With the 2013 NFL preseason games done, there are still many lingering questions several teams around the league have to deal with. Whether it’s improving their defense, or offensive line, or how to get the offense clicking, organizations are keeping a close eye on the personnel hitting the field every morning; watching them, watching who’s going to improve their roster, and who’s expendable.
NFL players are no different from you and me (except that they get paid to play something we dream of doing every day). Just like the interview processes we go through, these players are auditioning for a spot on a roster. It doesn’t matter if they’ve been in the league for several years, or rookies that are coming in with an impressive resume, what matters is what they can provide for the team now—especially now when most teams around the NFL are in win-now modes.
It’s the sad, and unfortunate, truth of the NFL, but that’s the way the business is. One year, we’re celebrating a player’s promising career (read: Jay Cutler), the next season he’s on the hot seat.
Let’s take a look at a couple of players under the most pressure to prove themselves.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears quarterback
Jay Cutler had a promising career at one point. The quarterback out of Vanderbilt showed flashes of his potential in his second year in the pros with the Denver Broncos, in 2007, but the 2008 season is when he really made a name for himself. That year, Cutler finished the season with 4,526 yards passing, 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, completing 62.3 percent of his passes, showcasing his talent and gunslinger mentality—unfortunately for him that was the last season he was in a Broncos uniform.
Cutler moved his talents to Chicago, but never duplicated that one season when the sky was the limit for the young quarterback. Although it was never 100 percent Cutler’s fault that he couldn’t take the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl—he came awfully close—his team’s fans did like to think so, placing all the blame on the quarterback. In Cutler’s four seasons with the Bears, he has thrown for 12,292 yards, with 82 touchdowns, but, at the same time, he has turned the ball over 87 times in those four seasons (63 interceptions, 24 fumbles). While those amount of turnovers are unacceptable, let’s not forget the revolving door of offensive coordinators that Cutler had to go through; how about the poor offensive line that kept Cutler on the run most of time, or his lack of receivers.
But that doesn’t matter. With a new head coach, and some added weapons, this may be Cutler’s last chance to prove to the Bears and its fans that he can be that quarterback they need.
Mark Sanchez, New York Jets quarterback
Talk about the most pressure this season. Embattled New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez must feel like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders—and with the New York media on him, he probably does.
After leading the New York Jets to back-to-back AFC championship games in 2009 and 2010, the Jets have failed to make the playoffs the last two seasons, with Sanchez under center. Although he didn’t put up gaudy numbers during those two successful seasons, he was a serviceable quarterback—especially in the playoffs, where he has a 4-2 record. But things really came to light when the Jets started losing, but it didn’t help the young quarterback’s development with a change in offensive coordinator; the lack of receivers and the lack of a run game also contributed to the Sanchez’s meltdown.
The past two seasons, Sanchez has committed 52 turnovers, with only 39 touchdowns. That is unacceptable, especially for an organization and its fan base aching for some success. Having grown tired of Sanchez’s turnovers, the team went out and drafted Geno Smith out of West Virginia, in the second round on this year’s draft, hoping that he can take over and lead the team to success. So, naturally, the Jets quarterback battle between the four-year veteran and the rookie is being covered and over-covered.
It doesn’t help that Sanchez went down in a preseason game against the New York Giants, but when/if he comes back, he’s going to have to fight to get that starting spot and prove to the organization and its fan base that he is the one that can give the Jets success. If he doesn’t, then this season may be the last time we see Sanchez in green and white.
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans running back
Remember this guy? CJ2K? The Tennessee Titans running back that all fantasy football team owners were foaming out the mouth for?
This was back in 2009, when the running back rushed for 2,009 yards, averaging 5.6 yards per carry that season. Johnson never came close to those numbers again. What happened to that elusive and explosive running back? Maybe it was the Titans offensive line, or maybe it was the team trying to transition over to a pass-heavy attack last season. In order for the Titans to be successful, they need the Chris Johnson of old, dominating and making defenders look silly—and they are aware of this.
Below is the Titans preseason game against the Washington Redskins, where Chris Johnson exploded for a 58-yard touchdown run.
Courtesy of Bleacher Report
It was clear that the Titans’ top priority was trying to move back to a run-first offense by working on improving their offensive line. The Titans brought in top guard Andy Levitre on a six-year deal worth $46 million, and also drafted Chance Warmack with the 10th pick of this year’s NFL draft. Now, it’s just up to Chris Johnson whether or not he can take advantage of his team’s improved offensive line.
No excuses this time around.