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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

10 NFL players who disappointed in 2018

Kirk Cousins

The 2018 NFL regular season was filled with highs and lows from start to finish. New players established themselves as the future, older players have had their careers called into question, and the amount of change league-wide was unparalleled. It was exciting, frustrating and euphoric all in one. But for some players, it was also wildly disappointing. Who are the players who disappointed? Here’s a look at 10 players who under-performed in 2018.

10. Chris Boswell, K, Pittsburgh Steelers

A year ago, Chris Boswell was considered one of the best kickers in the league and was voted to his first ever Pro Bowl. In fact, he was so dominating in 2017 that he was named an honorary member of the Killer B’s alongside Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, and even received a four-year, $16.8 million extension from the Steelers. However, like each of the other Killer B’s, 2018 wasn’t nearly as kind to him. Boswell alone cost Pittsburgh at least two games with missed kicks, and it could be argued that he was the reason they ultimately missed the playoffs. Boswell finished the 2018 campaign having connected on just 65% of his field goal attempts (13-of-20), while missing five — yes, five — point after (PAT) attempts. It had gotten so bad late in the season that Pittsburgh considered signing a new kicker, cutting Bowsell loose and just eating the remainder of his contract.

9. Vic Beasley, DE, Atlanta Falcons

When he was taken at No. 8 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, expectations were that Vic Beasley would take the league by storm and establish himself as one of the elite pass rushers in the game. It was considered such a sure thing that teams like the New York Giants were actively working to move up and acquire him in said draft. In the end, he landed with the Falcons and in 2016, he recorded 15.5 sacks, was named an All-Pro and seemed to be on his way to living up to the immense expectations. However, it was all downhill from there as Beasley fell off the map in 2017 and continued that trend in 2018. In 16 games (nine starts), Beasley recorded just 20 tackles (16 solo) and five sacks, while earning a Pro Football Focus grade of 42.2, which put him behind more than 100 other edge rushers.

8. Hayden Hurst, TE, Baltimore Ravens

As a first-round pick (No. 25 overall), Hayden Hurst was expected to come in, start and produce for the Ravens right away. And considering what they had passed over when trading down in the 2018 NFL Draft, the pressure was immediately on the young tight end to make some magic happen. That is not how things went, however. Hurst began his career on the bench, missing the first four games of the regular season due to a foot injury. When he finally did reach the field, it was clear the tight end was light years behind other players. It took him several more weeks to get up to speed, but he was never able to establish himself as any sort of reliable target or dominating force. Ultimately, Hurst fell well short of his rookie expectations, finishing the season with just 13 receptions for 163 yards and one touchdown.

7. Case Keenum, QB, Denver Broncos

After a remarkable 2017 campaign in which he led the Minnesota Vikings to an 11-3 record in 14 games, Case Keenum earned a two-year, $36 million to take over as the Broncos’ starting quarterback. However, things in Denver did not go as planned as Keenum led them to a record of just 6-10, while completing 62.3% of his passes for 3,890 yards, 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Head coach Vance Joseph, who has since been fired, challenged Keenum during the season, saying the quarterback simply had to make more plays. Meanwhile, shot-caller John Elways said Keenum will remain the quarterback, but cautioned that decision may be on borrowed time. All in all, it was a far cry from what the Broncos expected after Keenum looked like a superstar just a year ago.

6. Golden Tate, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

With the Eagles now in the playoffs and Golden Tate making plays, many are quick to look back and label the receiver one of the best mid-season pickups. However, it may be easy to forget that Tate really didn’t do much for the Eagles after they sent a 2019 third-round pick to the Detroit Lions in exchange for him. Rather, in eight games, Tate recorded just 30 receptions for 278 yards and one touchdown as he struggled to fit in Philly’s offense. His yards per reception were down under double-digits for the first time in his career and his impact on special teams was non-existent. Of course, Tate could erase half a poor season with continued success in the playoffs, but either way, he failed to live up to expectations during the regular season and could be on his way out of town once the new league year arrives in March.

5. Marcus Peters, CB, Los Angeles Rams

Marcus Peters is known as an overly-aggressive ballhawk, which has worked in his favor in recent years. It led him to back-to-back Pro Bowl nods in 2015 and 2016, landed him on the All-Pro Team in 2016 and even won him the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honor in 2015, among other awards and accolades. However, the Kansas City Chiefs had enough of him and shipped him off to Las Angeles last March. In a new system needing his style of play, expectations were high for Peters, who was intended to help establish a dominant defensive culture for the Rams. Instead, Peters had his worst season to date, recording just 43 tackles, eight passes defensed and three interceptions. All of those numbers were career-lows, and they weren’t helped by his 60.1 Pro Football Focus grade, which was 95th among cornerbacks league-wide.

4. Ronald Jones II, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

While Saquon Barkley was clearly the best available running back in the 2018 NFL Draft, many experts believed similar quality talent could be found later in the first round and even into the second and third rounds. Suffice it to say, when the Buccaneers selected Ronald Jones II with pick No. 38 overall, they anticipated a back who would come in and compete for a starting job and, possibly, even rush for upwards of 1,000 yards. They got anything but that. Jones struggled with his field awareness out of the gate, failing to recognize running lanes, lacking patience behind his blockers, and producing little out of the backfield. He fell way behind Peyton Barber on the depth chart and failed to log a single touch in the team’s final four games, finishing his rookie season with a lowly 23 carries for 44 yards (1.9 ypc) and one touchdown.

3. Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars

After leading the Jaguars to an AFC Championship Game a season ago, Tom Coughlin & Co., perhaps foolishly, put all of their eggs into the Blake Bortles basket this past season. Their belief was that he had finally turned a corner and was going to become a quarterback capable of winning big games. Instead, Bortles regressed and set the stage for what would be a wildly disappointing season across the board in Jacksonville. In 13 games, Bortles completed 60.3% of his passes for 2,718 yards, 13 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and eight fumbles. He was ultimately benched in favor of Cody Kessler despite a three-year, $54 million extension in the offseason. The end of Bortles in Jacksonville is almost a guarantee heading into the new league year.

2. Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens

Some would argue that Joe Flacco is a disappointment more often than not, but that’s a debate for another day. When it comes to the 2018 season however, there’s no denying he was a letdown. In nine games, Flacco completed 61.2% of his passes for 2,465 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. And while those numbers are far from awful, the Ravens were 4-5 over that span and Flacco wasn’t exactly raising their odds of victory. After suffering an injury, Flacco was benched in favor of rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, and the team never looked back. Flacco took the demotion in stride, but the avalanche had already begun. The Ravens made it clear Flacco would open the 2019 league year on the trading block and that his career in Baltimore was over. It was a rapid fall from grace for the one-time Super Bowl MVP and a disappointing end to his time as a Raven.

1. Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings

Kirk Cousins connected on a career-high 70.1% of his passes in 2018, tossed a career-high 30 touchdowns and amassed 4,298 yards passing, which was the second-highest total of his NFL career. Those are hardly numbers of a disappointment, right? Wrong.

While Cousins put up some solid numbers for the Vikings this past season, an ongoing issue persisted: an inability to rise to the occasion and win a big game. Some players have the ability to step up in big moments, but at this point in his career, Cousins has been unable to do so despite being provided with ideal opportunities. Such was the case in Week 17 when the Vikings needed a win against the Chicago Bears. Instead of earning his three-year, $84 million contract, Cousins bombed out and had his worst game of the season in a soul-crushing loss that saw him in a visible spat with a teammate. All the big numbers in the world don’t mean a thing when you can’t win the game you have to.



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