NFL Players and Coaches On the Hot Seat Entering 2022

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonContributor IJune 9, 2022

NFL Players and Coaches On the Hot Seat Entering 2022

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - NOVEMBER 28: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT)  Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants in action against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on November 28, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Giants defeated the eagles 13-7. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    In the NFL, all players and coaches face some level of pressure to perform at a high level.

    However, big-name players around the league go through a different kind of pressure during the offseason. They have to answer a barrage of questions from the media about their job security and potentially compete to secure a lead spot on the depth chart. When it comes to the pressure that comes with being in the spotlight, the same holds true for coaches.

    While several individuals could lose their jobs before or during the 2022 campaign, we've focused on those whose seats are hottest because of the importance of their position (quarterbacks and head coaches), draft pedigree or uncertain status on the depth chart.

    Who's under the spotlight to perform with their role, short- or long-term job security or roster spot potentially on the line? Let's first take a look at a handful of honorable mentions, followed a mix of players and coaches on the watch list going into the 2022 season.

    Those on the hot seat are listed in alphabetical order.

Honorable Mentions

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    DAVIE, FL - JUNE 01: Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) takes the snap of the ball during the first mandatory  minicamp at the Baptist Health Training Complex on June 1, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    K'Lavon Chaisson, Edge, Jacksonville Jaguars

    K'Lavon Chaisson probably lost his starting job once the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Travon Walker with the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft. The Georgia product has exclusively lined up at outside linebacker through organized team activities.

    Still, Chaisson has a chance to reinvent himself under a new coaching staff after logging 50 tackles, six for loss, two sacks and 20 pressures through two seasons. The LSU product made plays as a stand-up pass-rusher on the collegiate level, which may help him break out in an odd-man front. If not, the Jaguars may look to part ways with the 2020 first-rounder before his fourth season.

    Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

    Ezekiel Elliott has seen a decline in his touch volume since 2018. While he's still productive on the ground and as a pass-catcher, the Dallas Cowboys have a backup running back in Tony Pollard who looks primed for a breakout 2022 season.

    In 2021, Pollard racked up 1,056 scrimmage yards. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry compared to Elliott's 4.2 yards per rush attempt. Though the three-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro battled through a hamstring injury last year, we could see something closer to a 50-50 timeshare if his backup continues to produce at a more efficient rate.

    Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

    As of now, Jalen Hurts doesn't need to look over his shoulder at a promising rookie who's going to challenge him for the starting job. However, if the third-year quarterback shows little improvement with the addition of Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown, the Philadelphia Eagles could look for a new franchise player in next year's draft.

    In the meantime, the Eagles have a serviceable backup in Gardner Minshew, who has started in 22 games through three seasons, throwing for 41 touchdowns and 12 interceptions with a 63.2 percent completion rate.

    Kenneth Murray Jr., LB, Los Angeles Chargers

    As a rookie, Kenneth Murray showed flashes as a downhill defender, recording 107 tackles, five for loss and a sack. However, he struggled mightily in coverage, allowing an 83 percent completion rate and a 112.9 passer rating.

    Murray missed six games in 2021 and lost a handle on his starting job in the second half of the season. Back in April, he underwent ankle surgery, but head coach Brandon Staley expects him to return for training camp. The 2020 first-rounder needs to come back in tip-top shape and perform at a high level, or he'll continue to take a backseat (perhaps behind Kyle Van Noy) in the upcoming campaign.

    Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins

    Like Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa faces pressure to make a third-year leap. The Miami Dolphins acquired All-Pro wideout Tyreek Hill and slot wide receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr. to bolster their aerial attack. Three-time Pro Bowler Terron Armstead will fill a void at left tackle. The Dolphins also hired an offensive-minded head coach in Mike McDaniel.

    If Tagovailoa doesn't move the ball with consistency under a new staff with this supporting cast, the Dolphins may look to make a midseason trade for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (if available), who worked with McDaniel in San Francisco.

Pete Carroll, HC, Seattle Seahawks

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    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JANUARY 02: Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks looks on from the sideline during the first half against the Detroit Lions at Lumen Field on January 02, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
    Steph Chambers/Getty Images

    When a team's active owner isn't happy, the head coach will feel the temperature of his seat rising.

    According to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, Seattle Seahawks chair Jody Allen has been "very involved" in the team's operations, and she didn't just brush off the club's 7-10 season as a one-off down year.

    Following the conclusion of a disappointing campaign, The Athletic's Jeff Howe reported Allen would make some important evaluations.

    "There's some degree of change anticipated this offseason in Seattle, according to people familiar with the situation. Seahawks chair Jody Allen will be assessing the coaching staff and front office, but her intentions are a mystery. Big week for Pete Carroll and John Schneider," Howe tweeted.

    Seattle traded quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos, a move that required him to waive his no-trade clause. While Carroll's job seems safe for now, the Seahawks are headed for a rebuilding period.

    With an uninspiring quarterback battle between Geno Smith and Drew Lock underway, the Seahawks could be in the mix for a top-three draft pick in 2023. If that's the case, Carroll's tenure could unravel quickly despite a strong run between 2012 and 2020, which included two Super Bowl appearances and eight trips to the playoffs. Allen may look to replace the 70-year-old head coach with a younger offensive mind who can develop a rookie quarterback.

Sam Darnold, QB, Carolina Panthers

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    CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 26: Sam Darnold #14 of the Carolina Panthers walks off the field after a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium on December 26, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
    Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    At some point, a former first-round draft pick has to turn his potential into production on the field. Sam Darnold is running out of time to prove his ability to hold a starting job.

    In 2018, the New York Jets selected Darnold with the No. 3 pick, but they traded him to the Carolina Panthers after three seasons. He threw for 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions with a 59.8 percent completion rate through those first three campaigns.

    Darnold didn't play much better with a change of scenery. Last season, the Panthers benched him for quarterback P.J. Walker in Week 7 against the New York Giants. He battled a shoulder injury between November and December but continued to struggle in a return to the starting lineup.

    In an interview with Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer said the starting job at quarterback is "up for grabs," but he called Darnold the "number one guy right now."

    Even if Darnold beats out Walker and rookie third-rounder Matt Corral for the job, he may not have much room for error with head coach Matt Rhule, who isn't afraid to bench an ineffective quarterback.

Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants

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    MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 05: Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants looks on from the side line during the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on December 05, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Jones is ruled out for today's game with an injury. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Daniel Jones hasn't shown much promise since his rookie season in which he threw for 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Since then, the 2019 first-rounder has flashed in moments few and far between.

    Over the past two campaigns, Jones has thrown for just 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, finishing with fewer than 3,000 passing yards in both.

    Going into the 2021 season, Jones felt the pressure to perform at a "high level," but he didn't make a third-year leap despite the addition of wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney.

    Though the Giants' wide receiver corps battled a rash of injuries last season, Jones has to show the ability to overcome some obstacles and rack up decent passing numbers. He threw for just 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 11 games last year.

    Former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who helped develop Josh Allen into a star quarterback, accepted the head-coaching role this offseason. He'll try to elevate Jones, who probably has just one year to prove himself.

    New York declined Jones' fifth-year option, so he's headed into a contract season under a new regime that didn't draft him. If the fourth-year signal-caller doesn't show much improvement, Daboll may insert veteran Tyrod Taylor to finish the season while new general manager Joe Schoen evaluates rookie passers in the 2023 draft class.

Jeff Okudah, CB, Detroit Lions

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    DETROIT, MICHIGAN - AUGUST 13: Jeff Okudah #23 of the Detroit Lions looks on before the preseason game against the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field on August 13, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
    Nic Antaya/Getty Images

    As the No. 3 pick from the 2020 draft, Jeff Okudah hasn't even scratched the surface of his potential. He's played in just 10 games, logging 51 tackles, four for loss, three pass breakups and an interception while allowing a 77 percent completion rate in coverage.

    Okudah has also dealt with injuries—most notably a core-muscle injury and a ruptured Achilles tendon—that derailed both of his seasons. On a positive note, head coach Dan Campbell expects him to physically bounce back.

    "We're not worried about Jeff's movement skills," Campbell said. "He's gonna be able to move. You watch him with his footwork and the things he's doing, he can do all that. That is real important right now, just continue his growth mentally."

    Okudah must knock off some rust after he played just one game last season. On top of that, the Ohio State product has to put an underwhelming career start behind him to earn the starting job opposite Amani Oruwariye. Okudah will likely battle Mike Hughes, a 2018 first-rounder, and Ifeatu Melifonwu, who took reps at safety during OTAs but started in four games as a cornerback last season.

    If Okudah is unable to win a starting role, critics will justifiably place him in the bust category. He must make a big leap in his third campaign to change the course of his career.

Jalen Reagor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

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    LANDOVER, MARYLAND - JANUARY 02: Jalen Reagor #18 of the Philadelphia Eagles warms up before the game against the Washington Football Team at FedExField on January 02, 2022 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
    G Fiume/Getty Images

    After two seasons with just 64 receptions for 695 yards and three touchdowns, Jalen Reagor may have to look elsewhere for a chance to showcase his full potential.

    On Day 1 of the 2022 draft, the Philadelphia Eagles acquired Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown from the Tennessee Titans. He's slated to start along with DeVonta Smith, who led the team in receptions (64), receiving yards (916) and touchdown receptions (five) last year.

    In 2021, Quez Watkins caught 43 passes for 647 yards and a touchdown as the primary slot receiver. He could open the upcoming campaign as the third wideout in three-wide receiver sets, which would push Reagor to the fourth spot on the depth chart and fifth in the pecking order among Eagles' pass-catchers since tight end Dallas Goedert is heavily involved in the aerial attack.

    Executive vice president and general manager Howie Roseman doesn't "anticipate" trading Reagor, but ESPN's Tim McManus believes the Eagles would listen to offers for him.

    Reagor could become a hot name in the rumor mill before Week 1 of the regular season. If he makes the Eagles roster, the 2020 first-rounder may slip into a backup role early in the campaign.

Frank Reich, HC, Indianapolis Colts

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    INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JANUARY 02: Head coach Frank Reich of the Indianapolis Colts on the sidelines in the game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 02, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
    Justin Casterline/Getty Images

    As the Indianapolis Colts' head coach, Frank Reich has won 57 percent of his games (37-28) and led to the team to three winning seasons in four years.

    Why is he on the hot seat?

    One can argue Indianapolis has underachieved on Reich's watch. Though the Colts have started a different quarterback in all four of his campaigns, he had a major influence on the club's move to trade for Carson Wentz, who went through some issues behind the scenes and fell flat late in the 2021 season.

    According to The Athletic's Zak Keefer, the Colts didn't trust Wentz because of what they saw on and off the field.

    "As for the Colts, the issues with Wentz stretched back to before the season began, one source said, and over the course of the year, some grew frustrated at what they deemed a lack of leadership, a resistance to hard coaching and a reckless style of play, which had a role in several close losses this year."

    Reich took the blame for the failed Wentz experiment. "I stuck my neck out for him," he said. The Colts' lead skipper apologized to team owner Jim Irsay for his endorsement of the 29-year-old signal-caller, per Keefer.

    This offseason, the Colts acquired quarterback Matt Ryan as a potential upgrade, but if Indianapolis fails to clinch a postseason berth, team brass may look for a new head coach. The club hasn't won a playoff game since 2018, and a fourth consecutive campaign without a postseason win could seal Reich's fate.

Matt Rhule, HC, Carolina Panthers

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    CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 26: Head coach Matt Rhule of the Carolina Panthers walks onto the field before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium on December 26, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Among head coaches, Matt Rhule easily has the warmest seat. Going into his third season with the Carolina Panthers, he's 10-23.

    Typically, NFL head coaches have three years to turn around a losing team. Thus far there's been no improvement, as the Panthers have won five games in each of Rhule's two season—the same number of wins the team had in the season before hiring him.

    Over the past two seasons, Panthers star running back Christian McCaffrey has suited up for just 10 games, though Rhule must resolve an issue at quarterback.

    In 2020, Carolina signed Teddy Bridgewater, but he was underwhelming en route to 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions through 15 contests. The Panthers traded him to the Denver Broncos nearly four weeks after they acquired Sam Darnold, who struggled more than his predecessor, throwing for nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions through 12 outings (11 starts) in 2021.

    This offseason, the Panthers selected Matt Corral in the third round of the draft, but they didn't make a move to bring in a veteran upgrade, which means Rhule will likely have to find a way to tap into Darnold's potential.

    Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio believes Rhule is "clearly on the hot seat." Few can argue against that opinion as the Panthers look to avoid back-to-back fourth-place finishes in the NFC South.

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans

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    NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - DECEMBER 23: Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Tennessee Titans looks on in the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Nissan Stadium on December 23, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Last month, Ryan Tannehill made a controversial comment about his responsibility as a teammate. He doesn't feel obligated to mentor rookie third-rounder Malik Willis.

    Though Jim Wyatt of the Tennessee Titans' official website thinks Tannehill has a stronghold on the starting position, the veteran signal-caller may view Willis as a significant threat to his job security.

    Coming off a down year in which he threw for 21 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, Tannehill should be on the hot seat. His bounce-back season as the 2019 Comeback Player of the Year and a Pro Bowler seems like the distant past.

    After throwing for 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in 2020 under former offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, Tannehill didn't look like the same player with Todd Downing calling plays last season.

    Turning 34 years old in July with only two terms left on his deal, Tannehill needs to rebound in 2022. If he doesn't, the Titans could replace him as they did with Marcus Mariota during the 2019 season.

    Willis may not be ready to supplant Tannehill right now, but everyone should keep eye on the Titans' quarterback situation.

    If Tannehill struggles to build a rapport with rookie first-rounder Treylon Burks, who's set to fill a huge void following the departure of A.J. Brown via trade to the Philadelphia Eagles, and veteran wideout Robert Woods, we could see a switch under center.

    Player contract details are provided by Over the Cap.

    Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.