In this article, you will see 10 NFL players who need to perform this season, or they could be on next season's scrap heap.
The NFL is a tough business, underachievers do not last long and overachievers can quickly fizzle out; the next 10 players are players who need to hit the mark to have a team in 2014.
1. Carson Palmer – QB, Arizona
Palmer is a journeyman now in the NFL, suiting up for his third team during his career.
Palmer was a draftee by the Cincinnati Bengals who subsequently threatened to sit out for a season if not traded, was then traded to the Oakland Raiders for a boatload of draft picks and under-performed.
Now, Palmer has some superior offensive weapons, potentially the best receiver he has had to throw to in his entire career in Larry Fitzgerald, the team's leader.
Arizona head coach Bruce Arians builds a play style in his teams that will fit the attributes of Palmer. Arians is a lover of the deep ball, Palmer is a gunslinger. Many experts are saying that Palmer could be Kurt Warner take-two for the Cardinals, unfortunately, the offensive line may not support that claim.
If Carson Palmer does not have the type of season that pulls the Cardinals from the depths of the NFC West, then he could very well find himself out of a job next season. Arians is going to be counting on him and the Cardinals do not have the greatest depth at the position if Palmer does not excel.
Carson Palmer needs 25 or more touchdowns to keep his job next season. He needs a career season.
2. Kenny Britt – WR, Tennessee
Britt is a player who has not performed well for the Titans after his rookie season. He was on the bench for the most of the 2012 season after tearing both the ACL and MCL ligament in his knee the prior season, and now, Britt is in a make or break season for a new contract.
Britt had a case of fumbilitis last season and the dropsies, however those were not the attributes that made Britt standout. Unfortunately, since Britt’s knee injury, he has looked tentative in his movements and his cuts have been non-existent. Britt played last season as a shadow of his former self.
On a contract season, Britt needs to be more reliable in the development of Jake Locker. For Locker to gain the confidence to move forward, he needs a dependable target, whether or not he will find it in Britt this season remains to be seen, but on a contract season, another un-productive season from a player with a 10 page leaflet of off-field troubles, he could be out the door.
At least 75 or more receptions and a 1,000-receiving-yard season will be enough to save him.
3. BenJarvus Green-Ellis – RB, Cincinnati
The Bengals' running back is in rather hot water. If BJGE does not produce this season, he will be on a one way ticket out of Bengal city. He came into Cincinnati as one of the safest runners in the NFL with ‘ZERO’ fumbles to his name, into the fold as the Bengals' No. 1 back and fumbilitis kicks in.
BJGE is a strong power back, unfortunately the lack of top end speed is an issue for the NFL. He is a Marion Barber type of running back, and has safer hands. Unfortunately, the NFL does not house players who drop the ball on several occasions, especially when you are not an elite back.
BJGE needs to develop a more consistent approach. If he can average 90 yards per game he will go a long way to protecting his positions as the feature back of the Cincinnati Bengals.
BJGE has no excuses this season, a stronger offensive line and a more evolved quarterback, Green-Ellis has more chances to succeed. If he can read his gaps a stronger offensive line can produce, he will go a long way towards claiming a position in this NFL franchise.
For BJGE to keep his position in Cincinnati, he needs at least 1,000 yards rushing and 10 or more touchdowns.
4. Sam Bradford – QB, St. Louis Rams
The Rams used a first round selection in 2010 for Bradford, since then they have been to ‘ZERO’ playoffs. Due to the defense? not entirely. Bradford’s play under center has left a lot to be desired. In Bradfords’ defense, he has not had a lot of talent to play with around him, this year, that excuse is now gone.
The addition of Tavon Austin, Jared Cook and Stedman Bailey — all during this offseason, gives the Rams a lot more weapons at the disposal of Bradford. If Bradford can not excel this season, Fisher will have no choice but to look for a replacement.
With a career rating of 77.3 and 9,378 passing yards and 45 passing touchdowns over his four-year career, Bradford needs to prove himself to coach Fisher. Bradford has 34 career interceptions, so having a positive touchdown to intercept ratio is a positive over many quarterbacks that have been or still are in the NFL like former first round selections Brandon Weeden, Vince Young and Blaine Gabbert.
As one of the quarterbacks of the past, bloated rookie contract era, Bradford needs to earn his keep this season. Fisher may have endorsed Sam Bradford as his franchise signal caller, but with another sub-par season, Fisher may be forced to explore his options.
For Bradford to survive he will need at least 20 passing touchdowns and more than 3,500 passing yards.
5. Ryan Mathews – RB, San Diego Chargers
Ryan Mathews is the running back who is now in a new system with a new head coach in Mike McCoy who has a history of fumbling and under-performing. Mathews has not exceedingly lived up to expectations and this coming season could be Mathews' last if he does not produce in San Diego.
A former first round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft (12th overall), Mathews has not lived up to those expectations usually slumped on a first round draft pick. Mathews has almost as many fumbles as touchdowns (14 TD / 11 fum) and over the span of three seasons the former first-rounder has only 2,476 rushing yards. Regardless of injuries or poor offensive lines, this is completely un-acceptable for a running back in the NFL.
Lacking decisive ball carrier skills, Mathews has only surpassed 1,000 rushing yards once in three seasons. 2011 being his most successful with 1,091 rushing yards. A career rushing average of 4.4 yards per carry is good, however the lack of overall yards to his name is something that stands out.
Jackie Battle was able to challenge Mathews last season; Mathews needs to have a breakout season this year to remain on the Chargers' roster. Mathews needs to display better ball carrying vision and learn how to be a better runner with the ball, his poor decision-making skills truly hurt him. He is a solid running back, his indecisive and poor vision are what hurt his stock as a running back in the NFL.
For Mathews to survive, he needs more than 1,300 rushing yards, 10 or more total touchdowns and 4 or less fumbles this season.
5. Santonio Holmes – WR, New York Jets
Santonio Holmes is a receiver who has a Super Bowl highlight not too many people can match, except for maybe David Tyree. Holmes has spent three seasons in New York with the Jets and has not offered them the receiving threat they need to be successful.
In three seasons with the ‘Gang-Green’ Holmes has contributed 15 touchdowns, 1,672 receiving yards on 123 receptions. Last season Holmes suffered the dreaded LisFranc foot injury, it remains to be seen whether or not he can return to the playmaker he was whilst on the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster.
With the quarterback challenge set to get intensified in the Meadowlands, Holmes needs to become that playmaker he once was in order to keep his roster position past 2014.
Struggling on the Jets' roster is not a single person issue, the team seems to be struggling together, collectively at the moment, but Holmes needs to step his game up this season and be the player the Jets signed him from free agency to be back after the 2009 season ended.
For Holmes to retain his position with the Jets, he needs at least 1,250 receiving yards with 10 or more receiving touchdowns.
6. Malcom Floyd – WR, San Diego Chargers
Floyd had all the opportunity in the world to emerge as a true No. 1 receiver last season after the departure of former teammate, Vincent Jackson.
Floyd started last season as the Chargers' No. 1 guy, only to lose that position to rising star Danario Alexander.
In his eight seasons in San Diego, Floyd has never achieved more than 856 receiving yards in a single season, nor has he registered more than 6 receiving touchdowns.
Floyd was meant to be the go-to guy in San Diego, but he failed to live up to expectations and subsequently hurt both Philip Rivers' passing options and Norv Turner's job security.
In comes a new regime in San Diego and it is unlikely that Mike McCoy’s no-nonsense attitude will translate well with Floyd, who has not lived up to expectations in the slightest.
If Floyd is unable to realize his true potential this season then we may see the eight-year veteran sent packing by season's end. With Keenan Allen joining the fold, the No. 2 spot behind Alexander looks more confusing than ever.
For Floyd to be retained by the Chargers, he needs to register more than 1,000 receiving yards with 8 or more receiving touchdowns.
7. B.J. Raji – DT, Green Bay Packers
This on is going to throw a lot of people off, whilst Raji does have a field presence, his performance and numbers over the last two seasons have left something to be desired from the 337-pound defensive tackle.
In his 14 games started last season, Raji seemed non-existent on the field, totaling 0 sacks, 0 turnovers or turnovers caused and had a total of 26 combined tackles. Not overwhelming statistics for a former first round draft selection.
B.J. Raji is a former 2009 first round draft selection (9th overall) by Green Bay, he had a very productive season in 2010 with 6.5 sacks, his best career total. 112 career total tackles 60 appearances for the Cheesehead faithful, has led many to believe his field presence is diminishing, which in fact, it is. Raji is the center piece of the Packers' 3-4 defense up front. He is not collapsing the offensive line as quickly as he is required to which is hurting his linebacker's ability to break through into the backfield.
Raji is the one who is mainly responsible for opening up the slots for Clay Matthews to rush through, whilst he fed Matthews effectively (13 sacks) he was not making the push needed to succeed as a defensive tackle, closing down running lanes early was a big issue for Raji last season.
Making the playoffs every year can mask the issues a team can have, the Packers were not as strong along the defensive line with Raji taking most of the blame.
Raji ranked 110th in the NFL amongst all defensive linemen in the NFL last season, a far cry from where you want you starting nose tackle to be. Randy Starks (105), Kendall Langford (105) and Tom Johnson (103) are all defensive tackles who ranked higher than Raji last season.
For Raji to be a Packer beyond the 2013-14 season he needs to achieve at least 5 sacks, 30 or more combined tackles and more than 2 turnovers caused or recovered.
8. Kyle Arrington – CB, New England Patriots
Kyle Arrington was arguably one of the worst aspects of the Patriots' defense last season. Arrington was allowing on average per game a QB rating of 115.8. According to ProFootballFocus.com, including the playoffs, Arrington was targeted a grand total of 78 times, allowing 50 completions for a rate of 14.6 YPC. He also gave up five touchdowns.
Arrington played in all 16 games for the Patriots in 2012, starting 12. He began the year as the team’s starting right cornerback opposite Devin McCourty. He remained in that spot until the midpoint of the season, moving to the slot position following the team’s acquisition of Aqib Talib, and the emergence of rookie Alfonzo Dennard.
Arrington struggled in the early portions of the season, but came on late after moving to the slot (and latter moving back to the RCB position following injuries to Talib and Dennard).
Arrington's best season was in 2011 when he managed to get 7 interceptions, this made the fact that he also allowed more than 1,700 receiving yards almost palatable.
Arrington was re-signed by the Patriots this offseason on a four-year $16 million deal, with $6.5 million in signing bonuses, was Arrington worth this much to the Patriots, many would argue the case that he isn’t but ultimately the Patriots are starved at cornerback.
This season could be Arrington's last, after the second year of his contract, nothing is guaranteed and the Patriots could easily cut ties with Arrington if he performs poorly this season. The slot corner is proving to be a position of need in the NFL especially as they are now considered starters due to the utilization of sub-packages in the NFL (57 percent of defensive snaps by New England last season). Arrington is not a player who should have garnered the contract he received, his time in New England should be up at the end of this season if he under-performs.
For Arrington to survive beyond this season he needs to get at least 6 interceptions and allow less than 1,000 receiving yards — a tall ask for one of the most burnt corners in the NFL.
9. Louis Delmas – FS, Detroit Lions
Delmas is a safety with a lot to prove this season. After succumbing to injury last season, the starting defensive back of the Detroit Lions is now on a make or break season. The Lions' secondary was not a highlight for the coaching staff last season and will be looking for improvement.
Last season Delmas only played in eight games for the Lions. His career numbers have been slowly declining every season since his rookie year in 2009 and has not been the presence on the field the Lions need. Over the last two seasons (2011-12, 2012-13) Delmas has totaled 89 total tackles, 0 sacks, 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery and 1 pass defense.
Delmas is not at the level he should be playing in the NFL and he is in the hotseat this season. Delmas needs to stay healthy for the Lions and head coach Jim Schwartz may have no choice but to cut him and move forward to the future if the defensive back can not prove himself during this coming season.
For Delmas to make it to the Lions roster in 2014, he needs to start every game this season and get more than 5 turnovers, then he earns himself a one season lifeline.
10. Hakeem Nicks – WR, New York Giants
Nicks played in 13 games last season for the Giants, he was given every opportunity to be a play-maker by quarterback Eli Manning who targeted him 100 times, problem being, Nicks only caught 53 of those passes. In his rookie season, Nicks was targeted less, made less receptions but totaled more receiving yards than in 2012.
Nicks only made three touchdowns last season, whilst he was injured for some of the games, Nicks was a non-factor in the Giants' offense. 692 was the number of receiving yards (according to NFL.com) Nicks achieved last season and he would be looking to improve upon this number next season. The Giants need Nicks to improve this season or he could be finding a new team like former teammate Mario Manningham.
The Giants need to be more consistent in the receiving game, Manning can not only rely on Cruz to move the chains. Nicks needs to make improvements overall this season in his route running and timing with quarterback Eli Manning, for Nicks to succeed this season there needs to be better timing between the pair.
Nicks is a fringe player who can be seen as dispensable at the season's end if he isn’t productive enough. The Giants have quality players on the roster, the former 2009 first-round draft pick (19th overall) needs to be a face in the end zone this season and he can be a mainstay on the Giants' roster.
For the Giants to keep Nicks on the roster this coming season, he needs more than 70 receptions, 1,200 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns.
There we have it people, these 10 players need to have a productive season this time round as they are currently on the hot seat. Without a productive season, these players could be free agents at some stage over the next 12 months.
Whilst many people will argue about some, it isn’t just always about quarterbacks in the NFL, there are other cogs in the engine that help the engine move forward.
If you have a player you think is noteworthy, comment below with who you think is living on a knifes edge this season.