Heat is On: 10 players Under the Gun
The No. 4 overall pick in the 2005 draft takes over as the primary back in Chicago, leading some experts to predict that the Bears will regret trading Thomas Jones to the Jets. Chicago needs a strong running game to protect inconsistent quarterback Rex Grossman.
Delhomme has had a rough time since leading the Panthers to the Super Bowl three years ago. Now he has to look over his shoulder at David Carr. If Delhomme struggles, coach John Fox, who is also on the hot seat, could make a QB switch to try to save his job.
Lewis says he's as good as ever, but his production has slipped dramatically the last couple of seasons. He averaged 3.4 yards per carry in 2005 and 3.6 per carry in '06. If Cleveland can't establish a running game, the tough defenses in the AFC North are going to tee off on whoever wins the quarterback battle.
The Texans switched first-round picks with Atlanta in 2007 and sent next year's first-rounder to the Falcons for a quarterback who has started just two games in three NFL seasons. If the Texans' offensive line doesn't improve, Schaub will have a hard time establishing a rhythm in Houston.
The Colts traded next year's first-round pick to take Ugoh with the No. 42 pick in this year's draft. Since Tarik Glenn suddenly retired, Ugoh has been thrust into the crucial starting left tackle spot. Peyton Manning has had Glenn protecting his blind side his whole career, so there will be a lot of pressure on Ugoh to help keep this offense running smoothly.
Last year's No. 1 overall pick had just 4.5 sacks his rookie season. He showed signs of improvement toward the end of the year, but he needs to take a significant step forward to make the Texans' pass rush more of a factor.
The Eagles drafted quarterback Kevin Kolb in the second round to hedge their bets in case McNabb can't stay healthy. No one's debating McNabb's talent when he's on the field, but he's missed significant chunks of the last two seasons. McNabb looks great in camp, but he'll have to prove he can take the wear and tear of a whole season.
The defending champs lost cornerbacks Nick Harper and Jason David, making the third-year veteran Jackson one of the more experienced players in this defensive backfield. Not only will he have to mentor younger players, but also he'll likely have to play almost solely cornerback. In the past, Jackson has bounced back and forth between safety and corner.
The Chiefs' best defensive player is suspended for the first two games of the season because of two DUI arrests. The suspension was lowered from four games -- a move from the NFL that surprised many. Allen has to stay out of trouble to prove Roger Goodell didn't make a huge mistake, and he has to play well because he'll be a free agent after the season. And oh ya, he's the key to the Chiefs' defense, which needs Allen to get the pass rush going.
The 49ers gave Clements an eight-year, $80 million deal this offseason. For that kind of money, they expect him to help the defense improve significantly. San Francisco ranked 26th in pass defense last season. This season it'll face some strong aerial attacks in the NFC West. Clements has 23 interceptions in six seasons with the Bills and is considered one of the most physical corners in the NFL. He'll have to be at his best to earn his huge paycheck in 2007.