Brian Solomon (McNabbOrKolb.com), Derek Sarley (IgglesBlog.com), and I did a Q & A on Reddit yesterday, and a regular here at BtB “Euler is a pimp” had a question I liked:
When predicting future success of a team we get stuck into the fallacy of only looking at the improvements a team has made and reasons that we expect specific players to play better in the new season. Undoubtedly though, you will see players that exhibit regression. Who are your prime candidates for this?
I loved the question, and offered up this analogy: It’s like if you hook up with a girl, you automatically assume that you’ll be able to hook up with her again whenever you want. In your head, there’s no way you think you’ll get turned down the next time you go in for the kill. And then you’re disappointed when you realize that the only reason she hooked up with you in the first place was because she was 8 drinks deep and sad because the guy she really liked left with someone else. (Not based on any real life events).
Derek noted that there were two different ways of looking at it:
The first is merely statistical. It’s going to be really hard for Jason Babin to notch 18 sacks this year. Not because we’d expect him to be worse or anything, but because its really hard to get 18 sacks. A lot of things have to go right for you to get there. He could play equally well, get a few worse bounces, and we’d all be “disappointed” in his 12 sack season.
The second would be actual regression, which we saw last year, of course, with Mike Vick. He actually played worse.
Anyway, I figured I’d name two candidates for each team, one player who likely won’t match their stats from last year, and one that’s a candidate to actually play worse. Keep in mind, if a player appears on this list, they had to already have been good in the first place:
Statistical decline: Jason Babin – Pretty much what Derek said above.
Actual decline: Evan Mathis – Back in February, Brian Solomon cautioned that the Eagles shouldn’t get into a bidding war for the services of Evan Mathis:
Mathis manned that side with Jason Peters, a truly dominant force, and yet runs to the left tackle netted the third-worst mark in the league, according to Football Outsiders. When Todd Herremans lined up in that spot, directional rushing to the left was alwasy a major strength. In 2011 it became a mixed bag.
Furthermore, Mathis just never passed the eye test that a supposedly top-five-type guard might. He gave up few negative plays, but I also never found myself saying “wow” after one of his highlights. With Todd Herremans and Shawn Andrews in recent years, the Eagles have had guys on the interior that could lay claim to the “dominant” descriptor. As solid as Mathis was, to my eyes he was never that.
I agree with the majority of that, and Brian happened to write it before Jason Peters ruptured his Achilles. With arguably the best offensive lineman in the game out for the season, Mathis’ job will be more difficult.
Statistical decline: Victor Cruz – 82-1536-9. Methinks Victor might get a little more attention in 2012.
Actual decline: Eli Manning – I really struggled to come up with someone here for the Giants. In lieu of saying “nobody,” let’s go with Eli. The offensive line last year was horrific at times, and Eli still played out of his mind. I don’t see how that line will be any better in 2012, so I expect Manning to take his fair share of shots again this season. And of course, add in that the Giants don’t have anything resembling a TE that’s a threat in the passing game, and they have unproven (although intriguing) players fighting for the #3WR job. I’m interested to see if Eli can repeat his 2011 with poor protection. I actually think he can come close, but again, this is more about how good Eli was last year.
Statistical decline: Oof, did any Redskins really even have any eye-popping stats last year? I guess we’ll go with Roy Helu here. According to Dan Graziano of the ESPN NFC East blog, Mike Shanahan has Tim Hightower slated as the starter at RB:
If healthy, Hightower is the starting running back in Washington. Shanahan just thinks he helps the most overall, as a runner, a pass-blocker and a receiver. But Hightower is coming off that ACL tear, and that could mean early-season opportunity for Helu or Royster.
I don’t understand that even a little bit, by the way, but that’s for another day. Anyway, more Hightower means less Helu, and there’s also Evan Royster sitting there, who is also going to get some carries.
Actual decline: London Fletcher – Well… He’s… you know… 37. I think the world of London Fletcher, but I wonder if the right course of action was to bring him back for 2 more years instead of reaching out to any number of the free agent linebackers that were available this offseason. I’m leaning toward thinking the Redskins did the right thing. Fletcher is a true leader, not a fake rah rah guy. But still… 37.
Statistical decline: DeMarco Murray – DeMarco’s YPC last season was 5.5. He came out on fire in his first 4 starts, rushing for 601 yards on 75 carries. Then he came back down to Earth in the subsequent 4 starts. He won’t sniff 5.5 YPC over a full season.
Actual decline: Jay Ratliff – Ratliff is still a great player, but his decline is probably already underway. He is easily the smallest 3-4 NT in the league, but is an incredibly strong player for his size, and has elite quickness for the position. Still, as a NT, constantly facing double teams in the run game week in and week out, it’s probably pretty fair to say that Ratliff’s body has accumulated significant wear and tear. It’s only a matter of time before we begin to see a sharper decline. I don’t know if that will be this year or not, but it’s coming, and probably soon.