The Hottest Hot Seat for Every NFL Team in 2020
Every year, general managers, coaches and players deal with scrutiny and competition. Those threats become more pronounced after a disappointing season.
Across the league, performance evens the playing field for better or worse. On one hand, anyone can lose their job because of a lack of productivity or progress. Yet a little push while on the hot seat could do more good than harm.
We'll go through all 32 teams to single out general managers, coaches and players who need a strong 2020 campaign to keep a job, maintain a starting role or keep the majority of snaps at their positions.
While each individual may escape the hot seat, they all face a legitimate threat to their job security.
Arizona Cardinals: DC Vance Joseph
Vance Joseph could lose his job during the 2020 season.
Dan Bickley of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM shed light on why Joseph deserves criticism despite the buzz around the team:
"There are red flags accompanying all this Big Red optimism. The biggest is Vance Joseph and his defense, a combination that underwhelmed in his debut season as defensive coordinator in Arizona. He was at the root of tremendous tactical and communication problems, head of a defense that couldn’t cover tight ends; blew too many assignments; missed too many tackles."
Last year, the Cardinals gave up the most yards and ranked 28th in points allowed. Cornerback Patrick Peterson missed six contests after violating the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy, though the unit still had decent playmakers in edge-rusher Chandler Jones, safety Budda Baker and linebacker Jordan Hicks.
The Cardinals signed defensive tackle Jordan Phillips in free agency following a career year in which he tallied 9.5 sacks and used the No. 8 overall pick to select versatile playmaker Isaiah Simmons out of Clemson.
If Arizona's defense doesn't make notable strides with a mix of veteran and promising young talent, then Joseph, who hasn't fielded a top-12 scoring defense as a head coach or coordinator, will likely need to look for work elsewhere.
Atlanta Falcons: HC Dan Quinn
The Atlanta Falcons have been battling a Super Bowl hangover for the past few seasons. Dan Quinn's squad has recorded back-to-back 7-9 campaigns, putting him on the hot seat.
At the end of 2019, Falcons owner Arthur Blank announced the team would keep Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff at their positions, though his statement included an increased sense of urgency.
"Over the last two seasons our results on the field have not met our standard or the expectations of our fans," Blank said. "I understand our fans' disappointment and frustration because I've felt every bit of it as well. That said, our focus must be on giving our franchise the best opportunity to win next year and beyond."
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo, the Falcons contemplated changes during the season, but after a Week 9 bye, Atlanta went 6-2, which likely saved Quinn's job. In 2020, this club must contend for a playoff spot, or else Blank will probably initiate a transition among the coaching and front-office ranks.
Baltimore Ravens: RB Mark Ingram II
In an appearance on the Baltimore Ravens' podcast The Lounge, general manager Eric DeCosta teased the idea of employing a four-man platoon in the backfield, which should be taken seriously.
Last season, Mark Ingram II eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards and made the Pro Bowl, achieving both feats for the third time in his career. Yet he'll compete for snaps with Gus Edwards, Justice Hill and rookie second-rounder J.K. Dobbins.
Through two seasons, Edwards has logged 1,429 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. The Ravens took Dobbins early in the draft, which suggests they plan to carve out a decent role for him. Because of the production and potential behind Ingram, he'll probably yield more of his touches to the younger tailbacks.
Ingram projects as the starter for Week 1, but if Dobbins flashes early, he might carry the majority load down the stretch. The Ohio State product rushed for 2,003 yards and 21 scores in his final collegiate campaign.
Buffalo Bills: CB Levi Wallace
The Buffalo Bills have a question mark at cornerback on the boundary.
Levi Wallace underwent shoulder surgery during the offseason, and in March, the front office signed Josh Norman, who played four seasons under Bills head coach Sean McDermott with the Carolina Panthers.
As the Panthers defensive coordinator, McDermott called plays for a unit that featured Norman at his peak as a 2015 All-Pro. Their familiarity bodes well for the 32-year-old cover man in a battle with Wallace for the starting role opposite Tre'Davious White.
In 2019, Wallace started in 16 contests, logging 76 tackles, four for loss, nine pass breakups and two interceptions. The Alabama product gave up 682 yards in coverage, though he showed enough potential to develop into a more consistent defender.
Wallace's unpredictable healing process coupled with Norman's past history with McDermott removes any guarantee that the third-year cornerback will hold on to his first-unit position.
Carolina Panthers: GM Marty Hurney
Marty Hurney isn't a stranger to the hot seat. The Carolina Panthers fired him during the 2012 campaign amid the club's fourth consecutive non-winning season. Dave Gettleman took over for him in 2013.
In 2017, the Panthers flipped the script, firing Gettleman and hiring Hurney as interim GM and then promoting him to the permanent position for his second stint.
In December, owner David Tepper supported Hurney after former head coach Ron Rivera's release.
"Marty Hurney is one of the best recognizers of college talent in the nation. Period, OK?" Tepper said. "I don't want to lose that. And he's also not a bad manager."
Even though the Panthers have a new coaching staff under lead skipper Matt Rhule, Tepper may re-evaluate his comments about Hurney if the team's last two draft classes provide little impact in 2020.
Furthermore, under Hurney's watch, the Panthers have a 102-122 record. He's not exempt from a thorough evaluation if Carolina finishes with a non-winning record for the sixth consecutive year under his leadership.
Chicago Bears: QB Mitchell Trubisky
Mitchell Trubisky's regression following his 2018 Pro Bowl campaign also puts general manager Ryan Pace on the hot seat. With that said, the front office declined the quarterback's fifth-year option and acquired Nick Foles from the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason, meaning the signal-caller could lose his job before the front-office executive.
Head coach Matt Nagy spun the imminent battle between Trubisky and Foles into a net positive for the team during an interview with the Bears All Access radio show on WSCR 670 AM.
"It's going to be a good situation for us," Nagy said. "And when we talked with Mitch, the excitement and determination and fire he had at knowing that this is going to be an open competition, that's who he is."
While the Bears will field the best signal-caller for the job, we can't underestimate the possibility that Trubisky may open the 2020 term on the sideline.
In clutch moments with the Philadelphia Eagles, Foles proved he's a capable starting quarterback. If the Super Bowl LII MVP shows some of those qualities during the summer, he's going to supplant Trubisky.
Cincinnati Bengals: DC Lou Anarumo
The Cincinnati Bengals may exercise some patience with second-year head coach Zac Taylor as the team goes through a rebuild. He'll also be working with a rookie quarterback, No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow. Barring a complete bottom-out in the standings, the lead skipper isn't likely to go down as a one-and-done.
If the Bengals open the 2020 campaign with a slow start, Taylor can attempt to upgrade his staff for optimal results, starting on the defensive side of the ball.
Last year, the Bengals had multiple playmakers on defense, including Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Sam Hubbard and Jessie Bates III, but the unit couldn't stop anyone. Cincinnati gave up the fourth-most yards and ranked 25th in points allowed.
Before Lou Anarumo accepted the defensive coordinator position, he had only served as an interim in the same role for the Miami Dolphins during the 2015 campaign. Perhaps his inexperience has worked against him in terms of optimizing talent.
This offseason, the Bengals revamped their secondary, signing Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander. Last year, William Jackson III played through a torn labrum, but if he's healthy, he completes a solid cornerback group.
While Taylor and Burrow build a rapport, Anarumo must lead a much-improved defense to help raise the Bengals' level of competitiveness in 2020.
Cleveland Browns: DE Olivier Vernon
Olivier Vernon's non-guaranteed $15.5 million cap hit makes him a target on the chopping block.
First of all, the new Cleveland Browns regime doesn't have ties to Vernon. Former general manager John Dorsey sent guard Kevin Zeitler to the New York Giants for the defensive end in March 2019.
Secondly, Vernon battled a knee injury last year, missing six contests. He logged 26 tackles, four for loss and 3.5 sacks—his least productive year as a starter.
If the Browns land Clowney or any other edge-rusher, such as Everson Griffen, who shares Minnesota Vikings ties with new head coach Kevin Stefanski, the front office will likely release Vernon and save $15.5 million.
Per Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the team can wait up until a week before the regular season kicks off to cut Vernon and owe him nothing. If a young player catches the coaching staff's attention during training camp, the Browns may opt to save millions and go with a less costly option opposite Myles Garrett.
Dallas Cowboys: LG Connor Williams
New head coach Mike McCarthy and his staff will take a fresh look at the roster and probably make some tweaks to the previous regime's setup.
Coming out of Texas as a second-round pick in 2018, Connor Williams transitioned from tackle to guard, filling a need on the Dallas Cowboys offensive line. The following year, the front office selected Connor McGovern, who sat out his rookie campaign because of a torn pectoral.
According to John Owning of the Dallas Morning News, Williams has made strides but not enough to unquestionably lock down the left guard position.
"Williams has steadily progressed each year since entering the NFL in 2018, just not at the rate that those who were spoiled by [Zack] Martin hoped for," Owning wrote.
As a natural interior lineman, McGovern could make a push for Williams' spot, though the former may also win the job at center to replace Travis Frederick, who retired.
Williams must show more progress in front of his new coaches. If not, the Cowboys could field two new starters on the offensive line.
Denver Broncos: LT Garett Bolles
The Denver Broncos declined Garett Bolles' fifth-year option, which isn't a surprise.
According to ESPN's Jeff Legwold, Bolles has drawn the most holding penalties in each of his three campaigns and has been flagged a total of 46 times.
Broncos president of football operations and general manager John Elway made note of Bolles' on-field fouls and highlighted the left tackle as someone who will be facing more scrutiny going into 2020, per Cecil Lammey of 104.3 The Fan.
"The hard thing is that Garett is under the microscope. He's under the microscope and any time they say '72,' it brings down the whole stadium," Elway said. "That happens. He got himself in that position, so we'll continue working at it."
Elway also declared an open competition between Bolles and Elijah Wilkinson, who started 12 games at right tackle in 2019. While the former should maintain his job at left tackle, he's certainly not a lock to finish the year as a starter.
Detroit Lions: HC Matt Patricia
Detroit Lions owner Martha Ford turned up the heat on general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia at the end of the 2019 season. She laid out her expectations for 2020 and beyond.
"We expect to be a playoff contender," Ford said, "and those are our expectations, which we've expressed to both Bob and to Matt."
Although Quinn and Patricia could go out together, the latter has drawn direct criticism from former players, which may lead to an early ouster if he loses the locker room.
In March, the Lions traded cornerback Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles. Speaking on Detroit radio station WJR (via MLive's Kyle Meinke), he didn't hold back his opinion on Patricia.
"Shoot, I didn't have that much respect for Matty P as a person," Slay said. "It was hard for me to play for him. That's all that was."
Via text, an anonymous former Lions player told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press about Patricia's tardiness for team meetings in 2018.
Furthermore, Patricia has a 9-22-1 record as a head coach. Based on Ford's statement, a sluggish start may prompt early change with the hope that a new voice can turn the team's season around.
Green Bay Packers: DE Tyler Lancaster
The Green Bay Packers need a stronger defensive front to combat ground attacks. In 2019, the unit ranked 23rd in rushing yards allowed and endured an embarrassment during the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers, giving up 285 yards and four scores on the ground.
At nose tackle, Kenny Clark made the Pro Bowl last season. He's a solid foundational pillar in the trenches, but the Packers have to develop a reliable complementary defender next to him.
Tyler Lancaster didn't provide much help in run situations, adding just 30 tackles even though he lined up for 37 percent of the defensive snaps. The 6'3", 313-pounder logged the second-most plays among interior linemen, starting in 10 out of 16 outings.
Montravius Adams' recent arrest on three misdemeanor counts may affect his ability to take on a bigger role. Kingsley Keke, a 2019 fifth-rounder, has the best shot to unseat Lancaster if the coaching staff wants to see competition at the position.
Houston Texans: GM/HC Bill O'Brien
Typically head coaches land on the hot seat because they haven't won enough games. That's not Bill O'Brien's issue.
Under O'Brien, the Houston Texans have claimed four division titles and finished with just one losing season. However, he's made some bold offseason moves, trading defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and acquiring left tackle Laremy Tunsil.
In January, the Texans formally named O'Brien their general manager, but team chairman and CEO Cal McNair acknowledged the lead skipper had executive pull before the announcement, per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.
"This is the way we've been operating for the last eight months," McNair said.
While O'Brien the head coach has a solid track record, the club isn't quite sold on him as a general manager, per ESPN's Jeff Darlington (h/t Garrett Stepien of 247Sports)
"Will Bill O'Brien, in his efforts and attempts to change the culture with the Texans, get enough time as the general manager to do that? Because he is squarely on the hot seat at this point," Darlington said. "Despite the fact that he only has one losing season since he joined the team in 2014."
The Texans traded notable playmakers and made Tunsil the highest-paid offensive lineman in the league based on annual salary ($22 million). If Houston takes a step back, O'Brien may need to find a new job.
Indianapolis Colts: RB Marlon Mack
Usually, we use the cliche phrase one-two punch to describe a backfield with a pair of solid ball-carriers. Per ESPN's Mike Wells, Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich appears to have subscribed to that idea as the team prepares to pair Marlon Mack and rookie second-rounder Jonathan Taylor.
Offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni views the Mack-Taylor combination slightly differently, per Andrew Walker of the Indianapolis Colts' official website.
"It feels like it's just a one-one punch though because we have two such exceptional backs," Sirianni said. "They have some different running styles, but again they're both complete backs. I think that's a fantastic problem to have, is to have two guys like that you can feed the football to."
Mack has led the Colts backfield in rushing over the last two years. Taylor finished as the Big Ten's lead rusher for each of the last three terms and also ran for the most yards (2,194) across the nation in 2018.
The Colts should field a strong ground attack, though Taylor may lead the charge in some matchups. Remember, Mack has missed eight games through three seasons because of injury. If the rookie can stay healthy and productive, he has the potential to take over the backfield.
Jacksonville Jaguars: HC Doug Marrone
Doug Marrone experienced a period of uncertainty following the Jacksonville Jaguars' 6-10 finish in 2019. He expressed uneasiness about his job security, per ESPN's Michael DiRocco.
"Am I disappointed? Obviously," Marrone said. "Am I concerned? Yes, you're always concerned when you have a disappointing season, but for this moment, when I leave here after I'm done answering the questions [from the media] ... I might have a little bit more than one beer."
With a 22-28 record as the head coach for the Jaguars, Marrone will have another opportunity to turn around his tenure in Jacksonville after back-to-back losing seasons. He's going to work with his third offensive coordinator in three years after the team hired Jay Gruden, who will replace John DeFilippo.
As an offensive coordinator and head coach, Gruden helped develop quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Kirk Cousins. Marrone needs him to work wonders with second-year signal-caller Gardner Minshew II in order to field a more competitive squad in 2020. If that doesn't happen, the lead skipper won't survive another meeting with owner Shad Khan.
Kansas City Chiefs: LB Damien Wilson
According to Over the Cap, the Chiefs would owe Hitchens $7.9 million in dead money if they release him, so he's probably going to keep his job. The front office doesn't have a substantial financial commitment to Wilson, whose expiring contract only carries $875,000 in dead cash.
Kansas City selected Willie Gay Jr. in the second round of April's draft, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo expects the rookie to replace Reggie Ragland as a "Sam" linebacker closer to the line of scrimmage. The Mississippi State product has enough athleticism to cause disruption in the passing game. He snagged three interceptions and broke up four passes as a collegian.
Using mostly two linebackers, Spagnuolo may have a competition between Wilson and Gay for a role alongside Hitchens.
Las Vegas Raiders: QB Derek Carr
Derek Carr goes into his third season in head coach Jon Gruden's system with a plethora of pass-catchers, including Darren Waller, Henry Ruggs III (No. 12 overall pick), Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards (No. 81 overall pick), Nelson Agholor and Jason Witten.
Even without on-field practices, Carr should have some success with veteran receivers who have a handle on the professional game. If not, the Raiders can turn to Marcus Mariota, who's the highest-paid backup ever, per ESPN's Paul Gutierrez.
"In fact, ESPN Stats & Info research shows that Mariota's $7.5 million base salary is the highest for a player in the first year of a new contract who is scheduled to be a backup in 2020, just under the $8 million Teddy Bridgewater will make as a base salary starting for the Carolina Panthers," Gutierrez wrote.
In his second season under Gruden, Derek Carr made strides, logging a career-high 100.8 quarterback rating. Yet he hasn't come to close to his 2016 showing, when he helped lead the Silver and Black to a 12-4 record.
The Raiders need to see more of Carr at his peak, or else Mariota will transition from a high-paid clipboard-holder to an inexpensive starter.
Los Angeles Chargers: LB Denzel Perryman
The Los Angeles Chargers have a deep linebacker unit with multiple players capable of handling decent workloads. While that's a positive for the team, Denzel Perryman may lose significant snaps.
In 2019, Perryman lined up for just 358 defensive plays, partially because of a knee injury, which is a common theme throughout his five-year career. The veteran linebacker has missed 24 games since entering the league.
Last season, Drue Tranquill played 380 defensive snaps. Kyzir White, who has the versatility to line up in different spots across the second level of the defense, logged 372 snaps. The Chargers traded up to select linebacker Kenneth Murray with the No. 23 overall pick.
At 6'2", 241 pounds, Murray can man the middle, as he did at Oklahoma, or line up on the outside.
With all the talent at linebacker and Perryman's extensive injury history, his job security seems a bit shaky.
Los Angeles Rams: RT Rob Havenstein
In Week 10 of the previous season, Rob Havenstein suffered a meniscus injury, which allowed Bobby Evans to start the last seven games.
For the most part, Evans stood his ground in run-blocking sets and only allowed one sack, per Pro Football Focus. The rookie showed enough potential to warrant consideration for a starting role. New offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell also alluded to competition at right tackle (h/t Cameron DaSilva of Rams Wire).
"That competition and those two guys over there at the right tackle spot, I personally just watching the tape and really studying those guys, I've got a ton of confidence in both of them," O'Connell said.
If Evans beats Havenstein for the position, the Rams could entertain trade offers for the former, who's in his prime with extensive starting experience. Then again, perhaps they keep him as a backup in case injuries ravage the group.
Miami Dolphins: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
Ryan Fitzpatrick may not have an opportunity to rekindle his magic with offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. In this case, familiarity with the coaching staff won't necessarily outweigh a younger player's potential.
Fitzpatrick ran Gailey's system for three seasons in Buffalo and two with the New York Jets. The veteran quarterback posted his best numbers while under center for Gang Green in 2015, throwing for 3,905 yards, 31 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
However, the Miami Dolphins selected Tua Tagovailoa with the No. 5 overall pick, and the team could look to the future sooner rather the later, per Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman.
"The more compelling question isn't whether Tagovailoa starts at some point this year; it's whether he will start at the beginning of it," Freeman wrote. "And according to every coach I've spoken to, it's a foregone conclusion that he will beat out veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick and start Week 1 against the Patriots on Sept. 13."
During the offseason, Tagovailoa would have to show he's ready to play following hip surgery. The Dolphins don't have to rush him back to action, but if the Alabama product moves well during practices and through the preseason, the coaching staff will find it difficult to keep him on the sideline.
Minnesota Vikings: LG Pat Elflein
As an adviser, Gary Kubiak worked with former offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski to design a run-heavy offense that ranked sixth in rushing during the previous term. The former will replace the latter, which probably means significant overlap in the scheme. In order to execute those play designs, the Minnesota Vikings must sort out their starting guard positions.
According to The Athletic's Chad Graff, the Vikings seem set on a front-runner at right guard, but Pat Elflein could lose his spot on the left.
"The Vikings seem confident that [Dru] Samia will be able to win a competition for one of the guard spots. What happens with the other will be fascinating. The Vikings can slide a tackle (likely [Riley] Reiff but potentially [Ezra] Cleveland) there, give the job back to Elflein despite his struggles a year ago, or try someone like [Aviante] Collins or [Dakota] Dozier at the position."
After a solid rookie campaign at center, Elflein struggled through his second term and then moved to left guard while 2019 first-rounder Garrett Bradbury manned the pivot last year. Following the shift, he allowed six sacks, per Pro Football Focus.
If rookie second-rounder Ezra Cleveland shines during training camp at left tackle or left guard, the Vikings could shuffle the offensive line to field their best five-man combination, which may not include Elflein.
New England Patriots: WR Mohamed Sanu
The New England Patriots signed their entire rookie class, and they're left with $1.3 million in cap space, which leaves little financial wiggle room for roster tweaks during the summer.
New England can attempt to save cash at positions with promising young talent. The club could release wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, whose contract carries a $6.5 million cap hit, and focus on Jakobi Meyers' development.
Sanu underwent ankle surgery during the offseason. In August, he'll turn 31 years old on an expiring deal.
Meyers' 2020 cap number is set at $678,333. As a rookie, he had some flashes, registering 26 receptions for 359 yards. The undrafted NC State product has high hopes for his second term, per Paul Perillo of the Patriots' official website.
"Mentally, I want to be levels ahead of where I was last year," Meyers said. "… I want to build on last year. It was a nice stepping stone, but I want to keep building and growing."
The Patriots can field a three-wide-receiver set featuring Julian Edelman, 2019 first-rounder N'Keal Harry and Meyers with Marqise Lee in contention for a role on the outside. Although serviceable, Sanu's cap hit makes him expendable at his age following a required surgery.
New Orleans Saints: CB P.J. Williams
Primarily in the slot, P.J. Williams has held a steady role within the New Orleans Saints secondary since 2017. He re-signed with the team on a one-year, $2 million deal, but his snaps on the inside may go to Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.
The Athletic's Katherine Terrell projects Gardner-Johnson will take the field in nickel alignments.
"Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins will be the outside starters at cornerback, with Malcolm Jenkins, Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Williams the probable starters at safety or in the big nickel formation," Terrell wrote.
Defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn confirmed Gardner-Johnson will take a lot of snaps in the slot, per Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football.
Gardner-Johnson had an impressive rookie campaign, recording 49 tackles, six for loss, eight pass breakups and an interception at safety and slot cornerback. Linebacker Demario Davis praised the Florida product's playmaking ability, per Cory Diaz of the News Star.
"He's keeping the game simple, keeping the game very individualized to himself; what he needs to do. That’s helping him play at a high level. We have a very complex defense, but he’s understanding what he’s being asked to do. He’s locked in on his assignment, he’s prepared and he’s a phenomenal football player. You put him on the field he makes plays."
As a young player on the rise, Gardner-Johnson should see a bigger workload in 2020, which will probably happen at Williams' expense.
New York Giants: GM David Gettleman
The New York Giants won't give Dave Gettleman extra time to field a competitive team with a new coaching staff.
Giants co-owner John Mara said Gettleman's "batting average has got to increase going forward." According to The Athletic's Jay Glazer, Big Blue's general manager made a compelling pitch to keep his job.
"He made a case to ownership to come back," Glazer wrote. "He presented a plan for how he'll turn it around in a year. That needs to happen. If it doesn't happen, he'll be gone and rightfully so."
Now, Gettleman has to deliver on his word. Under his stewardship, the Giants have a 9-23 record, taking a slight step back in the win column between 2018 and 2019.
The Giants selected Daniel Jones with the No. 6 overall pick in 2019. He showed flashes, throwing for 3,027 yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. With running back Saquon Barkley and three other first-rounders since 2018, Mara wants to see his team headed in the right direction. Gettleman needs three years of offseason roster building to pay off.
New York Jets: HC Adam Gase
Head coach Adam Gase's standing with the team hinges on quarterback Sam Darnold's development in addition to the team's win-loss record.
Despite his 23-25 head coaching record, Gase landed the Jets job as the team hoped to pair a young offensive mind with its high-potential signal-caller. ESPN's Rich Cimini highlighted Darnold's second-year struggles as a poor reflection of the head coach.
"His regression doesn't bode well for Gase, who was hired, in large part, to make Darnold into a star," Cimini wrote.
Lamar Jackson won league MVP, Josh Allen helped lead the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs, and Baker Mayfield had a promising rookie campaign. Only Josh Rosen has shown less potential than Darnold among 2018 first-round quarterbacks.
Gase's former quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, went from Miami to Tennessee and became the 2019 Comeback Player of the Year in arguably his best season, which doesn't look good for Gang Green's offensive guru.
If Darnold doesn't elevate his completion rate above 60 percent and cut down on turnovers while playing a key role in more team victories, owner Christopher Johnson and general manager Joe Douglas will likely open the search for a new head coach.
Philadelphia Eagles: DB Jalen Mills
The Philadelphia Eagles allowed Malcolm Jenkins to walk in free agency. Jalen Mills will transition from cornerback to safety as a potential replacement, per Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"General manager Howie Roseman didn't shy from projecting Mills as the starting strong safety opposite free safety Rodney McLeod," McLane wrote. "But as Jenkins proved, the position could be many things, and the Eagles view Mills as a positionless player."
Versatile players have multiple seats, which increases their job security. However, Mills could miss out on two starting positions in the secondary.
Mills will face competition at safety with Will Parks and rookie fourth-rounder K'Von Wallace set to vie for snaps alongside McLeod.
The Eagles acquired cornerback Darius Slay from the Detroit Lions. Avonte Maddox and Sidney Jones will probably compete for the other spot on the boundary, which makes it difficult for Mills to slide back into his natural position as a starter if his move to safety falls flat.
When the dust settles, Mills could open the season as a backup cornerback and safety after starting in 34 out of 48 career games.
Pittsburgh Steelers: TE Vance McDonald
Over the last two terms, Vance McDonald saw his role expand, but that trend may turn in the opposite direction.
The Pittsburgh Steelers signed Eric Ebron, who's just two years removed from a Pro Bowl campaign. Head coach Mike Tomlin talked about his new tight end and McDonald as a duo for the upcoming season, per Joe Rutter of Triblive.com.
"We know that he and Vance McDonald are the type of duo that are capable of creating issues for people with their talents," Tomlin said. "We're excited about having those guys, and we'll sort out the usage of those guys week to week."
Ebron and McDonald have established track records in the passing game. The Steelers can use two-tight-end sets to keep both of them on the field.
Nonetheless, Ebron has racked up at least 537 receiving yards in four of six terms as primarily a pass-catcher at tight end, whereas McDonald eclipsed 400 yards once in seven years.
If offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner fields a pass-heavy offensive attack similar to the 2018 unit that led the league in attempts with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger under center, Ebron may become the primary option at tight end.
San Francisco 49ers: WR Dante Pettis
The San Francisco 49ers probably expected more than 38 receptions for 576 yards and seven touchdowns through two seasons from Dante Pettis, a 2018 second-rounder.
Pettis has battled knee injuries, missing nine games in two terms. On top of that, he hasn't earned the confidence of the coaching staff. The Washington product was a healthy scratch late in the 2019 campaign and for Super Bowl LIV.
The Athletic's Matt Barrows could see San Francisco cutting ties with Pettis if he's unable to carve out a role with rookie first-rounder Brandon Aiyuk in the fold.
"Pettis is one of the most intriguing figures of the group," Barrows wrote. "[Kyle] Shanahan has been doing everything in his power to push Pettis into becoming more of a tiger on the field," Barrow wrote. "If he can do that, the 49ers would have someone to push Aiyuk for playing time. If not, Pettis could be heading for an early exit.
Aside from Deebo Samuel and to an extent Kendrick Bourne, the 49ers don't have a lot of proven talent at wide receiver. Pettis can still work his way into the team's plans, though he has a lot of ground to make up.
Seattle Seahawks: OG Mike Iupati
Mike Iupati's decorated resume won't exempt him from in-house competition. He's an All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler who will battle Phil Haynes for the left guard position, per Michael-Shawn Dugar of The Athletic.
"Iupati and Haynes will duke it out for the left guard job, though I imagine the veteran winning matchup while the 2019 fourth-round pick waits in the wings for another year," Shawn-Dugar wrote.
Although Dugar expects Iupati to win the battle, the veteran guard cannot take his competitor lightly after a subpar 2019 showing. According to Pro Football Focus, he committed eight penalties and allowed five sacks.
Last season, Iupati suited up for all 16 contests, but he's missed 21 outings since 2017. Hayes has a prime opportunity to beat the oft-injured 33-year-old for the starting job.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Ronald Jones II
In April, general manager Jason Licht spoke confidently about Ronald Jones II, per ESPN's Jenna Laine.
"We have a lot of faith in Ronald. We have more faith in him than we ever have," Licht said.
Despite Licht's comments, Jones hasn't shown the ability to handle a featured role. After a nondescript rookie campaign, he logged 203 touches, which ranked 27th among running backs last year.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Ke'Shawn Vaughn in the third round. He's a dual-threat tailback who registered 3,944 yards (3,296 rushing and 648 receiving) and 33 touchdowns from scrimmage as a collegian.
In 2019, Jones almost evenly split carries with Peyton Barber (172-154). If Vaughn makes an immediate impact, we could see a similar timeshare on the ground with the rookie also active in the short passing game.
With quarterback Tom Brady's tendency to target natural pass-catching running backs, such as James White, Vaughn could unseat Jones as the lead back at some point in 2020.
Tennessee Titans: CB Malcolm Butler
Malcolm Butler has experienced a rough two-year stretch with the Tennessee Titans.
In 2018, Butler struggled in coverage, allowing 840 yards and seven touchdowns. He landed on injured reserve with a broken wrist after nine appearances last season.
Perhaps MMQB's Albert Breer had a crystal ball when he assessed the Titans cornerback group in February.
"Tennessee could go through a significant overhaul at the position, with Logan Ryan a free agent and Malcolm Butler a cut candidate. … And with the Titans needing to allocate money for whoever their quarterback is and Derrick Henry, this could be a spot best shored up in the draft," Breer wrote.
The Titans selected Kristian Fulton in the second round of April's draft and signed Johnathan Joseph, who's familiar with head coach Mike Vrabel from their shared time in Houston (2014-17).
Joseph could become a one-year stopgap on the boundary if the Titans cut Butler and save $5.4 million in cap space. Because of Fulton's draft status, he'll likely start in the near future.
With new additions at cornerback, the Titans can comfortably move on from Butler before or during the 2020 campaign.
Washington Redskins: QB Dwayne Haskins Jr.
While it seems hasty to place Dwayne Haskins Jr. on the hot seat, he's playing under a coaching regime that didn't draft him.
Haskins may have owner Dan Snyder's support right now, but the second-year quarterback will need to build upon his solid late-season performances before he suffered an ankle injury and missed Week 17.
Haskins also has to contend with newly acquired Kyle Allen, who's familiar with offensive coordinator Scott Turner's play-calling because of his fill-in starts for quarterback Cam Newton in Carolina last year.
If the Redskins land a top-five 2021 draft pick, head coach Ron Rivera may strongly consider a signal-caller of his choosing rather than one he inherited upon accepting the job.
Secondly, we shouldn't rule out another chapter for Rivera and Newton, who's still a free agent. According to Josina Anderson, formerly of ESPN, the Redskins "discussed" acquiring the All-Pro signal-caller.
Rivera and Newton helped lead the Panthers to Super Bowl 50. If Washington struggles while the 2015 league MVP waits for a call, we could see a player-coach reunion in the nation's capital.