While the NFL season is a fair distance away, it is never too early to predict the next wave of stars and superstars across the NFL. However, every team has one piece that fails to live up to the hype entering the new season. The NFC East teams are no different. “Bust” is a relative term. Not all of these players will be bad in 2022, but they could underachieve based on the expectations they have for the season. Rookies are ineligible and will not be included.
Check out the NFC East’s potential breakout stars here.
Dallas Cowboys – Trevon Diggs
Diggs had an all-time breakout season in 2021, notching 11 interceptions and making the All-Pro team. However, interception tallies are notoriously inconsistent. Only seven players in NFL history have recorded multiple 10-interception seasons. Of the seven, only Johnny Robinson and Paul Krause have done so since 1960. Even a modest tally of seven interceptions is absurdly difficult to replicate. Among active players, only J.C. Jackson and Xavien Howard have multiple seasons with at least seven interceptions.
Diggs is one of the most polarizing players in the NFL because of what he does in coverage. He had the mammoth 11-interception season, but it came with a bevy of busted coverages. According to PFF, Diggs allowed a league-worst 1,016 yards when in coverage. He also allowed five touchdowns, a top-20 figure among cornerbacks in 2021. When Diggs is forcing 11 turnovers, the coverage lapses can be excused, but he has not shown that he is sticky enough in coverage to discourage opposing quarterbacks even with the gargantuan interception total.
Philadelphia Eagles – Haason Reddick
Reddick has been a premier sack artist over the last two seasons. However, he does not have the pressure production to back up the sack rate. He has 28 sacks in his last 100 pressures when comparable edge rushers would have between 15 and 20 sacks across 100 pressures. In 2021, Reddick had more games with zero pressures than games with more than five pressures. While he was tied for sixth in sacks, he was tied for 46th in pressures in 2021. To Reddick’s credit, he made strides as a run defender in 2021, but his primary role is to rush the passer.
The issue with Reddick at the moment is his unsustainable sack rate. If he experiences natural regression to a 17 percent sack rate, he would have to double his pressure rate to match his 15 sacks from 2021 (as counted by PFF). Take Maxx Crosby as an example. In 2019, he was hailed as a future star pass rusher because he had 11 sacks on 45 pressures. His 24.4 percent sack rate regressed in 2021, leading to a decrease to 10 sacks despite recording more than twice the number of pressures (101). Reddick should have a strong season, but if he is only judged on his sack total, he could disappoint.
Washington Commanders – Curtis Samuel
Samuel had big expectations as he made the move from the Carolina Panthers to the Commanders. However, Year 1 was a cataclysmic failure as Samuel played five games, recording six catches for 27 yards. In the meantime, the Commanders spent a first-round pick on Jahan Dotson, and Dyami Brown was a 2021 third-round pick. Samuel could be the second option in the offense behind Terry McLaurin, but he could also quickly find himself fourth or fifth behind the aforementioned wide receivers and Logan Thomas.
In Samuel’s three full seasons with the Panthers, he averaged 657 yards and five touchdowns. Expecting him to make a big jump in his sixth season seems foolish at this rate. Samuel’s career-best in receiving production is just 851 yards and six touchdowns. In 2021, 50 players cleared at least one of those marks including 24 that cleared both. Samuel likely missed his chance of breaking out, but some fans will insist 2022 will be the breakout season. Unless something dramatic changes, those fans will be incorrect.
New York Giants – Kenny Golladay
Golladay is now two years away from his spectacular 2019 campaign. In 2019, he led the NFL with 11 receiving touchdowns, and he made the Pro Bowl. However, over the last two seasons, the receiver has posted 57 catches for 859 yards and just two touchdowns. Over those two seasons, 206 different players have three receiving touchdowns. A total of 13 players have a single game with three receiving touchdowns including Gabriel Davis scoring four in a playoff game and a pair of running backs and a pair of tight ends. To add more insult, 99 different players have more receiving yards over the last two years.
Similar to Samuel, Golladay likely has missed his chance to continue his star-bound career. The Giants have spent premier draft capital on receivers in each of the last two drafts. In an offense with a healthy Saquon Barkley, Golladay could end up as the fourth option behind Barkley, Sterling Shepard, and 2021 first-round pick Kadarius Toney. In 2021, Kenny G was sixth on the team in catches per game played. He was first in targets, but Toney and Shepard combined to miss 17 games while Golladay played 14 of 17 games.
Follow Ryan Potts on Twitter @MrSplashMan19
Main Image Credit:
Embed from Getty Images