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Mid-Season Awards: Lowlights

The Browns reloaded in the first round of the 2012 Draft.

The Browns reloaded in the first round of the 2012 Draft.

Earlier this week, I named my best players and coaches of the first half of the season. Today, I name the worst/most underachieving.

Least Valuable Player: Tie: Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars and Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns; Dishonorable mention: Carson Palmer, Matt Schaub, Eli Manning, Josh Freeman

Blaine Gabbert has just 1 touchdown pass against 7 interceptions, and his awful 1.21 ANYA average puts him in the company of Caleb Hanie, Keith Null, Ken Dorsey, rookie Alex Smith, Kurt Kittner, and Spergon Wynn. On the other hand, Gabbert has thrown just 86 passes, so Brandon Weeden — who has been slightly better — has been arguably more not valuable due to accumulating more than twice as many pass attempts. The Jaguars have looked much better with Chad Henne at quarterback, while Cleveland’s offense looks much worse with Weeden than behind either Brian Hoyer or Jason Campbell. Gabbert and Weeden are former first round picks who appear to earn playing time out of obligation or hope rather than merit.

Really Offensive Player of the First Half (non-QB edition): Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans. Dishonorable mention: Mike Wallace ($); Kenny Britt (brain); Jermaine Gresham (run blocking)

Johnson is the second most expensive running back in the NFL, and has produced the following stat line:

Rushing Receiving
Year G Att Yds TD Lng Y/A Y/G Rec Yds Y/R TD Lng YScm RRTD
2013 7 115 366 0 23 3.2 52.3 15 167 11.1 2 66 533 2

Johnson has not run for a touchdown this season. He’s run for one first down on third down all season. His yards per carry average is embarrassing for any runner, much less a player who is supposed to be one of the most explosive in the game. Tennessee invested heavily in the offensive line in the offseason, drafting Chance Warmack with the ninth pick in the draft and throwing big money at Andy Levitre. Jake Locker has progressed this season, but Johnson has held the offense back. Even Jackie Battle and Shonn Greene (40 runs for 146 yards) have higher YPC averages than Johnson.  The former 2,000-yard runner has rushed for fewer than 40 yards in each of his past four games.

Really Offensive Defensive Player of the First Half: DeMeco Ryans, Dishonorable mention: Cortland Finnegan (terrible against the run and the pass), Quinton Coples (former first round pick has disappeared in year three), Julius Peppers (little production, $16M cap value)

Ryans is one of the highest paid inside linebackers in the league, but he’s Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst inside linebacker this year. The worst is his Eagles teammate, Mychal Kendricks, and the duo is one of several reasons the Eagles have struggled defensively this year. PFF has Ryans 5th in the league with 7 missed tackles (Kendricks is first), and he continues to be well-below average in both pass coverage and pass rushing. Ryans is the fifth highest paid Eagle, and with a base salary of $6.8M next year, it’s hard to imagine him returning in 2014.

Worst Offensive Coordinator: Tie: Mike Sullivan (Tampa Bay), Kevin Gilbride (New York Giants). Dishonorable mention: Todd Haley (just because), Brian Schottenheimer (have you watched the Rams?)

Sullivan learned under Gilbride for years in New York, and the Bucs and Giants run similar offensive systems. A lot of deep passes, one-on-one routes where you expect your wide receiver to beat their defensive back, and option routes where the quarterback and wideout have to be on the same page. That leads to a high-variance outcome on offense — think the opposite of what’s happening in Kansas City – and right now, the two teams are 2-15 in large part because of the struggles of their respective offenses. The Giants lead the league in interceptions, while the Bucs have the lowest completion percentage in the league.

Worst Defensive Coordinator: Tie: Alan Williams (Minnesota), Bob Babich (Jacksonville). Dishonorable mentionMike Nolan (Falcons), Jim Haslett (Redskins).

Babich isn’t working with much, but the Jaguars defense is so far below the baseline that you can’t justify those results. Opposing passers have a 106 passer rating against Jacksonville, while the Jaguars also rank 32nd in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns allowed (and 31st in yards per carry allowed). Jacksonville has allowed 210 points through the first three quarters of games this year, the most of any team since the merger. The Vikings defense isn’t as devoid of talent, but has been only slightly better. The Vikings are 31st in PFR’s Expected Points Added metric, and the Vikings rank in the bottom three in both points and yards allowed.  Minnesota ranks dead last in first downs allowed, too, a year after posting some pretty respectable defensive numbers.

Worst Head Coach: Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dishonorable mention: Leslie Frazier (Vikings); Tom Coughlin (Giants)

One could spend hours reciting the career of Schiano in Tampa Bay, but that parade of horribles is too depressing to review on a Sunday. Tampa Bay is 0-7, Schiano has lost control of the team, and the only thing left to do is figure out when he will be fired. A week nine trip to Seattle should be a disaster, but this team is talented enough to put together a 2013 Chiefs run next year under new management. Relieved of his duties, Schiano will now be available to testify as an expert witness on how not to handle your quarterback situation.

Offensive Rookie: Three-way tie: Eric Fisher, Chiefs; Luke Joeckel, Jaguars; Lane Johnson; Eagles. Dishonorable mention: Tavon Austin (St. Louis)

Offensive tackles aren’t sexy picks, but they occasionally work their way into the top five because of how “safe” they are. This year, Fisher and Joeckel were the first two picks in the draft, while Johnson was the third offensive player selected, going fourth overall after Dion Jordan went to Miami. If you didn’t watch football, you might think Fisher is having a great year, as the number one overall pick went to a 2-14 team that has started 8-0. In reality, he’s been a disaster even at right tackle. He’s the third-lowest graded offensive tackle by Pro Football Focus, while Branden Albert has solidified the left tackle spot. Joeckel was playing poorly in Jacksonville at right tackle and then went down with a season-ending injury, proving that nothing can go right for the Jaguars this year. Johnson has allowed 7 sacks and 29 hurries this year according to PFF, and both marks put him in the bottom five among offensive tackles.

Defensive Rookie: Dee Milliner, New York Jets. Dishonorable mention: Barkevious Mingo (Cleveland), Jarvis Jones (Pittsburgh)

Milliner has been arguably the worst cornerback in the league this season. The Jets have seen much more bad (his play) and ugly (the multiple benchings) than good from the former Alabama star. In my preseason preview, I said that we shouldn’t expect much from Milliner right away, as Football Outsiders has pointed out several times that even the best rookie cornerbacks tend to struggle. Still, Milliner has been horrible through eight weeks, even if his future may still be bright (Kareem Jackson was another great Crimson Tide corner who was a disaster as a rookie, and has turned into a solid cornerback in Houston). For a top ten pick, there’s still a minimum amount of production one should expect, and being outplayed by undrafted free agent Darrin Walls falls below that bar.

  • Sunrise089

    Good and funny post, but I think Denver’s defensive coordinator is at least deserving of a dishonorable mention. From the golden Tebow years through the present I’ve not seen much from Denver’s defense to think they’re much better than what Manning dealt with in Indy. They look good when the high variance pass rush generates sacks or hurries, and that seems about it. If this team goes out early in the playoffs, after the inevitable “Peyton is a choker” nonsense the next takeaway will be how much this organization has squandered its season defensively, especially with the bizarre fax-gate start and then Miller’s absence. It’s a shame considering what the offense has done even with that patchwork line.

    • Kibbles

      Denver’s defensive coordinator lost Von Miller and Champ Bailey for 6 weeks each, and has gotten missed games from Wesley Woodyard, Chris Harris, and pretty much all of the top players on the unit. Regardless, they’ve been dominant against the run all season long, while struggling mightily against the pass. In their last two games (i.e. since Miller returned), they’ve faced 77 pass attempts and have given up just 408 gross yards (5.3 ypa). Throw in sacks and you’re looking at 82 dropbacks for just 377 net passing yards (4.6 NY/A).

      So far, Del Rio has gotten below-average production out of a limited lineup, and very strong production out of a nearly-full-strength lineup. Not great, but certainly not “worst DC in the league” territory.

  • Leroy

    Why is Mingo on the list? I’ve seen some huge run game mistakes, decent pass rush.

  • Rob Harrison

    Coples is in his second season, not his third.