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Midseason Underachievers

If you've been paying attention, you've probably heard a lot of talk about the teams that have overachieved this year. One oft cited example is the Denver Broncos, who have exceeded everyone's expectations by starting 6-0 before losing to Baltimore last week. Many individual players have had surprising starts as well, for instance Cedric "formerly known as a bust" Benson, who ranks fourth in the league with 720 rushing yards.

What about the other end of the spectrum? Who are the teams and players that have been a disappointment so far this year? Sure there are the Tennessee Titans, who after last year's playoff run started this season 0-6. But surely they are not the only ones struggling to live up to their own hype. Here, in no particular order, are my top three disappointments of the 2009 NFL season.

Terrell Owens - Owens has been one of the league's biggest superstars throughout most of his career. Before arriving in Buffalo he had played on three different NFL teams, and at every stop along the way he brought big plays, drama, and antics. He was always is the news, but Terrell has become largely invisible this season.

The Bills signed Owens to a one year $6.5 million contract in the off-season. They hoped the acquisition of one of the league's top playmakers would make them more dynamic on offense, and take some of the pressure off their younger players. But the offense has remained stagnant and by some measures may even be worse than last year's group. Buffalo's offense averaged 5.9 net yards per attempt (NY/A) in 2008, 22nd in the league. However, since the addition of Owens the Bills have regressed to 5 NY/A.

Certainly Terrell is not the only one at fault for Buffalo's struggles, his quarterback Trent Edwards is also to blame, but his production has dropped precipitously. At age 35, the 14 year veteran is 2nd among active players with 143 career touchdowns. But Owens only has one touchdown this year, a catch in Week 2 against Tampa Bay. His 281 receiving yards rank him 69th in the league, and he has only caught 23 passes at this point in the season. What do you think the future holds for Terrell if he does not improve in the second half of the year?

Larry Johnson - Remember a couple of years ago when Larry Johnson was thought of by some as the best pure runner in the NFL? The former Nittany Lion ran for over 1,700 yards in '05 and '06, but his production has dropped to a career low this year. In seven games the 2-time Pro Bowler has rushed for only 358 yards on 132 attempts, a career low 3.2 yards per attempt. He has not scored a touchdown this season.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about Johnson hasn't been his struggles on the field, but his recent comments which included the use of gay slurs. Such language is ignorant and hurtful, and it's disappointing to hear anybody using words like that. The fact that Larry Johnson is a public figure only makes it worse. While nothing he did was illegal, Larry has been arrested four times since being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2003 and this latest incident has some fans calling for his release.

Larry Johnson was once regarded as one of the most promising players in the NFL, but his career has now become mired in controversy. At only 29 years of age he could still return to Pro Bowl form, but it is unclear if and when he will get an opportunity to continue his career. Do you think Johnson should be allowed to continue his career? If so, do you think he will regain his former success?

Nate Clements - It hurts me to say this because I like watching Nate Clements play football and I'm glad he's a member of the San Francisco 49ers, but he has been a disappoint this year. When you sign an $80 million contract, you are supposed to be the best player at your position. Not only that, but you are expected to be one of the top players in the league and a leader on your team.

While it may be true that Clements is a great leader in the locker room, the 49ers did not sign Clements to cover third receivers and provide support against the run like he did last week in Indianapolis. Players who do those jobs don't make $6.5 million per year, elite cover corners do.

Over the past couple of seasons, the Ohio State alum has seemed vulnerable at times while covering the league's fastest receivers. Could Clements already be losing a step at the age of 29?

If last week's move to start Tarell Brown over Nate Clements was a sign that the coaching staff believes Brown is the better player in coverage, then this season could be the last of a disappointing stay in San Francisco for Clements. Do you think Clements will continue to give up playing time to Tarell Brown during the rest of this season?