The least valuable player of every NFL team in 2015
By WILL LAWS
Every year, the NFL's 32 teams hold a fancy end-of-season banquet to gather all their players one last time as a collective unit. Food is eaten, drinks are consumed and awards are handed out to commemorate special individual performances. The most coveted of these awards is the team's Most Valuable Player award.
Of course, there's no recognition for players on the other end of the spectrum. Who wants to be given a trophy for being a team's Least Valuable Player, even if it's all in good fun? Certainly not professional football players, who tend to be a prideful bunch.
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And why shouldn't they be? NFL players work extraordinarily hard to ascend to the summit of their sport. Still, that doesn't mean the guys who don't carry their weight are excused from public criticism.
PointAfter wanted to explore the concept of identifying every NFL team's Least Valuable Player. While a team's MVP can readily be identified by most casual observers, choosing a deserving LVP requires quite a bit more research.
For this exercise, PointAfter has emphasized players who received plenty of playing time in 2015 and actively made their teams worse as a result. In some cases, bloated salaries accentuated how poorly someone played, since the club would have been better served using their salary to shore up other weaknesses on the roster.
Players are ranked in reverse order of their season grades from Pro Football Focus (subscription required), a trusted player evaluation site used by NFL teams. We'll count down to the lowest-graded player on the list.
Notes: All salary data is courtesy of Spotrac. "Qualified" players were on the field for at least 25 percent of their unit's snaps.
#32. Chicago Bears: Eddie Royal
PFF grade (position rank): -3.7 (84th)
2015 salary cap hit: $5.5 million
Royal was signed last summer to essentially replace the departed Brandon Marshall as Chicago's other starting receiver opposite the excellent Alshon Jeffery. While Marshall flourished in New York with the Jets, Royal was a huge disappointment in an injury-plagued year, registering just one touchdown in nine games.
Chicago's vertical passing game floundered without Jeffery, who also missed six games and was held well below his career averages due to the lack of a viable second option at wideout. Royal's 6.4 yards per reception was the lowest mark among 119 qualified receivers.
#31. Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Cooper
PFF grade (position rank): -6.7 (50th)
2015 salary cap hit: $4.0 million
Cooper, a top-10 pick out of North Carolina in the 2013 NFL Draft, received his first dose of extended playing time this season. It did not go well.
Cardinals fans saw why it took so long for the former top prospect to earn a starting job. Cooper allowed 19 QB hurries in nine games at right guard before injuring his knee. Even after he recovered, coach Bruce Arians elected to keep him on the bench in favor of veteran Ted Larsen.
#30. Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Fisher
PFF grade (position rank): -6.9 (39th)
2015 salary cap hit: $6.1 million
It's hard to find a glaring LVP on the Chiefs, who boasted one of the NFL's best defenses and valiantly overcame injury problems on offense.
However, Kansas City's front office was likely expecting more from Fisher in his third season. The former No. 1 overall pick certainly made progress in 2015 after two miserable seasons to begin his professional career, but he still hasn't lived up to his draft status.
He allowed five sacks in 14 regular starts at left tackle, and is no sure thing to hold a starting job into 2016. At the very least, teams expect to receive four competent years of football from their first-round draft picks. The Chiefs haven't gotten that from Fisher, who might benefit from a move to the right side of the offensive line.
#29. Philadelphia Eagles: DeMarco Murray
PFF grade (position rank): -8.1 (66th)
2015 salary cap hit: $5.0 million
One of last offseason's biggest free agent signings, Murray inked a five-year, $40 million deal with Philadelphia to be the new featured back in Chip Kelly's offense.
It proved to be an ill-advised personnel move in a coaching tenure full of them. Murray was a poor fit for Kelly's running scheme, which emphasized outside-zone plays instead of the north-south running style Murray excels with. The 27-year-old endured the worst professional season of his career just one year after leading the NFL in rushing, while the exceptional play of backfield mates Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles pushed Murray to the sideline as the season went on. He ended up playing in less than half of Philly's snaps, rushing for a career-worst 3.6 yards per carry.
It was basically a lost year. Murray will get a fresh start under a new coaching regime headed by Doug Peterson, since it'd cost the Eagles $13 million of cap space to cut him before next season.
#28. Minnesota Vikings: Mike Wallace
PFF grade (position rank): -10.2 (116th)
2015 salary cap hit: $9.9 million
The Vikings took a flier on Wallace during the offseason by acquiring him and a seventh-round draft pick for a fifth-round pick. That gamble didn't pay off, as the 29-year-old produced the worst statistical season of his career by a wide margin.
Wallace posted career lows in yards (473), yards per reception (12.1) and touchdowns (two). He also caught just 57 percent of his targets, 87th among 119 qualified receivers. All the while, he soaked up nearly $10 million on Minnesota's salary cap.
#27. Green Bay Packers: Davante Adams
PFF grade (position rank): -11.1 (118th)
2015 salary cap hit: $893,955
Adams had an opportunity to seize Green Bay's No. 2 receiver slot after Jordy Nelson was lost for the year with a torn ACL. But the second-year Fresno State product squandered that chance, and was in fact ranked as the second-worst WR in the league by PFF among guys who played at least 25 percent of their team's snaps.
Adams' 10 drops were tied for sixth-most in the league. Even when he did catch the ball, he couldn't do much with it — his average of 9.7 yards per reception ranked in the bottom 10th percentile among qualified wideouts.
#26. Dallas Cowboys: Matt Cassel
PFF grade (position rank): -11.7 (34th)
2015 salary cap hit: $1.8 million
Considering Tony Romo's lengthy medical history, Dallas probably should have invested more in a decent backup quarterback heading into 2015. Instead, they rode with Brandon Weeden as the No. 2 guy in training camp. Things predictably unraveled after Romo fractured his collarbone in Week 2.
Weeden was summarily dumped after a few ineffective starts for Cassel, who turned out to be a shell of the player who once capably replaced Tom Brady for an entire season.
Cassel tossed five touchdowns and seven interceptions in eight starts, averaging just 6.3 yards per attempt, the second-worst mark in the league. He practically disintegrated into dust in December until he was mercifully replaced by long-time third-stringer Kellen Moore during an especially brutal shellacking by the Jets.
#25. Washington Redskins: Dashon Goldson
PFF grade (position rank): -12.2 (88th)
2015 salary cap hit: $4 million
Washington's secondary had to overcome injuries for practically the entire season, and Goldson at least gave the unit some veteran leadership and consistency by playing 92 percent of the defensive snaps. But his on-field contributions left a lot of room for improvement.
Pro Football Focus graded Goldson as the worst safety in the NFL to play at least 25 percent of his team's snaps, making it the third straight year he's been ranked 81st or below. Though the 31-year-old boasts a reputation as a hard hitter, he often fails to wrap up. His 19 missed tackles were the second-most in the league among safeties.
#24. Tennessee Titans: Jeremiah Poutasi and Byron Bell
Poutasi's PFF grade (position rank): -12.5 (46th)
2015 salary cap hit: $635,564
Bell's PFF grade (position rank): -9.6 (43rd)
2015 salary cap hit: $1.5 million
Taylor Lewan adjusted to left tackle surprisingly well during his second year after a disastrous first season there. The other tackle spot, however, proved to be an issue for Tennessee.
Poutasi, a rookie out of Utah, was an adequate run blocker, but allowed seven sacks and seven other QB hits in just eight games. Rightfully concerned for the safety of franchise cornerstone Marcus Mariota, interim coach Mike Mularkey decided to insert the veteran Bell mid-season. That stopped the bleeding in pass protection, but Bell was a liability in Tennessee's dreadful run game.
Look for Poutasi, a former third-round pick, to get a reprieve in 2016 before Tennessee explores other options.
#23. New York Jets: Tommy Bohanon
PFF grade (position rank): -14.0 (21st)
2015 salary cap hit: $600,562
Fullbacks are a dying breed in the NFL. Offenses are moving more toward spread schemes designed to space out an opponent's defense, rather than grind out a smash-mouth run game. Ideal fullbacks can block and run these days, or at least execute one of those duties to near perfection.
Bohanan racked up a whopping total of 58 all-purpose yards in 2015, so it's fair to say his main function in New York's offense is blocking. Unfortunately, Pro Football Focus graded him as the worst blocking fullback in the league. The Jets' running game, which lagged at the end of the year as Chris Ivory felt the effects of the largest workload of his career, could have greatly benefited from better work in the trenches from Bohanon.
#22. Indianapolis Colts: Dwayne Allen
PFF grade (position rank): -14.3 (72nd)
2015 salary cap hit: $1.7 million
Allen is another skill player who lagged on the dirty work in 2015, with Pro Football Focus ranking him as the second-worst tight end in run blocking. He also allowed two sacks for the first time in his career. This was a sneakily shocking development, since PFF graded Allen as the NFL's best run-blocking tight end during his rookie year in 2012, and he'd been steady since then.
The former Clemson Tiger also saw his receiving numbers plummet, from a gaudy 2014 line of 395 yards and eight touchdowns to just 109 yards and a single score in 2015. That decline was surely tied to Andrew Luck's injury woes this season, and it came at the worst time possible for Allen. His rookie contract with the Colts expires this offseason, and it's unlikely both he and fellow pending free agent Coby Fleener will return to Indianapolis.
#21. Houston Texans: Jared Crick
PFF grade (position rank): -16.8 (52nd)
2015 salary cap hit: $1.6 million
If the one-man LVP committee considered postseason performance, Brian Hoyer would merit strong consideration here for his horrific four-pick game against Kansas City in the playoffs. As it stands, however, Hoyer provided stability to a position Houston gravely needed competence from.
Crick, on the other hand, provided subpar play at the defensive end spot not occupied by J.J. Watt. Since teams often direct a lot of attention towards Watt, that opens up opportunities for his other defensive linemen to thrive. Crick did not take advantage of that dream scenario, compiling just two sacks and 29 solo tackles while playing a career-high 75.9 percent of Houston's defensive snaps.
#20. New England Patriots: Marcus Cannon and Cameron Fleming
Cannon's PFF grade (position rank): -14.7 (50th)
2015 salary cap hit: $2.6 million
Fleming's PFF grade (position rank): -14.9 (51st)
2015 salary cap hit: $360,000
Offensive tackle was a problem for New England almost all year after Nate Solder's season-ending injury forced Sebastian Vollmer to move from right tackle to the left side. Both Cannon and Fleming filled in on the right side for parts of nine games, but neither truly embodied the Patriots mantra: "Do Your Job."
Cannon started against Denver in the AFC Championship and was exposed by Von Miller, allowing seven QB hurries and two sacks. According to the Boston Herald, the Patriots brought in Fleming as an extra tackle at one point, and the pair still couldn't stop Miller.
Poor pass blocking brought New England's Super Bowl defense to a grinding halt, and Cannon and Fleming were the O-line's two weak links.
#19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Henry Melton
PFF grade (position rank): -15.3 (124th)
2015 salary cap hit: $3.8 million
Melton, a former Chicago Bear, signed with Tampa Bay on a one-year pact last offseason to reunite with Lovie Smith in a familiar scheme. After a lackluster campaign and the dismissal of Smith, it's unlikely he'll return to the Bucs.
The 29-year-old totaled 30 tackles, with two sacks and one forced fumble. Pro Football Focus graded him as one of the five worst interior defensive linemen in the NFL. That production wasn't worth the $3.8 million price tag.
#18. San Francisco 49ers: Colin Kaepernick
PFF grade (position rank): -15.6 (37th)
2015 salary cap hit: $15.3 million
When Kaepernick was benched for Blaine Gabbert mid-season, NFL fans responded with incredulity and ridicule. How could Gabbert, an infamously poor quarterback in Jacksonville, possibly be better than a guy who led the 49ers to the Super Bowl just three years ago?
Well, the sad truth is that the Niners probably made the right move. Kaepernick was the NFL's worst quarterback in 2015, according to Pro Football Focus. Yes, even worse than Nick Foles.
Kaepernick threw six touchdowns against five interceptions in eight games. San Francisco scored single digits in four of his eight starts, and never did again after Gabbert took over.
Even if Kaepernick proves to be the QB for the future of the 49ers under Chip Kelly, he wasn't the right guy to lead San Francisco in 2015.
#17. Carolina Panthers: Ed Dickson
PFF grade (position rank): -16.1 (73rd)
2015 salary cap hit: $1.5 million
The Panthers couldn't field premier talent at wide receiver this year after Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL in training camp, so the Panthers often used Dickson, a backup tight end, in jumbo sets alongside first-stringer Greg Olsen.
Unfortunately, Dickson ended up grading out as the worst blocker at his position this season, his fourth consecutive year with a negative outlook in that regard from Pro Football Focus. He also failed to move the needle in Carolina's aerial attack, gaining just 7.1 yards per reception, the second-lowest mark among tight ends with at least 25 targets.
#16. Oakland Raiders: D.J. Hayden
PFF grade (position rank): -16.5(115th)
2015 salary cap hit: $2.8 million
The former No. 13 overall pick was the league's third-worst cornerback in pass coverage out of 115 qualified players, according to Pro Football Focus. Opposing QBs totaled a 104.1 passer rating while throwing against Hayden, as he allowed 772 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in 101 passing attempts.
Hayden enters the final year of his rookie deal with considerable pressure to step up his game.
#15. Atlanta Falcons: Paul Worrilow
PFF grade (position rank): -19.2 (87th)
2015 salary cap hit: $585,668
Worrilow has led the Falcons in combined tackles for three years running, but don't let those empty numbers fool you. The former undrafted free agent has been in way over his head during his tenure in Atlanta, whose uninspiring corps of linebackers is becoming too big of a problem for coach Dan Quinn to ignore.
Worrilow's 18 missed tackles were tied for eighth-most among inside linebackers. He wasn't credited with any sacks, forced one fumble and hauled in two interceptions while playing 88 percent of Atlanta's defensive snaps.
The Falcons seemingly have a soft spot for Worrilow, however, and are expected to bring him back. He'd likely excel in a reserve role or on special teams, but as a starter, he racks up tackles and doesn't do much else.
#14. Jacksonville Jaguars: Chris Clemons
PFF grade (position rank): -22.6 (48th)
2015 salary cap hit: $5 million
Clemons was unfathomably ineffective during his second year in Jacksonville. He tallied 14 combined tackles and three sacks in 16 games, and missed six tackles.
It was a stunning fall from grace for a guy who posted three straight seasons with double-digit sack totals in Seattle from 2010-2012. He simply hasn't been the same guy since signing a four-year, $17.5 million contract with Jacksonville in 2014. The 34-year-old deservedly garnered the dishonor of being ranked as the worst 4-3 defensive end in football by Pro Football Focus.
The Jaguars could cut Clemons this offseason with no recourse of dead money sitting on their 2016 salary cap, and are expected to do just that.
#13. Detroit Lions: Travis Swanson
PFF grade (position rank): -25.7 (34th)
2015 salary cap hit: $700,000
Struggling to comprehend how Detroit's offense was so mediocre for most of the season despite owning some of the league's most intriguing skill players? Start by examining the Lions' offensive line and its anchor, center Travis Swanson.
The second-year Arkansas product was the NFL's second-worst pass blocker at his position, according to Pro Football Focus, giving up 24 QB hurries. Even if you have as strong of an arm as Matthew Stafford's, it's hard to complete passes when there's pressure coming right at you from the interior of the offensive line.
#12. Denver Broncos: Michael Schofield
PFF grade (position rank): -25.9 (61st)
2015 salary cap hit: $652,300
Schofield was called "the least popular Bronco in the Peyton Manning era" by Broncos blog Mile High Report, so it's not at all a stretch to call him the team's LVP this season.
The 25-year-old has rebounded in the playoffs with a couple solid performances against Pittsburgh and New England, but he was overmatched during his 14 regular season starts. His nine sacks allowed were tied for second-most in the league among tackles.
#11. Cincinnati Bengals: Russell Bodine
PFF grade (position rank): -25.7 (34th)
2015 salary cap hit: $624,114
Bengals tailback Jeremy Hill caught a lot of flak from fantasy football enthusiasts who drafted him in 2015, as the up-and-down back rarely strung together consecutive consistent performances. A lot of Hill's struggles could be attributed to Cincinnati's interior line, however. Namely, Russell Bodine.
The king of the bench press at the 2014 NFL Combine, Bodine has yet to convert that extraordinary strength in the weight room into success on the field. Even though he's played every snap for Cincinnati for two years running, he was actually graded more harshly by Pro Football Focus in 2015 than he was during his rookie campaign.
According to PFF, he was a better run blocker than only two other centers in the league. He wasn't exactly stellar in pass protection, either.
#10. Pittsburgh Steelers: Antwon Blake
PFF grade (position rank): -28.1 (117th)
2015 salary cap hit: $1.5 million
It would not be a stretch to say Blake was the worst cornerback in the league this season. He allowed the most receptions (76) and yards (1,074) of any corner, missed the most tackles (28) by 12 over the next closest player, and tied for the second-most touchdowns allowed (eight).
Offensive coordinators are quick to sniff out weakness in opposing defenses in the NFL, and they quickly learned to pick on Blake this season. He was thrown at 110 times, the third-highest total in the NFL.
Pittsburgh's defense improved as the year went on, and Blake was actually decent in the Steelers' two playoff clashes. However, he still stood out as the weak link of a once-proud defensive unit. It'd be a shock if they brought back the former undrafted free agent in 2016.
#9. Cleveland Browns: Cameron Erving
PFF grade (position rank): -28.7 (80th)
2015 salary cap hit: $1.7 million
The No. 19 overall selection in last summer's draft, Erving was physically dominated throughout his rookie year by larger, more experienced linemen. Erving managed to garner Pro Football Focus' third-worst grade for guards league-wide despite playing in just 38.4 percent of Cleveland's offensive snaps.
Former Browns coach Mike Pettine indicated Erving took "a step forward" after moving to right guard for the season's final three games, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. However, that doesn't jibe with Pro Football Focus' individual game grades for Erving, which indicate two of his three worst performances came following the switch from left guard.
Whatever the case, Erving would have to take a giant leap forward in 2016 to justify his draft slot and salary.
#8. Seattle Seahawks: Justin Britt
PFF grade (position rank): -32.6 (81st)
2015 salary cap hit: $785,666
Britt played nearly every snap for Seattle at left guard this year despite grading out as the second-worst guard in the NFL out of 82 qualified players. This, after enduring a trying rookie season at right tackle.
The 2014 second-round pick might have run out of chances with the Seahawks, who will almost certainly try to upgrade the weakest link on their mediocre offensive line this offseason.
#7. Los Angeles Rams: Greg Robinson
PFF grade (position rank): -36.2 (73rd)
2015 salary cap hit: $4.8 million
Robinson was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but he sure hasn't played like it since entering the league. In fact, he's gotten worse.
After grading out at -21.4 in 2014, Robinson ranked 73rd out of 76 qualifying guards in 2015 with a -36.2 rating from Pro Football Focus. He allowed four fewer sacks this season while playing every snap, but was responsible for a league-high 19 QB hits.
Disappointing offensive linemen aren't as visible as underachieving quarterbacks like JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf, but Robinson deserves to be listed among those draft busts. He's still just 23 years old, but it's hard to envision much improvement forthcoming.
#6. Baltimore Ravens: James Hurst
PFF grade (position rank): -37.6 (75th)
2015 salary cap hit: $513,000
James Hurst somehow found himself as Baltimore's starting left tackle last season after injuries forced some re-shuffling, a move that confounded ESPN's Ravens beat writer Jamison Hensley. The reporter's instincts proved to be right.
Hurst ranked ahead of just one tackle among 76 qualifying players in Pro Football Focus' grades this year, virtually replicating the grade of -35.7 he received last season. The former undrafted free agent gave up at least three QB hurries in five separate games in 2015.
The most damaging play Hurst was involved in? Late in their contest against the Rams, Hurst was bowled over backwards by rookie defensive end Matt Longacre. Hurst fell backwards into Joe Flacco's leg, tearing the ACL inside his quarterback's knee and effectively curtailing Baltimore's hopes for playoff football. Ironically, that was the game in which Hurst received his highest grade of the season from PFF.
#5. Miami Dolphins: Dallas Thomas
PFF grade (position rank): -47.9 (82nd)
2015 salary cap hit: $761,594
Thomas was the worst guard in the NFL this season, according to Pro Football Focus. He ranked in the bottom two for both pass blocking and run blocking, and Ryan Tannehill's development certainly wasn't aided by Thomas' poor play.
Thomas gave up 10 sacks, the most of any guard, and 36 QB hurries, which placed him in the top three. It'd be a shock if new Dolphins coach Adam Gase decided to give Thomas another shot at a starting job in 2016.
#4. Buffalo Bills: Preston Brown
PFF grade (position rank): -38.2 (94th)
2015 salary cap hit: $702,000
One year after the Bills assembled a consensus top-five defense under former coordinator Jim Schwartz, head coach Rex Ryan barged in and installed a new scheme that didn't jell nearly as well as anticipated. Ryan's scheme, which depends on forcing sacks and turnovers through complex blitz packages, didn't accomplish its primary objective. The Bills ranked 31st in the league with 21 sacks, and were in the middle of the pack with 23 turnovers.
Brown proved to be a particularly poor fit, ranking dead last in Pro Football Focus' ranking of 94 qualified linebackers. He symbolized the alarming decline of Buffalo's defense, not improving in any area after a promising rookie season under Schwartz.
The Louisville product didn't record a single sack, allowed opposing receivers to catch 38-of-45 balls when he was targeted in pass coverage, and was rated by PFF as the second-worst run defender among linebackers.
#3. New Orleans Saints: Brandon Browner
PFF grade (position rank): -43.6 (118th)
2015 salary cap hit: $2.4 million
The days of Browner constituting one-fourth of Seattle's "Legion of Boom" are long gone. He has our vote as the NFL's least valuable cornerback of 2015.
The 31-year-old ranked second in yards allowed to opposing wideouts (964). Quarterbacks logged an astronomical passer rating of 122.5 when targeting him, the worst such mark allowed among corners with at least 1,000 snaps. Browner also missed 14 tackles, tied for third-most among corners.
And oh, the penalties. Browner was flagged 23 times, a record for cornerbacks since Pro Football Focus started tracking penalties in 2007. The once-valuable veteran is obviously having trouble adjusting to the new NFL rules aiming to limit downfield contact between receivers and defenders. If he can't adapt to the new offense-friendly landscape of the league, he could find himself sitting at home in the very near future.
Even though the Saints would only save $1 million on their 2016 salary cap by cutting Browner this offseason, it's plausible they'd rather eat $5.3 million of dead money and let some younger guys get some playing time than pay Browner $6.3 million to stink up the Superdome again.
#2. New York Giants: Ereck Flowers
PFF grade (position rank): -44.1 (76th)
2015 salary cap hit: $2.6 million
The Giants spent their first-round pick on Flowers last summer, making him the No. 9 overall selection. He didn't come close to validating that lofty billing in his rookie campaign.
Pro Football Focus ranked the former Miami Hurricanes standout as the worst tackle in football, thanks to his atrocious pass blocking. His 47 QB hurries allowed were the most in the league, while his 17 QB hits ranked behind only Greg Robinson.
Perhaps even more alarmingly, Flowers' worst-graded game by PFF came in the final contest of the season against Philadelphia, when he allowed two sacks and five QB hurries. If Flowers doesn't reverse his trajectory in a hurry next season, newly promoted head coach Ben McAdoo might not exhibit much patience with him.
#1. San Diego Chargers: Trevor Robinson
PFF grade (position rank): -50.6 (40th)
2015 salary cap hit: $825,000
The center position was cursed with injury for the Chargers in 2014, as San Diego became the first team since the AFL-NFL merger to start five players at the position. Robinson was the last player to take over at the position then, and was pressed into duty again this season after Chris Watt fell victim to the injury bug in Week 3.
Robinson stayed healthy for the rest of 2015, but that didn't exactly help the Chargers. He graded out negatively in PFF's system during all of San Diego's games, giving up a position-high eight sacks, the most by any center since 2008. PFF also anointed him as the second-worst run blocker at his position.
Truthfully, the entire Chargers team was an injury-plagued mess once again. Only one player — right tackle Joe Barksdale — graded out positively on the season, and he was still ranked as the league's 30th-best tackle. Meanwhile, three of San Diego's guards ranked among the bottom 15 of the NFL's 82 qualified guards.
Melvin Gordon was basically hung out to dry during his rookie season. Though his average of 3.5 yards per carry was dreadful, he elicited 34 missed tackles, a top-10 mark in the NFL. If the Chargers are going to contend anytime soon, they'll need to find some linemen who can stay healthy and productive. Otherwise, the waning years of Philip Rivers' prime will be wasted.