Small slump or big slide: Predicting bounce-back players for every NFL team

Patience or panic: Will Bortles, Wilson and Palmer recover? (1:02)

Blake Bortles, Russell Wilson and Carson Palmer were all expected to produce big numbers this season, but each has struggled out of the gate. Dan Graziano examines the likelihood that they will improve. (1:02)

Todd Gurley is averaging just 3.0 yards per carry. Blake Bortles has more turnovers than touchdowns. Odell Beckham Jr., Jordan Reed and Brandon Marshall don't yet have a touchdown catch.

Are they going through an early season funk, or is it a sign of decline?

NFL Nation reporters pick a struggling player from each team and predict whether he is in the middle of a small slump or a big slide.

AFC East | AFC North| AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West


Buffalo Bills

Big slide: Quarterback Tyrod Taylor

He ranks 22nd in completion percentage (61.0), 21st in yards per attempt (6.84), 20th in passer rating (83.6) and 16th in Total QBR (62.6) through the first three weeks of the season. Those aren't terrible numbers, but the Bills were looking for a bump in Taylor's performance as a passer and he mostly hasn't delivered. As long as opponents can keep Taylor contained in the pocket, they are comfortable having him try to beat them through the air. There's a blueprint on how to beat Taylor and unless he can break a few big runs, Taylor can't seem to overcome the game-planning against him. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins

Big slide: Cornerback Byron Maxwell

Miami's No. 1 cornerback had two consecutive bad games against the Patriots and Browns. Maxwell's coverage has been inconsistent, and his tackling has been mostly horrendous. That is a bad combination to try to change overnight. -- James Walker

New England Patriots

Big slide: Cornerback Justin Coleman

Coleman, the Patriots' No. 3 corner, struggled in the second half of the team's win over the Dolphins in Week 2 (he bit on an out-and-up route by Kenny Stills on a 24-yard touchdown) and then was replaced in the role by top 2016 draft pick Cyrus Jones the following week. The Patriots didn't draft Jones (second round, 60th overall) to be buried on the depth chart, so it could be difficult for Coleman to regain his spot. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

Small slump: Wide receiver Brandon Marshall

Marshall, still looking for his first touchdown, is mired in his longest scoring drought since 2014. In fact, he has only one red-zone reception on seven targets -- and his frustration is building. He's playing with a mild knee sprain, so that could be part of it. Marshall is 32, but it's too early to call this a slide. For now, we'll say slump. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens

Big slide: Wide receiver Kamar Aiken

In three games, he has three catches for 19 yards. This comes after he was the Ravens' leading receiver in 2015. Aiken finished last season with 75 catches and five touchdowns. But he has fallen to fifth on the depth chart behind a free-agent addition (Mike Wallace), two players returning from injury (Steve Smith Sr. and Breshad Perriman) and a rookie (Chris Moore). Unless there is a run of injuries at receiver like last season, Aiken isn't going to get to half of his catch total from 2015. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

Small slump: Defensive tackle Geno Atkins

After starting the season with a sack and three tackles for loss against the Jets, Atkins has been relatively quiet. Although he hasn't played badly by any means, he hasn't been the disruptive force he usually is, and that might be a contributing factor for a slow start to the team's pass rush, which has generated only four sacks. That won't last forever. At his best, Atkins is one of the top players at his position, and he will make a big difference for the Bengals in games down the road. -- Katherine Terrell

Cleveland Browns

Big slide: Cornerback Tramon Williams

Williams' coverage skills do not seem to be what they once were. In Miami, Williams was beat in coverage on a Jarvis Landry touchdown and missed a tackle on a Damien Williams touchdown catch. According to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks are 12-for-14 passing for 147 yards with three TDs throwing toward Williams -- a rating of 150.0. When he's in the slot, quarterbacks have a rating of 153.8. From 2007 to '13, Williams never allowed a passer rating higher than 90, per PFF. At 33, Williams might have reached the point where age is catching up to him. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers

Big slide: Wide receiver Markus Wheaton

Wheaton missed significant time in the preseason, and his 2016 debut couldn't have gone worse, dropping a touchdown pass and failing to make at least two other contested plays. Perhaps Wheaton will respond -- he's eager to -- but with running back Le'Veon Bell returning and young receivers Eli Rogers and Sammie Coates becoming key pieces to the offense, Wheaton's role is uncertain. The Steelers have made clear they will roll with the hot hand at the receiver spot opposite Antonio Brown, which doesn't favor Wheaton at the moment. -- Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans

Big slide: Wide receiver Jaelen Strong

After Strong's disappointing rookie season, he came into training camp as one of the most improved players, according to coach Bill O'Brien. Through three games, however, Strong doesn't have a defined role in the offense, and has only one catch for 15 yards. He has been targeted by quarterback Brock Osweiler only five times. O'Brien said because the Texans are using receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller often, as well as running back Lamar Miller in the passing game, it has been tough to get Strong targets. "Jaelen has to do some things better to continue to have the ball thrown to him," O'Brien said after Thursday night's shutout loss to the Patriots. If Fuller continues his strong season, it might be hard for Strong to get targets, so this slide could continue. -- Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts

Big slide: Outside linebacker Robert Mathis

One of the reasons why the Colts didn't pursue a pass-rusher during the offseason was because they felt as if they would be fine in that area based on how Mathis ended the 2015 season: three sacks in the final three games. So much for that optimism because the 35-year-old Mathis has yet to register a sack and has only four tackles through the first three games. And that's why it's not surprising the Colts have only four sacks on the season. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

Big slide: Quarterback Blake Bortles

Bortles has had a rough start. He has turned the ball over seven times (six interceptions), has held onto the ball too long, is hesitant with reads, is forcing throws, his mechanics are off, and generally looks uncomfortable. He has not been able to get into a rhythm, either. That's partly because the Jaguars can't run the ball (55.0 yards per game) so the offense rests completely on his shoulders. It's also because teams are playing a lot of Cover 2, which prevents the Jaguars from going downfield to wide receiver Allen Robinson. Bortles isn't a West Coast QB. He's better throwing downfield and getting chunk plays, and the Jaguars aren't doing that. These issues won't go away overnight so while he might eventually come out of it, it could take all season. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

Small slump: Quarterback Marcus Mariota

Mariota threw nearly two touchdown passes for every interception as a rookie, but he's at 1:1 so far this season. The Titans are forcing the issue running the ball, which puts him under center and running a lot of play action. What he does best as a passer, through, is run a no-huddle offense out of the shotgun. I don't think the Titans are putting him in enough favorable situations, and he has made some poor choices throwing the ball. He also has not resolved his first-year ball security issues, as he has lost two fumbles. But at this early stage and coming off only his 15th NFL game, it registers as a slump, not a big slide. -- Paul Kuharsky


Denver Broncos

Small slump: Kicker Brandon McManus

McManus has a new holder and long snapper, so perhaps it shouldn't be a shocker that through training camp, the preseason and in the season's early going, there have been some bobbles. McManus missed three field goals attempts in the preseason and has missed one already in the Broncos' first three games of the regular season. He also had an extra point attempt blocked Sunday in Cincinnati. The 6-foot-8 Margus Hunt got plenty of penetration on the play, but the kick still didn't seem to have McManus' usual lift on it. McManus was a stone-cold lock last season, and the Broncos need him at his best again. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

Big slide: Wide receiver Albert Wilson

Wilson looks like a bad fit in the Chiefs' offense. He lost his starting job to Chris Conley, isn't getting open and isn't getting the ball as their third receiver. He has only five catches for 12 yards. The Chiefs have other, better receiving options than Wilson, so it's difficult to see how things will get much better for him. -- Adam Teicher

Oakland Raiders

Small slump: Defensive end/outside linebacker Khalil Mack

Mack, who made history last season by being the first player selected first-team All-Pro at two positions in the same season and racked up 15 sacks, is sackless through three games. Teams have been double-teaming him and chip-blocking him, but he seems to be taking especially wide angles to the quarterback, to no avail. "He'll get his numbers," coach Jack Del Rio insisted. "There's more to playing in football than getting sacks, and there's more that he's involved in. He's directly involved in everything that we're doing and he's a fine football player and he's busting his butt and doing a nice job for us. ... I don't want him to start pressing for numbers. It's not about numbers. It's about us making the plays we need to make to win games." OK, then. Slump, it is. -- Paul Gutierrez

San Diego Chargers

Small slump: Tight end Antonio Gates

Gates has only six receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown this season. He missed last week's game against the Colts because of a lingering hamstring issue. Over the last five years, however, Gates has averaged 63 catches for 728 yards and seven touchdowns per season. If he can stay healthy, Gates should reach those numbers again in 2016. -- Eric D. Williams


Dallas Cowboys

Small slump: Wide receiver Terrance Williams

Even when things go well for Williams, bad things happen. A 47-yard reception was turned into a fumble after he had the ball swiped away from behind last week against Chicago. In the season opener, he failed to get out of bounds in the final seconds. Williams is in a contract year and could be pressing, but the Cowboys could need him to make big plays if Dez Bryant's knee injury limits Bryant's effectiveness. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants

Small slump: Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

It has been three games and Beckham hasn't reached the end zone yet. For most players, that is no big deal. For Beckham, it's eye-opening. He scored 25 touchdowns in his first 27 career games over his first two professional seasons. It's only a matter of time before he gets another TD, however. He's still averaging 10 targets per game and is on pace for almost 1,500 yards receiving. He also has come close on multiple occasions. The touchdowns will come. -- Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

Small slump: Wide receiver Josh Huff

Huff has five catches for 19 yards on nine targets through three games. Coach Doug Pederson is trying to get the ball into Huff's hands near the line of scrimmage in the hopes that he can generate some explosive plays. Huff is bound to break a few over the course of the season, but expect the output to be up and down. -- Tim McManus

Washington Redskins

Small slump: Tight end Jordan Reed

Reed hasn't caught a touchdown pass yet after grabbing 11 last season, including 10 in the red zone. He still has caught 16 passes, so it's a matter of time before he scores again, and Sunday's opponent, Cleveland, ranks 28th in yards allowed per game to tight ends. Teams have focused hard on Reed in the red zone, but he will break through soon. -- John Keim


Chicago Bears

Big slide: Running back Jeremy Langford

The beginning of Langford's sophomore season is troubling. Langford, who burst onto the scene with 816 all-purpose yards as a rookie last year, has averaged only 3.7 yards per carry in 31 rushing attempts and has just five receptions for 27 yards. In another unfortunate development, Langford is now expected to miss four-to-six weeks because of a right ankle sprain. It's not exactly what Bears' management envisioned when Matt Forte left via free agency. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions

Small slump: Wide receiver Golden Tate

It has been a slow start to the 2016 season for Tate. He has caught 13 passes for 94 yards and has his fewest yards per catch of his career (7.2 yards) and the lowest yards-after-catch average since 2011 (4.9 yards). Those numbers should improve as the season goes on and Marvin Jones picks up more attention as a No. 1 receiver. That should open up lanes for Tate to break tackles easier and turn his short receptions into longer gains. It could come as soon as Sunday against Chicago. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers

Big slide: Running back James Starks

Starks set a career-high with 601 yards rushing last season while splitting the job with Eddie Lacy. This year, he has 9 yards on 12 carries -- plus three catches for 31 yards -- through three games. How can a player go through such a drastic change in one offseason? Well, Starks is 30 years old, practically ancient for an NFL running back these days, and players -- regardless of position -- can lose it overnight. It's why some coaches and general managers subscribe to the theory that it's better to get rid of a player too early than too late. But the Packers signed Starks to a two-year, $6 million contract this offseason. Maybe he will come around if he gets more opportunities, but at this point it looks as if he's on the decline. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

Big slide: Wide receiver Charles Johnson

He appeared to be on the verge of a strong comeback season following his recovery from the broken rib that plagued him last year. Johnson clicked with Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason but has only three catches from Shaun Hill and Sam Bradford. He hasn't clicked with either quarterback, and with Bridgewater out for the season, Johnson could be looking at a slide when he doesn't have the time to build a rapport with them. -- Ben Goessling


Atlanta Falcons

Small slump: Wide receiver Julio Jones

Jones had only one catch for 16 yards on four targets in Monday night's win over the Saints, leaving fans to wonder if Jones was still bothered by a calf injury and, in turn, just used as a decoy. Well, Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Jones was fine and should have a heavier load in practice than he did leading into the Saints game. Whether he's 100 percent or not, don't expect one-catch games to become a trend for Jones. He's too dominant even when he draws added coverage, and he still leads the Falcons with 188 receiving yards despite the off night. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers

Small slump: Wide receiver Devin Funchess

He has only three catches for 28 yards and a touchdown in his first three games. He had a huge drop in Sunday's loss to Minnesota. Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said he wasn't concerned about Funchess. But Funchess started slow last season, then came on strong toward the end. He had seven catches for 120 yards and a touchdown in the regular-season finale. Perhaps he's just adjusting to having Kelvin Benjamin back.-- David Newton

New Orleans Saints

Big slide: Safety Jairus Byrd

I'm picking on Byrd for a few reasons here as a representative for the entire defense's struggles. For one thing, he is one of the few starters who has actually been healthy enough to play every game this season. For another, he is supposed to be one of the Saints' biggest playmakers, but he still has zero takeaways and zero passes defensed. Byrd and the secondary have done a good job of preventing superstar receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Julio Jones from hurting them. But the rest of the Falcons' offense roamed free in the open field in Monday night's loss to the Falcons. Things should get a little better when the secondary gets healthier -- but it's hard to predict that Byrd will ever return to the Pro Bowl form of his past. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Big slide: Wide receiver Vincent Jackson

Jackson has mustered only nine catches for 99 receiving yards this season -- he has had more than that in single games in years past -- and he's fifth on the team in receptions. Aside from stats, though, he just doesn't look the part. He has become an afterthought in the Bucs' offense. He's not making those leaping catches we're used to seeing, even on off-target throws, which he used to be able to do because of his elite athleticism. He said he "still feels like he's playing at a very high level," but it's not looking that way. -- Jenna Laine


Arizona Cardinals

Small slump: Wide receiver John Brown

He hasn't been the John Brown of old so far this season. He has only eight catches for 92 yards and no touchdowns. Compare that to last season, when Brown had 12 catches for 153 yards and a touchdown through the first three games, and it's clear the concussion he suffered in training camp that kept him out about a month has affected him. -- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

Big slide: Running back Todd Gurley

This has nothing to do with Gurley the runner and everything to do with the game plan against him. Gurley has failed to reach 100 yards in 10 of his last 11 games because opposing defenses aren't worried about the Rams beating them through the air. There will be times, like Sunday, when the Rams take advantage of that in the passing game. And there will be times, probably very soon, when Gurley manages big games despite a loaded box. But defenses probably won't shift their focus. Gurley will always deal with a lot of attention so long as the dynamics of his offense remain unchanged. It is what it is. -- Alden Gonzalez

San Francisco 49ers

Big slide: Quarterback Blaine Gabbert

Gabbert offered some hope that he could turn into a serviceable NFL starter at the end of last season when he posted a solid 87.1 passer rating over the final seven weeks. But that hope has mostly been erased the first three weeks of this season as he currently sits 30th in the NFL in passer rating (68.6), 27th in passing yards (532) and 32nd in yards per attempt (5.54). In fairness, Gabbert has faced top-notch defenses early this season, but those numbers fall in line with most of his NFL seasons and the schedule doesn't get much easier. -- Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks

Big slide: Running back Thomas Rawls

A couple of weeks ago, it looked as if Rawls was in position to take over as the Seahawks' starting running back, but now it's unclear when he'll return to the field. Rawls has "a little crack" in his fibula, coach Pete Carroll said earlier this week, and he'll be out for a minimum of a few weeks. Rawls was already coming off offseason ankle surgery, and he totaled only 25 yards on 19 carries through the first two games. Asked if the new issue could land Rawls on injured reserve, Carroll said, "Not at this point." The Seahawks are holding out hope that Rawls can get healthy and contribute later in the season, but that's far from a certainty the way things stand right now. -- Sheil Kapadia