The Hottest Hot Seat for Every NFL Team in 2019
Most coaches and players have to view each season as a prove-it year—complacency could cost them jobs. The hot seat can heat up over the course of a campaign and eject underperformers from their respective positions.
Some players and coaches have more at stake this year. In some cases, they had a prolonged period of inconsistency, while others went through a disappointing 2018 season. They're all on notice.
The New York Giants selected a quarterback in the first round, and the Houston Texans overhauled the talent for a subpar offensive line during the offseason. Of course, the incumbent starters and the position coach should feel the heat going into the 2019 term.
We'll take a look at high draft picks from recent years, underachieving starters and a few coaches in jeopardy of losing their roles during or after the upcoming season. Who's under the most pressure to produce satisfactory results?
Arizona Cardinals: LT D.J. Humphries
D.J. Humphries has struggled in pass protection on both sides of the offensive line, allowing seven sacks during his sophomore term and five last year, per the Washington Post's STATS.
He may have experienced more growth if he hadn't battled injuries through three seasons. The 2015 first-rounder has missed 21 contests because of a concussion, MCL sprain, dislocated kneecap and, last season, a nagging knee ailment.
The Arizona Cardinals exercised Humphries' fifth-year option, but he'll need to stay healthy and show improvement. Otherwise, Will Holden, Korey Cunningham or Joshua Miles could take his spot on the perimeter.
Last season, Cunningham, a 2018 seventh-rounder, started six games at left tackle and surrendered 1.5 sacks, per Washington Post's STATS. He could become a surprise starter if Humphries continues to fall short of expectations.
Kyler Murray can evade pressure with his legs, but having a rookie quarterback under constant duress could lead to a disastrous season. Humphries will have a chance to show his worth as a long-term asset, but he's also a potential Day 1 draft whiff.
Atlanta Falcons: DE Vic Beasley Jr.
The Atlanta Falcons saw a significant jump in Vic Beasley Jr.'s sack production between his rookie and sophomore terms after he registered four and 15.5 in 2015 and 2016, respectively, but the Clemson product hasn't lived up to his first-round draft status.
Since 2017, Beasley has recorded just 10 sacks, and he's started 17 of his 30 games. Head coach Dan Quinn acknowledged the defensive end must put together even performances throughout an entire season, per ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure.
"I'm very excited about where I think he can go to, and we've had good conversations about the impact that he can make," Quinn said. "The biggest impact that he can make is doing it really consistently."
Beasley made an offseason decision that raised eyebrows. He chose to work out away from the team and not attend OTAs. According to Mike Bell of Atlanta's 92.9 The Game, Quinn said, "It's a bummer," when asked about 26-year-old's absence.
Players don't have to participate in OTAs, but Beasley's lack of production suggests he may have benefited from the coaching staff's instruction. The four-year veteran is going into a contract year and needs a strong campaign similar to the 2016 term in order to earn a lucrative new deal with the Falcons or any other club.
Atlanta selected John Cominsky in the fourth round of April's draft. He logged 16 sacks at Charleston (West Virginia). The rookie defensive end could become the next man up if the coaching staff pivots from Beasley.
Baltimore Ravens: OL James Hurst
James Hurst has opened 27 consecutive games with the first unit (barring six games missed because of injury), but that streak may come to an end. Since 2017, he's lined up primarily at left guard and right tackle.
Last year, Orlando Brown Jr. started the final 10 games at right tackle. He'll likely hold on to that spot because of his draft status as a 2018 third-rounder. Alex Lewis should claim the left guard spot, pending his availability. The 2016 fourth-rounder has battled ankle, shoulder and neck injuries through three seasons.
The Baltimore Ravens have Hurst on the books through the 2021 term. If he loses his starting job, the 27-year-old will likely serve as a solid backup offensive lineman capable of playing multiple positions.
Because of Hurst's versatility, he's not in danger of missing the cut for the final roster, but his time in a prominent role will probably come to an end, barring an injury to Lewis or Brown.
Buffalo Bills: DE Shaq Lawson
The Buffalo Bills didn't exercise the fifth-year option on Shaq Lawson's contract. He'll face pressure to produce a breakout season before hitting the free-agent market next offseason.
In three years, Lawson has registered 10 sacks, and he's started 17 out of his 35 contests. Last offseason, the Bills signed Trent Murphy to bolster the pass rush, although he only recorded four sacks in 2018.
During the 2017 offseason, Murphy underwent surgery for a broken foot and tore his ACL and MCL, which cost him the ensuing season. He also served a four-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. The 28-year-old probably felt the lingering effects of his injuries last year.
According to John Murphy of the team's official website, the Bills defensive end felt 100 percent through the early portion of the offseason program. "It's a much better starting point for me, mentally and physically," Murphy said.
In 2018, Lawson also recorded four sacks, and Murphy will likely push for a bigger role now that he's back to full strength. As a result, the front office could dangle the Clemson product on the trade block this summer.
Lawson played 43.39 percent of the Bills' defensive snaps last season. He could see a significant role reduction if Murphy looks impressive at the beginning of the year.
Carolina Panthers: HC Ron Rivera
Amid the Carolina Panthers' seven-game losing streak last season, owner David Tepper contemplated turnover within the organization, per CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora:
"Panthers owner David Tepper, who spent nearly $2.5M billion to purchase the team amid the fallout of Jerry Richardson's sexual misconduct suspension a year ago, is becoming increasingly frustrated with the team's recent performances and is mulling major changes if the results to do not change quickly, multiple league sources said."
The head coaching position seems like a starting point for change on a team that went through a second-half collapse.
Under head coach Ron Rivera, Carolina won three consecutive NFC South titles (2013-15) and went to Super Bowl 50, though it lost the championship to the Denver Broncos. He's 71-56-1 in his position. The team made the right choice to keep the status quo, but we could see changes if the Panthers go through another disappointing season.
Carolina hasn't finished with losing records in back-to-back years since the 2011-12 terms.
Rivera, who has experience in a defensive coordinator role, must address that side of the ball in the upcoming campaign. In 2018, the Panthers ranked 19th in points allowed. In a division with the high-scoring Atlanta and New Orleans offenses, Carolina won't push for the crown with a porous defense.
Chicago Bears: EDGE Leonard Floyd
The Chicago Bears exercised Leonard Floyd's fifth-year option, but his sack numbers have dropped every year since he entered the league in 2016. He's recorded 7.0, 4.5 and 4.0, respectively.
Floyd took an encouraging step in one particular area last year: availability. For the first time in his career, he played a full 16-game slate. Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Roquan Smith applied immense pocket pressure, which masked the Georgia product's inefficiencies as a pass-rusher, though.
Floyd won't beat his assignments with power, but he's athletic with the quickness around the corner to disrupt the passing game. The Bears have yet to see him put his physical attributes together for a strong, complete campaign on the edge.
Despite Chicago's decision to extend Floyd's contract, general manager Ryan Pace may take an edge-rusher early in next year's draft to replace him if he's not a consistent contributor to the pass rush this season.
Cincinnati Bengals: QB Andy Dalton
Andy Dalton will play with a glaring spotlight and new eyes on his back throughout the 2019 campaign.
The Cincinnati Bengals hired head coach Zac Taylor to steer the franchise in a new direction following Marvin Lewis' 16-year tenure. The front office selected quarterback Ryan Finley in the fourth round of this year's draft. Owner Mike Brown wants to see Dalton perform before he opens discussion about an extension, per Cincinnati Enquirer's Fletcher Page.
"I think it's a good year for (Dalton) to show like he can, like we think he will," Brown said. "After he re-establishes himself, we would want to get together with him and see if we can extend [his contract]."
Unless the Bengals' 2019 season falls apart early because of a sluggish offense, we won't see Finley unseat Dalton this year. If Cincinnati fizzles early, this club would hold a high draft pick, giving team brass the opportunity to select a potential franchise signal-caller.
If Dalton doesn't impress the decision-makers, the front office can release him next year and save $17.7 million, per Over the Cap. Finley and possibly a rookie could battle for the starting spot in 2020.
Before tearing ligaments in his thumb, Dalton had a decent statistical season, logging 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a 64.6 quarterback rating. He'll need to show out to push for a new deal.
Cleveland Browns: RT Chris Hubbard
The Cleveland Browns signed Chris Hubbard to a five-year, $36.5 million deal during the last offseason. He didn't play up to his contract in 2018. The five-year veteran allowed 8.5 sacks in his first year with the club, per the Washington Post's STATs.
Cleveland may have found its long-term answer with Greg Robinson on the left side, but the front office should consider recouping its investment in Hubbard if he resembles a turnstile at right tackle. According to Over the Cap, the Browns can save $4.9 million in cap space if they release him next offseason.
In March, general manager John Dorsey signed offensive tackle Kendall Lamm, who suited up for 15 games (13 starts) with the Houston Texans last year. He only gave up 2.5 sacks, per the Washington Post's STATs. The 27-year-old seems like an underrated acquisition and a potential in-season replacement for Hubbard on the right side if necessary.
Dallas Cowboys: HC Jason Garrett
In January, the Dallas Cowboys won their first playoff game since the 2014 campaign; Jason Garrett isn't off the hook, though. Team owner Jerry Jones will allow him to coach through the final year of his contract but is holding off on extension talks.
Appearing on The Rich Eisen Show (h/t Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk), Jones didn't reveal his threshold for victories to retain Garrett beyond 2019.
"I'm satisfied with where we are with his contract right now," Jones said last month. "It is to be negotiated at some point in the future. We all know that we need to get out here and win ballgames."
Garrett will focus on the results rather than his long-term future with the franchise, per Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
"Our biggest focus is on what we need to do to be our best as players and coaches, and the rest of that stuff will take care of itself," he said. "The business of football is just part of it. It's always been a part of it."
Under Garrett, the Cowboys have a 77-59 record with three NFC East titles and two postseason victories. Over the last six campaigns, Dallas has flipped between single- and double-digit win seasons.
The front office will expect Garrett to guide the club to the postseason with the talent on the roster. The Cowboys signed defensive end Demarcus Lawrence to a five-year, $105 million extension, and they're in talks with quarterback Dak Prescott and wideout Amari Cooper on new deals.
As the cost of keeping top-notch talent rises, so do expectations. Garrett needs a strong campaign for a new contract.
Denver Broncos: DE DeMarcus Walker
Former Broncos head coach Vance Joseph and assistant Joe Woods tried to experiment with DeMarcus Walker's fit within their 3-4 defense.
Walker played defensive end at Florida State, and he took snaps in the outside linebacker position during his rookie term in 2017. He struggled in that role and played 100 snaps.
Last year, Walker only suited up for three games, logging four combined tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery. The front office hired Vic Fangio to replace Joseph and selected Dre'Mont Jones in the third round of this year's draft. Both moves will have an effect on Walker's standing.
At Ohio State, Jones registered 9.5 sacks and 22 tackles for loss; he's a consistent penetrator who could play defensive end in odd-man fronts and rush the quarterback in the nickel package—that's direct competition for Walker.
When asked about Walker's prospective role, Fangio (understandably) didn't have a clear answer at this stage in the offseason program, per Tim Lynch of SB Nation's Mile High Report:
"I'm not sure yet, but I do think that he's working extremely hard. I think he's making progress and ultimately with D-Line and O-Line you have to have the pads on to see. I like where he's at. I like where he's at emotionally too. I think he's in a good spot emotionally. He's probably matured in the last couple of years and we're going to see what he has or doesn't have here come training camp."
A coaching regime change can either work in the favor of players without defined roles or against them; the same applies to Walker. He may carve out a role on the defensive front, but he's also sitting on a fragile roster bubble with competition for reserve snaps at his position.
Detroit Lions: CB Teez Tabor
Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia and his assistants haven't given up on Teez Tabor, a 2017 second-round pick who doesn't have a pass breakup or an interception in 22 games.
According to Kyle Meinke of MLive.com, Tabor had a solid start to the offseason, but he's also had one performance that raised concerns:
"On Thursday alone, he was beat deep not once, not twice, not even three times, but four times on notable plays. Andy Jones got him twice on deep routes, and Andy Jones is known more for his blocking than his track speed. Danny Amendola got him for a big play over the middle. And when the Lions ran one fourth-and-goal play from the 8, a really difficult spot for the offense, well, you can probably guess where Matthew Stafford went with the football."
Wide receiver Andy Jones could become a surprise keeper on the 53-man depth chart, but Tabor's poor outing stands out because of his lack of production over the last two seasons.
The 23-year-old cornerback will likely battle Rashaan Melvin and Amani Oruwariye for a perimeter spot. If he doesn't lock down a starting job for the upcoming season, he may lose a spot in the rotation and—even worse—a place on the roster.
Green Bay Packers: CB Kevin King
After two shortened seasons because of injury, Kevin King needs a strong campaign to solidify his spot in the secondary. He's dealt with shoulder, groin and hamstring injuries since coming into the league.
Last year, the Packers selected Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson in the first two rounds of the draft. Both showed promise by leading the team in pass breakups (11 and 10, respectively). Although Tramon Williams transitioned to safety, he could move back to his natural position at cornerback.
Because Alexander and Jackson displayed early flashes, King faces more pressure to justify why the team selected him with the 33rd overall pick in 2017. Although he's made plays while on the field, the University of Washington product must stay healthy to prove his worth through an entire season.
If King struggles early or goes down with another injury, he could lose snaps to the 36-year-old Williams, a proven veteran, or Jackson, a 23-year-old cover man with the ability to line up in the slot or on the perimeter.
Houston Texans: OL Coach Mike Devlin
The Houston Texans surprised the NFL world when they fired general manager Brian Gaine on Friday. Regardless of whom the team hires to take over, coach Bill O'Brien shouldn't have to worry about his job security after club finished 11-5 last year—its best record under the lead skipper.
The pressure is on offensive line coach Mike Devlin. The Texans have struggled to protect the quarterback over the last two years. In 2017, Houston signal-callers took the second-most sacks (54), and Deshaun Watson led the league in that category last year (62).
Watson and wideout DeAndre Hopkins have a connection capable of leading this offense through dire times. On the flip side, the tandem cannot sustain its production if the quarterback continues to take an absurd amount of hits in the pocket.
According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Devlin will go into this season under heavy scrutiny after the team added offensive linemen via free agency and the draft.
"Lots of pressure on Mike Devlin, Homero," McClain wrote in response to a mailbag question. "There always is. Bill O'Brien believes Devlin is a good coach who needed more talent. They used first- and second-round picks on tackles, signed veteran tackle Matt Kalil and got back right tackle Seantrel Henderson."
Based on adjusted line yards, the Texans offensive line ranked 27th in run blocking and last in pass protection in sack rate last year, per Football Outsiders. If Watson struggles to evade relentless pressure in the pocket and the ball-carriers cannot find open running lanes, O'Brien could fire Devlin to keep himself off the hot seat.
Indianapolis Colts: CB Quincy Wilson
The Indianapolis Colts selected Quincy Wilson in the second round of the 2017 draft, but he hasn't panned out into a consistent starter. The Florida product admitted his early struggles and credited safety Mike Mitchell, who spent the 2018 campaign with the club, for helping his development.
Wilson posted a photo of himself and Mitchell in the locker room on Instagram with a telling caption: "A 22 year old kid struggling to find his way in the NFL and God put you in my life to help me get on the right path... Thank you for showing me the right way."
General manager Chris Ballard took some of the responsibility for Wilson's slow progress.
"It's not Quincy's fault that we drafted him when he was 20 years old," Ballard said, per 1070 The Fan. "That's not on Quincy Wilson. That's on me. It's also my fault for not emotionally helping him prepare better for his rookie season. That's on me. I'm very proud of him acknowledging that he needed to mature."
Wilson has recorded 39 solo tackles, eight pass breakups and two interceptions in 20 contests, which included 10 starts. The Colts selected Rock Ya-Sin and Marvell Tell III in the second and fifth rounds of this year's draft, respectively. The latter could play both cornerback and safety.
Both may cut into Wilson's time on the field in the upcoming season. The Colts didn't re-sign Mitchell, but his protege hopes to see results from the 10-year veteran's mentorship.
Jacksonville Jaguars: RB Leonard Fournette
The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Leonard Fournette with the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft. At that spot, he's expected to become a roster building block, but the LSU product has looked average through two seasons spotted with injuries.
Fournette has a career average of just 3.7 yards per carry and has missed 11 games because of hamstring, ankle and foot ailments. Last year, he served a one-game suspension for violating the league's unsportsmanlike conduct and unnecessary roughness rules, which voided the remaining guarantees on his contract, per Mark Long of the Associated Press (h/t News 4 Jax).
Even with quarterback Nick Foles under center, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo revealed his intention to use Fournette in a major role. He talked about the potential workload for the physical running back after Day 2 of OTAs.
"We're really looking forward to Leonard having a big year," DeFilippo said, per the team's official website. "I'm going to call it what it is: He's going to be a major reason where our offense goes. I'm not going to sugarcoat that. Leonard Fournette needs to be a big part of this offense."
Despite the play-caller's confidence, Fournette must provide a bigger return on the ground and avoid injuries. The front office will have to make a decision on his fifth-year option next offseason.
The Jaguars signed Alfred Blue and Thomas Rawls, and they selected Ryquell Armstead in the fifth round of this year's draft. All three tailbacks could steal carries from Fournette if injuries hinder him or he struggles to find open lanes.
Kansas City Chiefs: LB Reggie Ragland
Opposing quarterbacks targeted the middle of the Kansas City Chiefs defense last year. Linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland experienced difficulties closing gaps between the numbers.
During the offseason, general manager Brett Veach made a concerted effort to upgrade the linebacker unit, signing Damien Wilson and acquiring Darron Lee via trade with the New York Jets. In 2018, the latter flashed in coverage with three interceptions and five pass breakups.
According to defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Ragland fits the middle linebacker role in a 4-3, per Pete Sweeney of SB Nation's Arrowhead Pride.
"I think he fits the mold of the 'Mike' linebacker," he said. "I know he's battled some injuries, so hopefully, we can keep him [injury] free there."
If Ragland struggles to cover ground laterally, Spagnuolo may swap him out for a more athletic defender. The 25-year-old looked svelte at OTAs, according to Sweeney, which suggests he aimed to improve his agility. The Chiefs listed the 2016 second-rounder at 252 pounds last year.
Against spread offenses, it's important to stock up on midfield defenders who can cover the passing attack in space. Ragland started 15 games in 2018 and struggled to keep pace with pass-catchers in shallow zones.
The coaching staff could use Dorian O'Daniel and Wilson in nickel and passing situations while reducing Ragland's workload to running downs.
Los Angeles Chargers: RT Sam Tevi
Sam Tevi claimed the starting right tackle position after Joe Barksdale suffered a knee injury in Week 1 last season, but he goes into the upcoming campaign on notice.
The Los Angeles Chargers selected offensive tackle Trey Pipkins in the third round this year. He lined up primarily on the left side at Sioux Falls, but the rookie could see action on the right as an emergency option if Tevi doesn't show improvement in pass protection.
Tevi allowed seven sacks during the 2018 term, per the Washington Post's STATs. The Chargers cannot fulfill Super Bowl expectations with quarterback Philip Rivers under constant duress or on the ground. He's going into his age-38 campaign, so the team has a narrow title window.
2017 second-rounder Forrest Lamp may push Michael Schofield for his starting role, but the 28-year-old veteran could maintain a backup position for either spot on the right side. If Tevi loses his job because of subpar play in consecutive seasons, he's unlikely to see many snaps in the short-term future.
Los Angeles Rams: TE Tyler Higbee
One tight end's rise could lead to another's downfall on the Los Angeles Rams roster. Over the last two years, Tyler Higbee has taken the majority snaps over Gerald Everett. The former is a more complete player at the position because of his blocking ability.
During the offseason, Everett focused on becoming a complete asset at tight end, and he senses the development in his game, per Clarence Dennis of the Rams' official website.
"I feel like a better version of myself in reference to last year," Everett said. "Just older, a little bit wiser on the field, just more of a complete pro. And I feel like I'm a way better blocker than I was last year, so just feeling like an actual tight end now more so than just a receiving tight end."
Everett's attention to blocking assignments could translate into a bigger role in the upcoming term—possibly at Higbee's expense.
Higbee logged at least 70 percent of the Rams' offensive snaps in each of the last two seasons. The 26-year-old is going into his contract year, and it may take more than solid blocking downfield to keep Everett on the sidelines.
The Rams have a strong three-wide receiver unit, which limits the offense to one tight end with a single running back behind the signal-caller. At a press conference, head coach Sean McVay talked about the 11 personnel with Everett as a threat in the passing game.
"I think you can expect us to still be heavy 11 personnel, but I think what losing some guys, unfortunately, enabled us to do is really see how big-time Josh Reynolds and Gerald Everett can be in crunch-time situations," McVay said.
Higbee may land on the free-agent market after another modest campaign as a pass-catcher with a declining role in the Rams offense.
Miami Dolphins: WR DeVante Parker
Despite his underwhelming production through four seasons, DeVante Parker will have another opportunity to play up to his first-round billing in Miami. He's registered 163 receptions for 2,217 yards and nine touchdowns for his career.
The Dolphins fired head coach Adam Gase in December, but the front office's decision to clear out his staff may have extended Parker's tenure with the club. Lead skipper Brian Flores and his assistants will look at him with a fresh set of eyes.
It's probably now or never in Miami, though. Parker will play through the final year of his deal with so much to prove.
He has impressed previous regimes during the spring and summer, and he's off to a good start this offseason, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:
"DeVante Parker has been the best player in camp the past five weeks. He caught two more touchdowns Wednesday. Besides the TD against [Eric] Rowe, he also beat [Jomal] Wiltz and Bobby McCain for another long bomb from [Ryan] Fitzpatrick. If he played like this in games consistently, he would be a Pro Bowler."
Jackson pointed to one glaring issue. Can Parker show off his pass-catching skills when it counts?
Kenny Stills should lead the wide receiver group in targets, and the Dolphins signed Brice Butler last November. If Albert Wilson (hip) and Jakeem Grant (Achilles) return to action well before Week 1, both could dramatically shrink Parker's role in the passing offense.
Minnesota Vikings: CB Trae Waynes
The Minnesota Vikings have a loaded cornerback group, which brings uncertainty to 2015 first-rounder Trae Waynes' standing on the roster.
Waynes will go into a contract term following a down season; he recorded eight pass breakups and an interception through 14 games while battling a litany of ailments. The four-year veteran suffered a knee injury during last year's opening contest, and 2018 first-rounder Mike Hughes picked off a pass and broke up three others in his absence.
In October, Hughes tore his ACL, but he's an early-round selection who will have opportunities to lock down a starting role in the near future. Holton Hill, who went undrafted out of Texas in 2018, recorded seven pass breakups and an interception.
Head coach Mike Zimmer doesn't have to play Waynes if he struggles because of the quality options at the position. Hughes and Hill could take over on the perimeter with potentially bright futures ahead.
Hughes may need time to heal from his knee injury, and Hill must serve a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, but Waynes' spot isn't safe through the summer. According to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, the Vikings placed him on the trade block before the league year started in March.
If Waynes sticks to the roster through September, we could see a shake-up in the secondary if opposing quarterbacks target him with a high rate of success.
New England Patriots: WR Phillip Dorsett
Last year, we saw short glimpses of Phillip Dorsett's pass-catching capability on the perimeter, but he recorded 16 of his 32 receptions in the first four weeks of the season. Behind Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and Rob Gronkowski, the 26-year-old saw few targets throughout the 2018 campaign.
The Patriots re-signed Dorsett to a modest one-year, $2.6 million deal with only $500,000 in guarantees, per Spotrac. The front office also inked Gordon to a one-year contract. Despite another suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, he could return to action for training camp, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
New England signed veteran wide receivers Dontrelle Inman and Demaryius Thomas, who's recovering from a torn Achilles—both on one-year deals as well. Rookie first-rounder N'Keal Harry will likely play a huge role in the offense for the upcoming season; he took first-team reps during OTAs, per The Athletic's Jeff Howe.
"Harry got a lot of work with the starters, and those quality opportunities are never promised to rookies at this stage of the offseason program," Howe wrote.
Other than Harry and Edelman, it's anyone's guess as to who claims the No. 3 spot. Despite Dorsett's familiarity within the offense, he's far from a lock to make the 53-man roster going into his third season with the club.
New Orleans Saints: CB P.J. Williams
P.J. Williams became the New Orleans Saints' primary slot defender during the 2017 campaign and held on to the role last year. In that span, he's registered 18 pass breakups and three interceptions. The front office re-signed him to a one-year deal in April.
During the last offseason, the Saints signed Patrick Robinson, who put together one of his best seasons as a nickelback for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017, logging 18 pass breakups and four interceptions. In 2018, he broke his ankle three games into the campaign and landed on injured reserve. If not for the injury, Williams may have been given a limited number of snaps.
If Robinson goes through a full recovery, he could bump Williams out of the primary spot in the slot.
Furthermore, the Saints selected C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who plays with a physical style and the coverage skills to handle nickel responsibilities.
He talked about his fit within the secondary following rookie minicamp, per John DeShazier of the team's official website. "I'd say nickel is the best fit for me with this team, but we'll see as time goes on," Gardner-Johnson said.
Gardner-Johnson registered 161 total tackles, nine interceptions and 12 pass breakups through three terms at Florida.
Williams has an edge in familiarity within Dennis Allen's defense over Robinson and Gardner-Johnson. Still, he may lose a roster spot because of inconsistencies in coverage and limited upside.
New York Giants: QB Eli Manning
Even though he may not admit it, Eli Manning had to hear the clock ticking on his time as a starter when the New York Giants selected Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick.
Manning enters the final year of his deal, and he'll turn 39 years old in January. At least for now, the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback can serve as an example for the rookie. The steady veteran will likely open the year under center and hold on to his starting job until the season runs off the rails.
In 2018, Manning registered 4,299 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while completing 66 percent of his attempts. Big Blue acquired right guard Kevin Zeitler via trade and signed right tackle Mike Remmers to improve the quality of the offensive line, which bodes well for the long-tenured quarterback.
According to Matt Lombardo of NJ.com, Jones has shown more spark with his arm through spring practices.
"People ask me the biggest difference right now between Eli Manning and Daniel Jones. I think it's this: Jones has more of a propensity to push the ball deep and with more accuracy, while Manning continues to check down and there seems to be an erosion of arm strength," Lombardo tweeted.
Perhaps Manning doesn't feel the need to overexert his arm this early in the offseason at his age. Nonetheless, he developed a habit of throwing checkdown passes largely because of constant pocket pressure last year. Jones can evade the pass rush with his mobility.
Manning's experience and ability to read pro-level defenses give him the edge over Jones. Then again, the rookie's ability to push the ball downfield will appeal to the coaching staff if the Giants play catch-up in most of their games this season.
New York Jets: RG Brian Winters
At right guard, Brian Winters put together a couple of solid years in 2015 and '16, but he's allowed 10 sacks over the last two terms, per Washington Post's STATs.
Head coach Adam Gase may have concerns about interior pressure moving quarterback Sam Darnold off his mark. According to Football Outsiders, Gang Green ranked 18th in pass protection based on sack rate.
The Jets signed Tom Compton, who started 14 games at left guard for the Vikings last year; he has experience at right guard as well. The 30-year-old will likely serve in a backup role for multiple spots across the offensive line, but he's a serviceable stopgap starter on the interior.
Winters should open and finish the season at right guard, but he's under contract through the 2020 term without dead money owed for the remainder of his contract, per Spotrac. If the six-year veteran experiences more lapses in pass protection, the Jets would likely search for an upgrade at the position via free agency or next year's draft.
Oakland Raiders: OL Coach Tom Cable
Last year, quarterback Derek Carr found out what it is like to scramble for survival behind a poor pass-blocking offensive line; he took 51 sacks. Rookie tackles Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker allowed a combined 21.5 sacks, per Washington Post's STATs.
Tom Cable deserves another year to develop Miller into a starting-caliber left tackle; Parker will serve in a backup role with Trent Brown taking over at right tackle.
Nevertheless, Cable's offensive lines haven't ranked higher than 20th in pass protection over the last decade, per Football Outsiders (h/t Evan Silva of Rotoworld).
Other than Miller, Cable will work with a group of established veterans. Center Rodney Hudson and left guard Richie Incognito have six Pro Bowls between them. Coming off a solid campaign in New England, Brown inked a four-year, $66 million deal, which made him the highest-paid offensive lineman in the league. Gabe Jackson has been a solid presence at guard on both sides of the line for five terms.
If the Raiders cannot protect Carr with an experienced group and Miller stumbles through his sophomore term, head coach Jon Gruden must replace Cable.
Philadelphia Eagles: WR Nelson Agholor
The writing is on the wall for Nelson Agholor. Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman acquired DeSean Jackson via trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and selected J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in the second round of this year's draft.
Before the rookie addition at wideout, the Eagles opened their phone lines to trade offers for Agholor, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. Jackson will join Alshon Jeffery on the perimeter with Arcega-Whiteside challenging the USC product for a spot in three-wide-receiver sets.
In 2018, Agholor recorded 64 catches for 736 yards and four touchdowns, but he logged twice the number of scores during the 2017 term. Overall, his production is a bit underwhelming for a 2015 first-rounder.
At this juncture, coming off a decent year, the 26-year-old can still garner interest on the trade block.
Agholor struggled with drops through his first two years before posting decent receiving numbers over the last two terms. He's not a dynamic pass-catcher who stretches the field, and Jackson should fill that void.
The Eagles could deal Agholor for future draft capital and lean on a three-man rotation at wide receiver, featuring Jeffery, Jackson and Arcega-Whiteside or Mack Hollins, a 2017 fourth-rounder coming off sports hernia surgery.
Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Artie Burns
Artie Burns put together a solid rookie term, but he experienced some inconsistencies during his sophomore year and the coaching staff benched him in 2018, per ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler. The Miami product could hit rock bottom this offseason.
Ed Bouchette of The Athletic doesn't view Burns as a lock to make the 53-man roster this season. Head coach Mike Tomlin indicated a similar sentiment when asked about giving the 24-year-old another opportunity to show his potential in a prominent role.
"You know, that's what this process is about," Tomlin said. "It's not about giving him another chance. It's about putting together the very best group that we can put out there, and if that includes giving him another chance, then certainly, but it’s not per se specifically about giving him quote-unquote another chance."
During the offseason, the Steelers signed cornerback Steven Nelson to a three-year deal and selected cover man Justin Layne in the third round. General manager Kevin Colbert's moves suggest the team won't wait for Burns to bounce back while the pass defense goes through its ups and downs.
Burns must show his best through training camp or he'll become a notable offseason cut.
San Francisco 49ers: DL Arik Armstead
In 2018, Arik Armstead started 16 games for the first time in his four-year career. He registered 33 solo tackles, six for loss and three sacks. The San Francisco 49ers exercised the fifth-year option on his deal. With that said, the 2015 first-rounder will have to compete for snaps on the defensive line.
The 49ers have new additions at defensive end in rookie first-rounder Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. On the inside, DeForest Buckner will command attention on passing downs following a 12-sack season. Armstead could man the spot next to him, but the coaching staff may give Solomon Thomas an opportunity to blossom in his third season.
During his rookie campaign, Thomas broke into backfields frequently and led the 49ers in tackles for loss (10) to go along with three sacks.
Armstead can also fill gaps as a stout run defender.
Keep in mind—the current regime used the No. 3 overall pick on the Stanford product in 2017. Typically, the best player takes most of the snaps, but teams tend to lean toward the bigger investment between two talents on equal footing in a competition battle.
The 49ers' decision to exercise Armstead's fifth-year option indicates they want to see more of him. Still, general manager John Lynch can release the 25-year-old at any point this year and not owe him dead money if he doesn't suffer an injury.
Because of the additions on the edge, Armstead's role may already take a hit. If he struggles to stay healthy or build on a decent 2018 campaign, the Oregon product will take a significant step back in snap count en route to free agency in 2020.
Seattle Seahawks: OT Germain Ifedi
Through three seasons, Germain Ifedi had two factors working against him. He struggled with penalties and pass protection. According to Washington Post's STATs, the 25-year-old has committed 32 infractions and allowed 19 sacks in his career.
Ifedi's penalty count dropped during the last campaign under offensive line coach Mike Solari. He must provide better protection on the edge, especially after the front office inked quarterback Russell Wilson to the richest deal in the league.
The Seahawks declined Ifedi's fifth-year option. He won't solidify a long-term spot on the offensive line with marginal improvements and double-digit infractions.
The Seahawks selected Jamarco Jones in the fifth round of last year's draft. According to the News Tribune's Gregg Bell, he flashed at right tackle in August before suffering an ankle injury during training camp. The Ohio State product could emerge as a candidate to unseat Ifedi at some point this year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Jameis Winston
Usually, front offices don't need five years to spot a franchise quarterback; the Eagles just inked Carson Wentz to a four-year, $128 million extension before his fourth season.
The Buccaneers don't have the certainty to invest big bucks in Jameis Winston yet. He's shown questionable decision-making in the pocket, throwing 58 interceptions in 56 contests.
Winston looks to turn the page on his turnover-prone past under head coach Bruce Arians. The lead skipper noticed his quarterback putting in the work to push for better results. "He's here before me, he's leaving after me," the Buccaneers lead skipper said during an NFL Network interview.
Of course, Winston will need more than an impressive offseason to change his career trajectory. He won't have to share starting reps with Ryan Fitzpatrick, who signed with the Dolphins in March. However, an underwhelming campaign will put him on the free-agent market in 2020 and force the Buccaneers to renew their search for a franchise centerpiece.
Winston goes into a make-or-break contract year in a new offense, though Arians could revive his career in Tampa Bay.
Tennessee Titans: QB Marcus Mariota
Similar to Winston, Marcus Mariota has to show why he's a franchise signal-caller in the upcoming season. The Tennessee Titans exercised his fifth-year option; he's heading into a crucial contract year after throwing just 11 touchdown passes with eight interceptions last season.
In recent campaigns, the Titans established a reputation for their physicality in the trenches, which opened lanes for the ground attack. Going into the 2019 term, they made moves to spark the passing game. Tennessee signed wide receiver Adam Humphries and used a second-round pick on A.J. Brown.
The Titans shouldn't shy away from their ground attack—a unit that ranked sixth in yards last term. Nonetheless, a wide receiver corps featuring Brown, Humphries and Corey Davis raises offensive expectations. If Mariota doesn't post solid numbers through the air with this group, general manager Jon Robinson may look for a new starting signal-caller.
According to Erik Bacharach of the Tennessean, Mariota looked impressive with his pass-catchers through OTAs. He must force defenses to respect the aerial attack during the regular season, though. The Titans have ranked 23rd or worse in passing yards with him primarily under center.
Washington Redskins: HC Jay Gruden
Head coach Jay Gruden knows he's on the chopping block.
After he jokingly suggested the NFL should choose the Raiders to be the subject of HBO's Hard Knocks, one reporter reminded him the Washington Redskins wouldn't be eligible to do the show next year if they secure a postseason spot. In response, he said, "If we don't make the playoffs, I probably won't be here anyways," (h/t Tarik El-Bashir of The Athletic).
Through the laughter, Gruden told the bitter truth about his standing with the organization. Injuries have plagued this team over the past few seasons, and he's 35-44-1 as the head coach in five campaigns.
In 2015, Washington won the NFC East title with a 9-7 record but lost to the Packers during the Wild Card Round.
Quarterback Alex Smith remains out indefinitely with a broken leg, and linebacker Reuben Foster suffered a torn ACL during OTAs. With his job security on the line, Gruden cannot use injuries as an out for a disappointing season. Washington must adopt the motto "next man up" and win games.