After the most unusual of offseasons, we’re a couple of weeks away from kicking off the 2020 NFL season. That means it’s time to see how the league shapes up before games get going. But that’s not all we’re evaluating in this ranking.
This is also a good time to identify players, coaches and general managers who are on the hot seat. Whether they are competing for their job, their starting position or a new contract, NFL Nation reporters have identified the individuals on the teams they cover who are most under the microscope in 2020.
How we rank in our Power Rankings: Our power panel — a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities — evaluates how teams stack up throughout the season.
Who’s on the hot seat? RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Why his seat is warm: The rookie running back isn’t in danger of being cut or falling from permanent favor with a slow start. But the pressure is on to produce immediately after Damien Williams’ opt-out decision. The Chiefs have no other proven commodity they can plug into their featured back spot. More production from their running backs is a logical place for the Chiefs to grow their offense and Edwards-Helaire is the logical player to provide it. — Adam Teicher
Matthew Berry expects Clyde Edwards-Helaire to benefit the most from Chiefs RB Damien Williams’ decision not to play in 2020.
Who’s on the hot seat? RB Mark Ingram II
Why his seat is warm: Ingram watched the Ravens select his potential replacement in this year’s draft (J.K. Dobbins in the second round) and knows Baltimore can create $5 million in salary-cap room by releasing him this offseason. This comes after Ingram established himself as a leader and playmaker in Baltimore’s offense, scoring a franchise record-tying 15 touchdowns. He remains the unquestioned starter right now, but the pressure is on for him to prove he’s not going to decline like many other running backs who turn 30. Ingram said this offseason that he can play at a high level for another five years and wants to be a running back known for his long, prestigious career. — Jamison Hensley
Who’s on the hot seat? DE Dee Ford
Why his seat is warm: Knee issues limited Ford to 11 games and he averaged just 19.4 snaps per game in 2019. Ford had “extensive” cleanup surgery on his left knee in the offseason in hopes of playing a larger role in 2020. Considering that Ford is in the second year of a five-year, $85 million deal with a $17.6 million cap number in 2021, his future with the team will depend on if he can produce at a level commensurate to his contract. With key players such as tackle Trent Williams and cornerback Richard Sherman set to be free agents and next year’s cap expected to dip, the Niners could part with Ford’s contract if he is unable to stay healthy and produce. — Nick Wagoner
Who’s on the hot seat? QB Drew Brees
Why his seat is warm: OK, I’m cheating a little bit here. But let’s face it, the 41-year-old Brees is working against a tight deadline if he wants to ride off into the sunset with a second Super Bowl win. Although Brees has not officially announced plans to retire after his 20th NFL season, he has acknowledged that he thought long and hard about it this past offseason — and already has his next career lined up as a TV analyst. Plus, it will be hard for the Saints to afford a roster this loaded if the salary cap drops next year. — Mike Triplett
Who’s on the hot seat? DC Ken Norton Jr.
Why his seat is warm: The Seahawks had one of their worst defensive seasons of the Pete Carroll era in 2019, continuing their regression. They were 18th in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA rankings last season and 14th in Norton’s first season as coordinator after finishing fourth, 11th and 13th in three seasons under his predecessor, Kris Richard. The Seahawks beefed up their secondary with Jamal Adams and Quinton Dunbar and added to their loaded linebacker corps with first-round pick Jordyn Brooks. Even with a questionable pass rush, the Seahawks have enough talent to reverse their downward trend in 2020. Barring an injury catastrophe, Norton — and Carroll — won’t have any excuses if they don’t. — Brady Henderson
Who’s on the hot seat? K Matt Gay
Why his seat is warm: If there’s one position where a true starter from last season could be unseated, it’s at kicker with Gay. The team will give him every opportunity to succeed, but Elliott Fry‘s presence is more than just an extra leg in camp, as Gay missed multiple kicks in the Buccaneers’ first week of pads. Coach Bruce Arians declared it a kicking competition, and while preseason games won’t decide the winner since there are none, Arians will put Gay through a lot of pressure situations and have him kicking in the south end zone, where most of his misses have come. — Jenna Laine
Who’s on the hot seat? DC Mike Pettine
Why his seat is warm: The third-year defensive coordinator saw his unit allow 285 yards to the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, and the Packers didn’t exactly go out and bolster the middle of their defense in free agency or the draft. Their biggest move was essentially swapping Blake Martinez (who signed with the Giants in free agency) for Christian Kirksey (who played for Pettine in Cleveland) at inside linebacker. Otherwise, their lack of additions on that side of the ball indicates they believe they have the personnel to stop the run. Therefore, it’s up to Pettine to scheme as such. — Rob Demovsky
Keyshawn Johnson defends Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy’s comment that winning a championship should always be a team’s goal.
Who’s on the hot seat? QB Dak Prescott
Why his seat is warm: Mike McCarthy gets a bit of a reprieve because he did not have a full offseason because of the pandemic, so Prescott gets the label. His seat is not so much hotter than it’s been in the past, but since Prescott is playing on the one-year franchise tag at a cost of $31.4 million, he needs to put together another sensational season to get a big deal next year, from the Cowboys or on the open market. Prescott has helped the Cowboys to the playoffs in two of his four seasons and has one playoff win. It’s time for the team to go beyond the divisional round, but nobody would benefit more than Prescott. — Todd Archer
Who’s on the hot seat? WR Corey Davis
Why his seat is warm: Davis could end up elsewhere after this season since the Titans didn’t pick up his fifth-year option. Davis showed flashes in 2018, when he had 891 receiving yards — including a 125-yard performance vs. Stephon Gilmore and the Patriots. Davis needs to get back to that form in his fourth season. The Titans’ offense surged when Ryan Tannehill took over at quarterback, but Davis was the exception. Tannehill has said multiple times that he wants to get Davis more involved this season. If Davis has a productive season, another team will likely try to sign him. But will the Titans match a contract offer? — Turron Davenport
Who’s on the hot seat? OG Pat Elflein
Why his seat is warm: Elflein is entering a contract year, so the way he performs in his move to right guard will be critical to his future in Minnesota. The fourth-year lineman struggled in his move from center to left guard in 2019, surrendering a team-high 32 pressures and six sacks while being flagged six times for holding. This offseason, it was decided that moving Elflein back to the position where he started 25 games at Ohio State would be better. Now it’s up to him to perform at a level where he can hang on to his job and not be replaced by someone like rookie Ezra Cleveland or second-year guard Dru Samia. — Courtney Cronin
Who’s on the hot seat? DE Trent Murphy
Why his seat is warm: Murphy represents the fourth-highest cap hit on the Bills’ roster in 2020 but might lose reps after the team signed Mario Addison and drafted AJ Epenesa this offseason. Murphy has recorded nine sacks in 23 games with Buffalo — which equates to his 16-game total with Washington in 2017. In the final year of his contract this season, Murphy seems unlikely to play for the Bills in 2021 and will have to prove that his familiarity with the team’s defensive scheme is too valuable and keeps him on the roster in 2020. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Who’s on the hot seat? CB Sidney Jones
Why his seat is warm: Jones was one of the top cornerback prospects in the 2017 draft class but tore his Achilles at his pro day and has had a tough time shaking the injury bug since. Suddenly it’s Year 4, and he has just eight starts and two interceptions under his belt. With his rookie contract set to expire at the end of the season, it’s now or never to make his mark in Philadelphia. — Tim McManus
Matthew Berry explains why JuJu Smith-Schuster, Odell Beckham Jr. and Adam Thielen could be in line for big bounce-back seasons in 2020.
Who’s on the hot seat? WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
Why his seat is warm: A handful of Steelers offensive players are on the hot seat, but the temperature is the highest on Smith-Schuster’s. The second-round pick flourished as the No. 2 receiver behind Antonio Brown but faltered in his first chance to break out as the top weapon. Some of that was out of his control, due to injuries to both Ben Roethlisberger and himself, but it leaves Smith-Schuster playing the final year of his rookie deal without a long-term contract in place. The cap-strapped team faces tough financial decisions after the season, and another poor year from Smith-Schuster could make at least one of those decisions easy. — Brooke Pryor
Who’s on the hot seat? RB Marlon Mack
Why his seat is warm: On paper, Mack shouldn’t be on the hot seat based on his production in 2019. He had a career high in carries (247) and yards (1,091) while appearing to be the running back of the future for the Colts. But warning flags went up in the offseason when the Colts didn’t pick up his fifth-year option and selected Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor — who finished his college career with back-to-back 2,000-yard rushing seasons — in the second round of the draft. Mack will begin the season as the starter, but Taylor will have an opportunity to get snaps in the backfield rotation. — Mike Wells
Who’s on the hot seat? RB Sony Michel
Why his seat is warm: The Patriots’ No. 1 rusher the past two seasons faces increased competition from free-agent signing Lamar Miller and 2019 third-round pick Damien Harris, with Harris taking center stage early in training camp because Michel opened on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing offseason foot surgery. Michel, a first-round pick in 2018, isn’t in danger of being cut. But his front-line role could potentially slip away. — Mike Reiss
Matthew Berry doesn’t foresee RB Damien Harris having much fantasy value because of how Bill Belichick uses his running backs.
Who’s on the hot seat? WR Will Fuller V
Why his seat is warm: After DeAndre Hopkins was traded, it’s critical that Fuller stays healthy to make up for the reigning three-time All-Pro wide receiver’s missing production. Fuller is playing on his fifth-year option. If he stays healthy and productive, he’ll likely price himself out of Houston in free agency. If he misses time due to injury — he has missed 22 games in four NFL seasons — the Texans probably won’t want to give him a long-term deal due to that injury history. Either way, this is likely the last season for Fuller with the Texans. How bright his future is depends on his health, because his talent and production have never been up for debate. — Sarah Barshop
Who’s on the hot seat? OLB Leonard Floyd
Why his seat is warm: The Rams signed the free agent to a one-year, $10 million contract. Now, the fifth-year pro, whom the Chicago Bears selected with the ninth overall pick in 2016, must prove he is worthy to remain in L.A. — or the NFL — for the long term. The Bears released Floyd after he fell short of developing into a consistent playmaker. In four seasons, Floyd had 18.5 sacks. With the Rams, he reunites with former Bears outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley, now the Rams’ defensive coordinator. Staley has expressed confidence about Floyd’s potential, and Floyd is expected to earn a starting role. — Lindsey Thiry
Who’s on the hot seat? HC Dan Quinn/GM Thomas Dimitroff
Why his seat is warm: Falcons owner Arthur Blank retained Quinn and Dimitroff following another 7-9 season but made a significant change in having team president Rich McKay oversee Quinn and Dimitroff this year. Blank said his standard is the playoffs, but one has to wonder if Quinn and Dimitroff will get a little bit more leeway based on how the coronavirus pandemic has already altered 2020. But that can’t be used as an excuse, so Quinn and Dimitroff have to show the Falcons can compete with the Saints and Bucs in the NFC South. — Vaughn McClure
Who’s on the hot seat? OLB Haason Reddick
Why his seat is warm: It was telling enough when the Cardinals didn’t pick up the former first-round pick’s option year. It was even more telling when the Cardinals signed outside linebacker Devon Kennard during free agency, essentially adding a starter in a position that Reddick would’ve occupied. Now Reddick is fighting for a roster spot after a lackluster career in which he has recorded only 7.5 sacks and has constantly changed positions. He’s back at outside pass-rusher, a position he has played off and on throughout his NFL career. But with the additions of Kennard and Isaiah Simmons, who can also rush the passer off the edge, Reddick’s future with the Cardinals is unknown. — Josh Weinfuss
Who’s on the hot seat? QB Baker Mayfield
Why his seat is warm: The QB-starved Browns justifiably had high expectations for Mayfield after he broke the NFL rookie passing TD record in 2018. But last season did not go well for him or the Browns, who finished a disappointing 6-10. This offseason, Cleveland’s new front office was aggressive in giving Mayfield even more support on the field. Now, with arguably the most potent offensive skill contingent in the NFL and potentially the league’s most improved offensive line, the pressure will be on Mayfield to show that he is in fact Cleveland’s long-lost franchise QB. — Jake Trotter
Who’s on the hot seat? DC Paul Guenther
Why his seat is warm: In Guenther’s two seasons as Jon Gruden’s defensive playcaller, the Raiders have the fewest sacks in the NFL (45), are tied for the fewest takeaways (32), have given up the most 90-plus-yard touchdown drives (11), allowed the most points per drive (2.46) and are tied for the second-most yards per play allowed (6.08). On paper, the roster has been upgraded significantly on defense and, oh yeah, Rod Marinelli has joined the staff as the defensive line coach, though many see him as the DC-in-waiting should the defense struggle. — Paul Gutierrez
Who’s on the hot seat? QB Mitchell Trubisky
Why his seat is warm: Trubisky’s seat is red hot. The second overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft is fighting to keep his starting job against challenger Nick Foles. The two quarterbacks are splitting reps in training camp practice as the Bears contemplate pulling the plug on Trubisky, who struggled for much of 2019. To add further pressure, Chicago declined Trubisky’s fifth-year option in May. This could be Trubisky’s last year with the Bears. — Jeff Dickerson
Who’s on the hot seat? OC Pat Shurmur
Why his seat is warm: Shurmur is the Broncos’ fifth different offensive coordinator in five seasons and only one of the previous four — Bill Musgrave — served more than one full season. Bottom line is that the Broncos have been less than pedestrian on offense, having finished 19th, 22nd, tied for 26th, 24th and 28th in scoring over the past five seasons. They scored 16 or fewer points in nine games last season, going 2-7 in those contests. And this year, the Broncos will start one of the youngest offenses in the league with no offseason on-field work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Broncos largely based their offseason on putting talent around Drew Lock, which puts Shurmur on the spot. — Jeff Legwold
Who’s on the hot seat? QB Tyrod Taylor
Why his seat is warm: After spending last season as Philip Rivers’ backup, Taylor is in the driver’s seat to earn the starting job, according to coach Anthony Lynn. However, rookie Justin Herbert will be on the heels of the 10th-year pro. Taylor, who has served mostly as a backup in NFL with the exception of three seasons as a starter with the Buffalo Bills, must quickly produce to stave off Herbert, who was drafted with the sixth overall pick to eventually become the face of the franchise. — Lindsey Thiry
Who’s on the hot seat? GM Bob Quinn/HC Matt Patricia
Why his seat is warm: Who else would it be, right? Ownership called a special meeting with beat writers to explain the decision-making process behind keeping Patricia and Quinn last December with the understanding there had to be improvement after nine total wins in two seasons. Quinn and Patricia understand what’s expected of them, even in this COVID-question season, and if they aren’t better than in 2018 or 2019 it would be very tough for new owner Sheila Ford Hamp to decide to keep the duo for 2021. — Michael Rothstein
Who’s on the hot seat? RB Kalen Ballage
Why his seat is warm: Ballage emerged as the Dolphins’ starting running back in 2019, but after averaging just 1.9 yards per carry he faces a battle to secure a roster spot on the 2020 Dolphins. Running back coach Eric Studesville says he isn’t giving up on Ballage, who still has the talent and speed to be a successful NFL back. The seat is heating up, though, with newcomers Jordan Howard and Matt Breida likely to fill the top two roles in the backfield. Ballage will compete with Patrick Laird and Myles Gaskin for depth roles as he tries to fight his way to a more significant position. — Cameron Wolfe
Who’s on the hot seat? DT Quinnen Williams
Why his seat is warm: After an underwhelming rookie season, Williams needs a big year to justify his draft status as the third overall pick in 2019. Maybe he should get a mulligan for last year, considering his lack of experience (one-year starter at Alabama) and a nagging ankle injury, but there are no excuses in 2020. Williams reported to camp in terrific shape and predicted he’d be a “dominant” defensive tackle this season. — Rich Cimini
Who’s on the hot seat? QB Teddy Bridgewater
Why his seat is warm: Bridgewater was given a three-year deal, but if he doesn’t prove worthy of replacing Cam Newton as franchise quarterback the Panthers will look to draft their quarterback of the future in 2021, which has a strong QB crop headed by Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. It’s unlikely the Panthers would cut Bridgewater after one season because of how his contract is structured, but if he loses his job it would be highly beneficial to release him before the 2022 season. There really are no reasons for Bridgewater not to succeed on a unit that includes running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receivers DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel and Robby Anderson. — David Newton
Who’s on the hot seat? GM Dave Gettleman
Why his seat is warm: The Giants are 9-23 in Gettleman’s two years in charge. He can’t afford another subpar season, especially considering he has been awkwardly paired with a new head coach. The Giants and Daniel Jones need to show progress in order for Gettleman to have any argument that he has the organization headed in the right direction. — Jordan Raanan
Who’s on the hot seat? WR John Ross III
Why his seat is warm: Ross will be looking for a big 2020 after the Bengals declined to pick up his fifth-year option this offseason. The speedy wideout has flashed glimpses of his potential. Ross was primed for a breakout season after a big Week 1 in 2019 before an injury put him on IR for eight weeks. Now it’s up to him to stay healthy, reduce his drop rate and become a viable target for rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. Since the start of 2018, Ross leads Bengals receivers with the highest percentage of receptions for 20 or more yards, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information. — Ben Baby
Who’s on the hot seat? QB Dwayne Haskins Jr.
Why his seat is warm: It’s a little early in his career for Haskins to be on a true hot seat, but this is a new staff with no ties to him. The second-year player must prove to his new coaches that he can be the long-term solution. They were pleased with how Haskins handled the offseason, but it has to translate on the field. It won’t just be about statistics; Washington lacks the firepower to provide all the help he needs. Rather, it’ll be about his leadership skills, decision-making and approach. If he handles those areas, his talent will emerge and he’ll be good for a while. If not, and Washington has another high pick, it might look elsewhere. — John Keim
Who’s on the hot seat? GM Dave Caldwell/coach Doug Marrone
Why his seat is warm: Owner Shad Khan decided to keep both in place this season and give them a chance to fix the issues from the past two seasons without Tom Coughlin around. Caldwell cleaned up the salary cap and he and Marrone made it a priority to address some lingering locker room issues. That’s great, but the team needs to start winning more games. The Jaguars have gone 11-21 since the surprising run to the AFC title game in 2017. In announcing his decision to retain Caldwell and Marrone for 2020, Khan stressed that “accountability will be paramount.” In other words, the Jaguars better show marked improvement or there will be changes. — Mike DiRocco