By: Joe Cardoso
Teams are starting to hit the field and the buzz for the 2019 NFL season is growing by the day. Everyone thinks this is the year they make the playoffs or even the Super Bowl, guys who missed time due to injury are chopping at the bit to hit the field and play. With all the hope and expectations comes pressure to perform and live up to it all, nothing in professional sports is a sure thing. As I do every season, I want to highlight ten players who I feel are under pressure and whos careers and legacy is on the line. It could be bouncing back from an injury, stepping into a more prominent role with the team or under the radar name. Last season TWO of the ten players/coaches I talked about made a positive impact lets meet the 2019 ten.
1. Marcus Mariota Quarterback Tennesse Titans:
Will this be the season we finally see the REAL Mariota? Now in his defense, he has had ZERO continuity coaches, and coordinators have come and gone. He has missed time with injury, and it shows in his 27-28 career record. But if you are the Titans before you sign him to a new contract which will make him the franchise quarterback for the next 6-7 years, you need to be sure. With a playoff win on his resume, this is put up or shut time for the former Oregon Duck star.
2. Le’Veon Bell Running Back New York Jets:
Well now that he has been paid and has a new work address the question is will the Jets get the player we all saw two seasons ago? When on the field he is one of the most dynamic players in league with his ability to run through the tackles or line up wide and be a productive wideout. Sam Darnold has to be drooling at what the two of them can do this season. The New York media will have a field day if he can’t produce on the field, so this is one story to watch.
3. David Johnson Running Back Arizona Cardinals:
Is there any league that defines “what have you done for me lately” better than the NFL? David Johnson was the breakout star for NFL fans and fantasy football players, and then he got injured. He came back and was not the player we thought we knew. Now with a new head coach who brings the high flying air raid offense into the league will we see the versatile back we all know and love?
4. Clay Matthews Linebacker Los Angeles Rams:
I expect Matthews to come into camp with a massive chip on his shoulder and eager to prove he is still that dude. Wade Phillips is a wizard and will have Clay lined up all over the place. Perhaps making a move to L.A. and being used in a different role will spark something in him. The Rams will need his pass rush to help Aaron Donald attack teams.
5. Jimmy Garoppolo Quarterback San Francisco 49ers:
So we had a peek into what Jimmy G could do when he played in New England backing up some guy named Brady. He goes to the Niners, and we got a taste of what this kid could do when given the keys to the car. All that went out the window last year for 49ers fans when he tore his ACL. For some people eight starts in two years is scary, but the team and fan base hope a healthy QB and all the weapons they picked up for him equal playoffs.
6. Sammy Watkins Wide Receiver Kansas City Chiefs:
We all know the story Sammy ran a 4.3 40-yard dash, and teams feel in love. Things didn’t work out with the Bills so it was off to L.A. to be a Ram and start fresh before you could finish an iced coffee that was over with and the Chiefs signed him to a 48 million dollar deal. Yet another injury saw him miss six games, but when he came back, he showed signs that he was here to stay. Is this the year playing with one of the top QB’s in the league that we see him fulfill his promise?
7. Joe Flacco Quarterback Denver Broncos:
The old saying goes in the NFL; you are only one injury away from getting replaced. Super Bowl-winning QB and under what seemed like a huge unmovable contract Flacco gets a fresh start in Denver. John Elway has had little to no success ever since Peyton Manning hung it up. Four different starting QB’s and coaches have come and gone. Flacco is here to prove he still is elite and has plenty left to give.
8. Derek Carr Quarterback Oakland Raiders:
Before Jon Gruden came along, Carr was the next big thing in the NFL, along with Amari Cooper the future was bright in the black hole. Then last year happened 21 total turnovers and 51 sacks most of which were the fault of a crappy offensive line. But with Antonio Brown and Josh Jacobs he has some weapons to put points on the board. Don’t think Gruden won’t toss him to the side and go another route. It’s game on for Carr.
9. Antonio Brown Wide Receiver Oakland Raiders:
You asked for them to pay you and that they did. Now comes the hard part of continuing to be one of the most dominant players in the league. Derek Carr and Brown have been working out all summer, and both have a lot to prove. AB numbers in Pittsburgh are otherworldly and Raiders fans hope it continues in silver and black. With all the drama towards the end of his time, all eyes are on number 84.
10. Left Tackle Houston Texans:
This is a race with four names in the running Tytus Howard and Max Scharping along with Julie’n Davenport and Matt Kalil. DeShaun Watson was sacked more than any QB in the NFL. Yes, a lot of that is him hanging on to the ball waiting for the play to open up, but a ton was just plain lousy offensive line play. Someone has to step up and keep Watson upright and ON the field.
With the season coming at us full speed the answers to these questions and so many others is close and part of the excitement of the league. Gear up for the journey to see who will be the next Super Bowl champion and what names will be headliners for the 2019 season.