NFL: 5 Players with the Most Pressure Heading into Training Camp
Well, it's that time of year again, as the Philadelphia Eagles will kick things off on July 22nd when rookies and some veterans report to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania for the beginning of training camp.
Training camp is a stressful time of year for many players, whether it's a sixth-round pick trying like mad to make the team, a veteran reserve trying to make his way into the starting lineup or a starter fighting to save his job.
However, for some players the pressure is greater than others, and the following handful of NFL stars enter training camp under a tremendous amount of scrutiny this year.
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
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Quarterback Peyton Manning was the crown jewel of the 2012 free agent class, and after inking the four-time NFL MVP to a five-year, $96 million contract, Tebow Time has been replaced by Peyton's Place in the Mile High City.
Expectations are, well, mile-high in Denver this season, with Las Vegas oddsmakers already installing the Broncos as one of the AFC's top contenders this season and Manning reportedly at "85 to 90 percent" according to an interview that Mike Klis of The Denver Post gave to Pro Football Talk.
However, the fact remains that Manning is a 36-year-old quarterback who missed all of last season while recovering from multiple neck surgeries, so it may be wise to temper the rampant enthusiasm a bit.
Klis himself has done just that, predicting that the Broncos will pick up only one additional victory this season and finish the year at 9-7.
Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets
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There's pressure, and then there's pressure.
Then there's being Mark Sanchez.
After a disappointing 8-8 season filled with more drama than victories the New York Jets stirred the pot even more in the offseason, trying and failing to acquire Peyton Manning before trading for the signal-caller Manning replaced in Denver by dealing for Tim Tebow.
In between these personnel moves the Jets inked 2011 starter Mark Sanchez to a three-year contract extension. However, even though Sanchez has already been named the starter for 2012 it's only a matter of time before fans begin clamoring for Tebow, especially if Sanchez is as inconsistent as he was a year ago.
Some pundits, such as Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc., are already predicting that Sanchez will be benched at some point this season, and frankly this situation has implosion written all over it.
Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
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I could go on all day about just quarterbacks who are under a great deal of pressure entering training camp, but just one more and I'll move on. I promise.
After a 2010 season that saw Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick account for 30 total touchdowns and lead the Eagles to the postseason the team rewarded the 32-year-old southpaw with a five-year contract that included over $35 million in guaranteed money.
Vick then went out and faceplanted in 2011, turning the ball over 18 times, missing three games due to injury and posting a quarterback rating over 15 points lower than his 2010 numbers.
Should the Eagles stumble again in 2012, it's entirely possible that the team could choose to move on at quarterback, as the team could part ways with Vick after the season without incurring a significant cap hit.
Beanie Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals
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Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells enjoyed his most successful year in the NFL in 2011, gaining over 1,000 rushing yards and scoring double-digit touchdowns for the first time in his career.
However, that momentum didn't carry over to the offseason. The knee injury that limited Wells over the second half of last year required surgery after the season, and to this point Wells has yet to take part in any practices with the Cardinals this summer.
Meanwhile, second-year running back Ryan Williams is reportedly progressing well in his rehab from the knee injury that ended his 2011 season before it began, and head coach Ken Whisenhunt recently told The Tucson Citizen that "Wells should be ready for camp because other backs had looked good."
The Citizen goes on to state that there's a feeling among Arizona brass that Wells needs to be "pushed", and if the 23-year-old flounders in camp this year he may find himself pushed right out of the starting lineup.
Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, CB, Dallas Cowboys
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To see what the Achilles' heel of the Dallas Cowboys defense was last year one needs look no further than the season-ending loss to the New York Giants that cost the Cowboys a playoff spot.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw for nearly 350 yards in that game, exposing a soft Dallas secondary that had been a sore spot for much of the season.
Dallas owner Jerry Jones wasn't about to sit on his hands, and Jones took big steps to rectify the situation at cornerback.
Not only did the team sign free agent cornerback Brandon Carr to a five-year contract worth just over $50 million, but the Cowboys also traded up to select the top cornerback in the 2012 NFL draft in Morris Claiborne of LSU.
The Cowboys expectations in 2012 are the same as every year (win the Super Bowl), and with their core players aging and their window of opportunity closing Dallas needs their new acquisitions on defense to acclimate to coordinator Rob Ryan's defense quickly.