The hot seat: Thirty-two players who must produce early in 2008
Most of the time, the term "hot seat" focuses on coaches and front office personnel, but there is no shortage of players who realize they may be at a crossroad in their careers should they not get off to fast starts during the 2008 season.
The following list looks at some of those players -- one from each team -- a few of them on longer leashes than others with which to show what they can do. While some are in danger of losing a starting role, others are in the more precarious position of losing their roster spot. In a quarterback-driven league, perhaps it comes as no surprise that this is a quarterback-centric list.
1. Donovan McNabb, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: Though it is not being talked about much in Philadelphia, if the Eagles get off to a horrific start, some members of the organization and fan base may clamor to see what Kevin Kolb can do. The oft-injured McNabb is now having some shoulder issues, a bad sign for a quarterback in June. Andy Reid's loyalty to McNabb leads one to believe he will be given every chance to succeed, especially given some of the holes he has led this team out of in the past. But at some point this organization has proven they will move on if they have to.
2. Jason Campbell, QB, Washington Redskins: New coach Jim Zorn has said publicly Campbell is his starting quarterback but this is a veteran-laden team that is built to win now. If Campbell struggles to assimilate himself to another new offense, the reins may have to be turned over to last year's hero, Todd Collins.
3. Roy Williams, S, Dallas Cowboys: The object of a lot of frustration among Cowboys supporters, Williams must find a way to make an impact early or he will find himself back on the bench in passing situations, and ultimately, off the roster altogether.
4. Jeremy Shockey, TE, New York Giants: If Shockey has a bad attitude or is not productive, the Giants will not hesitate to move him before the trade deadline, especially if Kevin Boss proves he is worthy of handling the role full-time. The Giants will not allow Shockey to mess up the chemistry that was created during last year's Super Bowl run.
1. Dwayne Jarrett, WR, Carolina Panthers: Jarrett was a huge disappointment in year one and has drawn the ire of Panthers star Steve Smith. With the additions of Muhsin Muhammad and D.J. Hackett, Jarrett risks fading into oblivion.
2. Reggie Bush, RB, New Orleans Saints: Though Bush is not in jeopardy of losing his job or his role as 3rd down back for the Saints, he is getting closer to being considered a disappointment at best and a bust at worst. Bush needs to ignite the Saints offense with some big plays early in 2008 to renew confidence in play-caller Sean Payton.
3. Michael Clayton, WR, Tampa Bay Bucs: Clayton has been plagued by a myriad of injuries after a fantastic rookie season. Gruden's patience is wearing thin with Clayton and his roster spot might even be in danger with the addition of second-round pick Dexter Jackson.
4. Michael Jenkins, WR, Atlanta Falcons: Another first-round pick at wide receiver that has not developed as hoped, Jenkins is quickly becoming expendable behind Roddy White, Laurent Robinson and Joe Horn. A new coaching staff gives Jenkins one more chance to make a positive first impression.
1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers: They won't have a short leash with Rodgers as he likely will be given the whole season to show what he can do, but they took Brohm for a reason and there may be a guy in Mississippi who they have on speed dial should they need reinforcements from the cavalry. Rodgers needs to perform early in order to foster confidence among his teammates.
2. Rex Grossman, QB, Chicago Bears: The Bears would probably prefer if Grossman beat out Kyle Orton and won the starting job out of the preseason but no longer have the luxury to give Rex the benefit of the doubt.
3. Tarvaris Jackson, QB, Minnesota Vikings: Jackson has supposedly made great strides since last season and the Vikings have no desire to play Gus Frerotte or John David Booty. But this is another team built to win in 2008 and coach Brad Childress will have to make a move if Jackson doesn't build on last year's performance.
4. Tatum Bell, RB, Detroit Lions: The Lions elected to re-sign Bell in the hopes he will flourish in Jim Colleto's run-oriented system. They drafted ultra-productive running back Kevin Smith in the third round and he will be breathing down Bell's neck in the hopes to make a name for himself in the NFL.
1. Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers: The former first overall pick is in a competition with Shaun Hill and J.T. O'Sullivan to be the 49ers starting quarterback. Even if he does win the job, which the 49ers are likely hoping for, he will be pulled if unproductive the first couple of weeks of the season.
2. Matt Leinart, QB, Arizona Cardinals: Leinart's injury stunted his development a year ago and he will have to restore Ken Whisenhunt's confidence in him by getting off to a fast start, otherwise Kurt Warner will once again be waiting in the wings.
3. Marcus Tubbs, DT, Seattle Seahawks: Tubbs' career has been injury-riddled up to this point and he is in danger of losing his roster spot after the selection of Red Bryant and free-agent acquisition of Larry Triplett.
4. La'Roi Glover and Claude Wroten, DTs, St. Louis Rams: Though neither of these players appears to be in danger of losing their roster spot or place in the defensive line rotation, they will be under the gun given the reports that many Rams coaches coveted Glenn Dorsey and preferred him over Chris Long.