Rams: WR Chris Givens

Chris Givens St. Louis Rams
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

There are very few top NFL organizations that do not feature an elite pass catcher somewhere on their roster. While the Rams maintain a talented roster, the lack of effective and consistent pass catchers is noticeable. Givens is the No. 1 receiver in St. Louis but has played more like a No. 3 receiver, dropping passes and failing to create separation consistently. He is far too talented to not perform at a much higher level.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE Adrian Clayborn

Adrian Clayborn Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE Adrian Clayborn

Adrian Clayborn Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

When the Buccaneers selected Clayborn in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the team figured to have finally found a much-needed pass rusher. Through three seasons, however, Clayborn has largely been a disappointment, totaling only 13 quarterback sacks to date. The free agent signing of DE Michael Johnson may be signaling that the Bucs are ready to move on from Clayborn.

Tennessee Titans: RB Shonn Greene

Shonn Greene Tennessee Titans
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee Titans: RB Shonn Greene

Shonn Greene Tennessee Titans
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In his first season with the Titans, Greene recorded a grand total of 295 rushing yards and just four rushing touchdowns. As a result, the Titans were forced to draft RB Bishop Sankey with a high round selection. Sankey’s status as a pro-ready prospect and Greene’s inability to establish himself as the bona fide starter may lead to a dramatically reduced role for Greene sooner rather than later.

Washington Redskins: SS Brandon Meriweather

Brandon Meriweather Washington Redskins
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Redskins: SS Brandon Meriweather

Brandon Meriweather Washington Redskins
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Just four seasons ago Meriweather was widely considered to be one of football’s elite young safeties. After back-to-back Pro Bowl trips in 2009 and 2010, Meriweather left New England for Chicago. Since then, he has been fined multiple times for illegal hits and seen his skills regress dramatically. He is now a major liability in a Redskins secondary that ranked in the bottom third in pass defense last season.

Robert Reidell is a Minnesota Vikings Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google+