10 NFL Players Headed For A Sophomore Slump

10 NFL Players Headed For A Sophomore Slump

Eddie Lacy: Green Bay Packers RB
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing is more frustrating to NFL fans and franchises than when star rookie players’ talent inexplicably regresses during the second year. The idea of the “sophomore slump” is very mysterious. It’s almost as if the player loses his mojo because the entire sports community expects him to. Perhaps the lack of rookie spotlight stifles a player’s hunger to shine. Nobody really knows, but this list analyzes 10 star players who may face this fate.

10. Green Bay Packers RB Eddie Lacy

Eddie Lacy: Green Bay Packers RB
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

10. Green Bay Packers RB Eddie Lacy

Eddie Lacy: Green Bay Packers RB
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Lacy was explosive during his first season, winning Offensive ROY honors. Many sources are predicting that Lacy will have another record-breaking season, but when you set the bar so high, a slump is hard to avoid. Defensive opponents will now have film to study so they can predict his movements and scheme against him. There’s a great chance Lacy will still be a solid player, but he may not match or exceed his 2013 season numbers.

9. San Diego OT D.J. Fluker

D.J. Fluker: San Diego Chargers OT
Jonathan Daniel-Getty Images Sport

9. San Diego OT D.J. Fluker

D.J. Fluker: San Diego Chargers OT
Jonathan Daniel-Getty Images Sport

Fluker may not have the physical ability to challenge the edge pass rush. The divisional rival Oakland Raiders drafted OLB Khalil Mack fifth overall, a player that Mike Mayock promises is “going to be an All-Pro.” Mack’s tighter size (89 pounds lighter and two inches shorter) will allow him to get around Fluker easily. And without the help of a good tight end, Fluker will have to deal with the pressure alone.

8. St. Louis Rams RB Zac Stacy

Zac Stacy: St. Louis Rams RB
Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

8. St. Louis Rams RB Zac Stacy

Zac Stacy: St. Louis Rams RB
Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

Stacy is a solid third-down RB, but he will probably lose time on the field because the St. Louis Rams selected Auburn RB Tre Mason in the third round of the 2014 draft. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer even hinted that Mason would see fewer touches because of the Rams’ stiff RB competition this season.

7. New Orleans Saints SS Kenny Vaccaro

Kenny Vaccaro: New Orlean Saints SS
Wesley Hitt-Getty Images Sport

7. New Orleans Saints SS Kenny Vaccaro

Kenny Vaccaro: New Orlean Saints SS
Wesley Hitt-Getty Images Sport

Despite having an explosive first season with the New Orleans Saints with 79 tackles, one interception and one forced fumble, there’s a good chance Vaccaro will slump. He suffered an ankle fracture that ended his season in Week 16, plus two concussions. Vaccaro says that there’s no stopping his “reckless” behavior, which I admire, But he should take it easy during training camp and preseason if he wants to stay healthy.

6. New York Jets QB Geno Smith

Geno Smith: New York Jets QB
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

6. New York Jets QB Geno Smith

Geno Smith: New York Jets QB
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

As is expected of nearly all New York Jets QBs in their first few years, there is a likelihood that Smith will suffer a slump this season. On one hand, he only has room to improve over last season’s performance. But on the other hand, if he falters early on in 2014, Michael Vick will definitely be sent in to replace him.

5. Buffalo Bills QB E.J. Manuel

E.J. Manuel: Buffalo Bills QB
Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

5. Buffalo Bills QB E.J. Manuel

E.J. Manuel: Buffalo Bills QB
Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Manuel is coming out of a downer season, riddled with three knee injuries that caused him to miss six games. Manuel now has WR Sammy Watkins, but that may not be enough. The AFC East defense is tough: the Miami Dolphins have an eighth-ranked defense, the New York Jets scored new defensive weapons, and the New England Patriots got Revis Island! These division changes will affect the Bills’ offense and inevitably be reflected in Manuel's stats.

4. Oakland Raiders CB D.J. Hayden

D.J. Hayden: Oakland Raiders CB
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

4. Oakland Raiders CB D.J. Hayden

D.J. Hayden: Oakland Raiders CB
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being a first-round pick, Hayden has had a slow start because of many injuries. To make matters worse, the Raiders are in a “pass-happy” West Coast conference and Hayden is up against some great quarterbacks: Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos, Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs, and Phillip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers. Any defensive end who has to go up against those guys two times each per season is going to have a slump!

3. Arizona Cardinals FS Tyrann Mathieu

Tyrann Mathieu: Arizona Cardinals FS
Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

3. Arizona Cardinals FS Tyrann Mathieu

Tyrann Mathieu: Arizona Cardinals FS
Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

Mathieu will slump simply because he may not play during the first half of the 2014 season, due to ACL and LCL injuries he suffered in Week 14. Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is unsure of Mathieu’s return date, but it keeps getting pushed back. Arians last predicted that Mathieu would be back no earlier than Oct. 1, after the Cardinals’ bye week.

2. Minnesota Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson

Cordarrelle Patterson: Minnesota Vikings WR
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

2. Minnesota Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson

Cordarrelle Patterson: Minnesota Vikings WR
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Patterson got quite a few balls in his rookie season with the Minnesota Vikings, but he still has a lot to improve on. Patterson is slow off the line and has weak leverage against his defenders in the secondary. The fact that the Vikings still don’t have a consistent quarterback won’t make the improvement process easy for Patterson, and may lead to his decline.

1. San Diego Chargers ILB Manti Te'o

Manti Te'o: San Diego Chargers ILB
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

1. San Diego Chargers ILB Manti Te'o

Manti Te'o: San Diego Chargers ILB
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Te’o had surgery in January on a foot that he injured last preseason. I’m not sure if it’s the injury or his natural ability that’s holding him back, but Te’o doesn’t seem fast or big enough to make it in the NFL. A middle linebacker needs the speed to run sideline-to-sideline and the ability to spot a running back coming out of the backfield. This season’s performance will tell if he has what it takes or not.


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