Ten NFL Players Who Aren’t Who We Thought They Were

“They are who we thought they were….and we let em’ off the hook!” Remember that line from former Arizona Cardinals head coach, Dennis Green’s, post-game tirade?

While funny at the time, I am sure he meant it with a lot more seriousness than YouTube or ESPN gave it credit for.

Dennis is now in the UFL, thanks in part to that tirade, but it got me to thinking, are there players in the NFL today who aren’t who we thought they were? A player that keeps inspiring you to say things like “he’s on the brink”, “this will be his year”, “he’s finally going to get back to form”, or, my personal favorite, “this will be his breakout year”?

Do you know a player or two who does that for you just about every season, yet at the end of the year you find yourself disappointed all over again? Well, this list is about a few of the guys on my list.
I already know that one of these names might strike a nerve in a few who will read it, but I am always happy to take my medicine where that is concerned. So, without much else to say…

Bob Sanders, S—Indianapolis Colts

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Bob Sanders is one of the most talented safeties in the league. He would likely be playing at a Pro Bowl level every season…..if he played.

He signed a five-year, $37 million dollar contract in December 2007 which made him the NFL’s highest paid safety at the time. Since then, his most significant impact on the league has been in his absence from his team. He’s suffered through a myriad of injuries that have kept him off the field and the Colts have had to find other ways to replace their big time playmaker.

He’s played in eight games in two years and it makes me wonder, when is enough going to be enough?
The truth is, for all the talent Sanders possesses in his small frame, it’s useless if he cannot be on the field. Which begs the question, when will enough be enough? It may be time to move on from Sanders because the only thing he’s proven himself to be prone to anymore is injury and the Colts could do a lot better for that kind of money.

Michael Jenkins, WR—Atlanta Falcons

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I never profess to be one who knows how to evaluate and determine the overall value of a player to his team. There’s a reason why NFL teams have scouting departments at their disposal. Even still, I’ve seen enough of Michael Jenkins to know that he’s no teams No. 2.

He’s prone to drops in key situations and if Roddy White goes down and Jenkins becomes the first option—pray.

If he were relegated to being the third or fourth receiver in a specific package, he might have some value but as a starter, he has little. Last season, in nine starts, he gained 635 yards.

Not bad, right?

After all, the Falcons offense is built around the legs of Michael Turner and complimented by the arm of Matt Ryan—for now—so Jenkins doesn’t necessarily have to be Anquan Boldin or Wes Welker—635 yards is decent.

That is until you consider San Francisco receiver, Michael Crabtree—appearing in less games, and minus any real time to sync with the offense—had 625 yards and double the touchdowns of Jenkins in 2010.

Jenkins is not now, nor will he ever be, capable of being a solid No. 2 option. So, why keep looking for him to?

Shawne Merriman, LB—San Diego Chargers

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It seems wrong to put a guy who once amassed 17 sacks in a season on a list like this, but, lets face it: this Merriman ain’t that Merriman. Since having a huge 2006 season, his numbers have declined and he hasn’t been the dominant force that he was.

An injury kept him off the field in 2008, and 2009 didn’t impress as much on the field as it did off—Merriman’s bigger than life persona on the field has landed him in some unnecessary troubles off it.

Add to that, he’s not been the kind of guy you want hanging around your locker room lately; he’s drama and the last thing the San Diego Chargers need is more drama. The word is that he could be traded any day now, but if the Bolts get stuck with the guy because his asking price is too high, what then?

No matter where Merriman ends up in 2010, his big time play is likely behind him.

Roy Williams, WR—Dallas Cowboys

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Every season I hear the same thing: this is going to be the year that Roy steps up and becomes “the man”. Every year someone else outshines him and excuses have to be made for why he didn’t do any better; please, change the station, this song is old and I don’t like the beat anymore.

Here’s the scoop on Roy Williams, in my oh so humble opinion, he’s a borderline No. 2 masquerading as a No.1. If people would accept that, his life would be a lot easier on the field because no one would expect nearly as much.

How much longer can he get by on being the guy from Detroit that caught for 1,310 yards? That was 2006—stop kidding yourself about his ability.

The truth is, he’s the kind of guy who can get you 7-800 yards in a good year—expect more and you will be disappointed.

Roy Williams said it best: “People are off my bandwagon, which I don’t mind. I’d be off my bandwagon, too.”

Nuff said.

Adam Jones, DB—Cincinnati Bengals

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The Bengals love head cases, don’t they? Wow, someone is still giving Adam Jones a chance to prove he’s not a lost cause. Good for him; that smoke-screen he keeps setting still works.

Jones blasted on the scene in 2005 with all the swagger and talent of a Pro Bowl level defensive back. If he lacked anything, it was humility. He was supremely confident in his ability to play with anyone in the league and he backed that up with some very impressive play on the field; establishing himself as a force early on.

His off-field antics have always been his downfall. He got run out of Tennessee because he seemed to frequent parties where ‘trouble’ and ‘idiocy’ were the VIP’s. He went to Dallas to start anew but wore out his welcome because he brought ‘trouble’ and ‘idiocy’ with him to his new address. Now he’s in Cincy—the rehab capital of the football world—and the result is supposed to be different?

Hmmm, call me crazy but, I’ve seen this movie before and it doesn’t usually end well. If Adam Jones can get his act together, he is still young enough to be successful, but, so far his location has little to do with his success.

My mother loves to ask the following question whenever repetitive issues arise: what is the common denominator?

In this case, I fear the common denominator is Mr. Jones and I think it’s time to turn the page.

Matt Leinart, QB—Arizona Cardinals

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Raise your hand if you believe that Matt Leinart is better than Alex Smith? Okay, now, raise your hand if you think that Matt Leinart—right now—is better than a slightly injured, possibly past his prime, already retired, Kurt Warner? If your hand is up, then you already see half the problem with Matt Leinart.

Flashback to the 2006 NFL Draft where the Heisman Trophy winner sat flabbergasted that he lasted all the way to No. 10! Analysts weighed in on how his decision to stay in school for an extra year messed up his draft status—he should have come out in 2005 is what they said.

Did I mention he went No. 10, not 110, No. 10? Talk about blowing things out of proportion.

Well, here we sit, four seasons removed from the 2006 draft and Matt Leinart hasn’t done squat for the Cardinals except load ‘Google Image’ search with lots of pictures of him with pretty models.
Matt Leinart is not going to lead his current team nor any other to the promised land. He might think he can, but the rest of us are having a hard time processing that information.

Personally I feel a little like Jay Z whenever I hear Leinart’s name come up as a potential quality quarterback. I just want to say, ”I don’t believe you, you need more people”.

Deion Branch, WR—Seattle Seahawks

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Deion Branch turned a holdout into a handsome payout by the Seahawks when New England decided to part ways with their Super Bowl MVP wide receiver after the 2005 season. At only 27, Branch appeared to be in his prime and ready to add to the madness of an already crowded receiving corps in Seattle.

He was going to be the difference-maker on the field for 2006—giving Matt Hasselbeck yet another sturdy target to throw downfield to on game day.

It didn’t work out quite the way it was planned and Branch has become increasingly less effective with each passing year due to a cavalcade of injuries that keep him either in surgery or on the mend. At this point, he’s getting paid too much money to just ride pine but, in truth, there is little value in the now 31 year old, ex-Super Bowl MVP, who hasn’t played a full season since 2005.

New coach Pete Carroll is the latest to buy into the mirage that is a healthy, potentially fruitful, Deion Branch on the football field. However, if I were him, I’d have a good backup plan because the thrill is most definitely gone.

Bernard Berrian, WR—Minnesota

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I like Bernard Berrian. I have always liked Bernard Berrian. I can honestly go on the record and say that I thought he would break 1,000 yards easily last season. I believed in his abilities so much that I would have been willing to bet on him without the slightest hesitation—I would have lost that bet—silly me.

The line on Berrian has always been that he was an underrated talent waiting for a big arm to throw him the ball. In 2009, Brett Favre was going to be the perfect gunslinger to match the firepower that Berrian brought to the field. He knew how to throw it deep and he had a preference in doing so often.

What happened instead was Berrian suffered through a nagging injury and eventually got upstaged by not only Sidney Rice (1,300+ yards) but by tight end Visanthe Shiancoe as well (11 TD’s)—leading me to finally conclude, painful as it was, that maybe the quarterback had nothing to do with Berrian’s greatness. Perhaps Berrian just isn’t really all that great.

Kyle Boller, QB—Oakland Raiders

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It’s hard to believe that Kyle Boller is only 28. It feels like he’s been around forever doing absolutely nothing. What’s even more perplexing is how he ever convinced anyone that he was first-round material. The Ravens actually traded back into the first round just to get him at No. 19—wow.

Six seasons and a third team later, Boller still has yet to capitalize on the talent that some actually felt he had as a quarterback. At this point I wonder why any team signs him at all? Is he really even useful enough to be a warm body on the depth chart?

Seriously, if he’s on your team, can you say you’d ever want to see him starting? To this point in his career, he’s been good for two things—interceptions and inconsistency—neither of which has any place on a football field on a recurring basis.

Boller is precisely what everyone thought he was four years ago—a bust. The fact that he is still employable tells me he not only has one heck of an agent but one doozy of a sales pitch come interview time.

Laurence Maroney, RB—New England Patriots

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Laurence Maroney has been waiting for his “breakout” season since….since…well, since Jim Brown ran things in Cleveland….Okay, maybe not that long but he’s been talked about in those “on the brink” type terms for quite some time now and all I’ve ever seen him do is break down.

Is he talented? Yes. Does he have the potential to be better than his performances have shown him to be thus far? Maybe. The fact still remains that he hasn’t done anything yet that truly says that he can be the featured back in New England and, honestly, isn’t that what they drafted him to be?

It may finally be time to turn the page on the Maroney story because the ending already seems written—despite hopes for something better.

This article and more college and pro football commentary can also be found at The Lady Sportswriter—check it out!


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I am not a 'journalist' by trade, nor do I present myself as such. I am a wife, mother, and passionate Georgia Bulldog fan. That's it. I write. You read.