Ross Tucker
Thursday June 12th, 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.

1. Matt Cassel, QB, New England Patriots: You know you have a good thing going when the only player who really needs to produce early in training camp and the preseason in order to keep his job is the back-up quarterback. Cassel will have third-round pick Kevin O'Connell anxious for the opportunity should he falter.

2. Kellen Clemens, QB, New York Jets: The Jets are hoping Clemens shows the ability early to give them the best chance to win. Eric Mangini, however, will be hard-pressed to maintain his patience should Clemens show a lack of progress and could elect to turn back to old faithful, veteran quarterback Chad Pennington.

3. Trent Edwards, QB, Buffalo Bills: The Bills believe Edwards is their quarterback of the future and present after his performance last year as a rookie. They do have J.P. Losman on the roster, however, and will not hesitate to play him should Edwards hit a sophomore slump. The Bills believe 2008 is their year to break the playoff drought and can't let anything get in their way.

4. John Beck, QB, Miami Dolphins: Just like the tie goes to the runner in baseball, a tie goes to the player brought in by the current regime in the NFL. That could spell trouble for Beck if he doesn't have an outstanding preseason as the Dolphins signed Josh McCown and drafted Chad Henne.

1. LenDale White, RB, Tennessee Titans: Though White ran for over 1,000 yards in his first extended playing time, he still averaged less than four yards a pop, prompting the Titans to draft speedster Chris Johnson in the first round.

2. Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans: Schaub was ordained as the Texans starter given the trade that was made and the compensation that he was given a year ago. Yet his health issues in year one and the success of Sage Rosenfels leads some to speculate coach Gary Kubiak may go with Rosenfels should Schaub struggle early in 2008.

3. Kenton Keith, RB, Indianapolis Colts: Keith's fate might already be sealed with the Colts decision to re-sign Dominic Rhodes and the selection of Mike Hart. He needs to be extremely productive in the preseason to maintain a roster spot.

4. Matt Jones, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars: Jones was taken in the first round by the Jaguars for a reason. Unfortunately, they still don't know what that reason was. Jones stature took a hit with the signing of Jerry Porter and trade for Troy Williamson, though the departure of Ernest Wilford helps his cause towards being their red-zone threat.

1. Sean Mahan, C, Pittsburgh Steelers: Mahan was less than stellar in year one after taking over the reins from Jeff Hartings. Justin Hartwig was brought in to provide competition and to step in should Mahan continue to disappoint.

2. Derek Anderson, QB, Cleveland Browns: It doesn't matter how well Anderson played in 2007 or what the numbers are on his new contract. If he doesn't play well early, on a team with high expectations and primetime games galore, fans will call for local boy Brady Quinn.

3. Rudi Johnson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: Though Johnson's 2007 season was ravaged by a rash of injuries, there are some out there that believe Johnson is already on the downside of a productive career in Cincinnati. Kenny Watson, Kenny Irons and Chris Perry should be available to pick up the slack.

4. Kyle Boller, QB, Baltimore Ravens: This one is a little too obvious. Boller is likely just keeping the seat warm for Joe Flacco unless he produces in a Derek Anderson-like fashion to begin the season.

1. Brandon Marshall, WR, Denver Broncos: Marshall is not in danger or losing his role in the Broncos offense but he is in danger of losing the trust of his quarterback if he doesn't get his act together early. QB Jay Cutler has been critical of Marshall's work habits and attitude and these two must get in sync for Denver to have a chance in 2008.

2. Lamont Jordan, RB, Oakland Raiders: Jordan is an expendable part at this point and probably hopes to leave Raiderland as soon as possible given the contract given to Justin Fargas and the selection of Darren McFadden with the fourth pick. Jordan's career is currently stuck in neutral.

3. Craig Davis, WR, San Diego Chargers: Davis allowed himself to take a back seat a year ago to Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers. The Chargers need him to step up and provide an additional viable threat for Phillip Rivers.

4. Brodie Croyle, QB, Kansas City Chiefs: Croyle probably has four games, if that, to show some progress or get a win under his belt before the Chiefs will see what Tyler Thigpen can do. Croyle is the prototypical player when identifying guys that need to produce early or else.

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