Quarterbacks feeling the most heat this season

Posted Aug. 31, 2011 @ 1:39 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Every player who goes under center in Week One will have pressure mounting on his shoulders. Even Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have pressure to live up to lofty expectations.

One quarterback might feel pressured to perform just to keep his job this season. Another quarterback might have the pressure from a fan base to finally bring his team to the playoffs, or the Super Bowl.

The amount of pressure there is on all 32 starting quarterbacks heading into the 2011 season can be debated. PFW editors were asked to rank their choices for the top five quarterbacks feeling the most pressure heading into the season. Twenty different QBs were mentioned.

Here are the seven quarterbacks under the most pressure heading into the season, based on the results of that vote.

1. Kevin Kolb / Cardinals — In one of the bigger post-lockout deals, Arizona gave up a lot (25-year-old CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick) to the Eagles in order to acquire a 27-year-old QB who has a 3-4 career record as a starter. Kolb has flashed some talent during his time in the league, but the jury is still out on whether he can successfully lead a team. His success or failure will define the post-Kurt Warner careers of head coach Ken Whisenhunt and GM Rod Graves.

2. Mark Sanchez / Jets — Rex Ryan once again predicted that Gang Green would go to the Super Bowl, but that is contingent on Sanchez having a good season. Sanchez has proven he can win close games, but he is far from an elite quarterback who can carry a team on his back. Under the spotlight of the New York media, Sanchez has become one of the more publicized QBs in the league despite not doing a whole lot on the field. Following back-to-back conference championship losses, the pressure is on Sanchez to help the Jets live up to their coach's lofty expectations.

3. Michael Vick / Eagles — After shocking the football world with a remarkable 2010 season, the pressure is on Vick to be even better in '11. The Eagles loaded up in free agency and have talent at every position, but they need the QB to be their premier playmaker once again. Since entering the league as the No. 1 overall pick in 2001, there always have been questions whether Vick's style of play could lead his team to a Super Bowl. Although he has been on a few playoff teams, it looks like this season might be his best chance to get to the big game.

4. Chad Henne / Dolphins — Henne isn't just playing for his job. He's also playing for his head coach's. Tony Sparano was almost out of a job after a disastrous 2010 season, and after failing to land Kyle Orton, the Dolphins are putting their eggs in Henne's basket once again to finally be the QB the team hoped for. Few have confidence in Henne to come through, and if he doesn't, he and Sparano likely will be looking for new jobs in the offseason.

5. Alex Smith / 49ers — The No. 1 pick of the 2005 draft outlasted Niners coaches Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary; don't expect him to outlast Jim Harbaugh unless his play improves. Smith has yet to have a standout season, and it's now or never if he wants to remain a 49er. Harbaugh demands a lot from his QBs, so the pressure is on Smith to deliver right away.

6. Tony Romo / Cowboys — Playing QB in "Big D" always comes with added pressure. As good as the offense has been at times under Romo, he never has guided the Cowboys past the divisional round of the playoffs. Coming off an injury, Romo is facing pressure to produce. He has a strong set of receivers, and Rob Ryan should improve the defense. Now it's time for Romo to prove he can win the big game.

7. Matthew Stafford / Lions — In 13 career games, Stafford has thrown for 2,802 yards and 19 TD passes. The production has been there; it's Stafford's health that is always a question mark. For the first time in a long while, expectations are high in Detroit. However, in order for the Lions to reach those goals, they are going to need their former No. 1 overall pick to stay on the field and off the injury report.

Others receiving votes — Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Jay Cutler, Matt Schaub, David Garrard, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, Peyton Manning, Tim Tebow, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers.


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