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2024 NFL Season: 10 Players Under the Most Pressure

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, pressure is "the constraint of circumstance: the weight of social or economic imposition." Judging by this definition, I do not think any player in the NFL is under a larger microscope than Aaron Rodgers. The 40-year-old signal-caller will enter his second season at the helm of the New York Jets coming off a disastrous 2023 campaign that saw him tear his Achilles just four plays into the team's Week 1 matchup against the Buffalo Bills. Once again doubling down in their title hopes in the offseason, general manager Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh have put all their chips in the middle to surround the four-time MVP with as much help as possible. They reworked the offensive line by bringing in Tyron Smith and Morgan Moses while adding longtime Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams.

"Well, I think if I don't do what I'm capable of doing, then we're all probably gonna be out of here," Rodgers said to the New York media last month. What a fascinating year it is going to be in Gotham City.

1. Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets

A no-brainer to kick off this list, Rodgers will head into the most high-pressure season of his career. Aiming to snap New York's 13-year playoff drought, Jets fans everywhere will hope that the 40-year-old is the missing piece for a win-now roster after he missed nearly all of 2023 with a torn Achilles. With the fates of Saleh and Joe Douglas likely hanging in the balance, the franchise has gone 18-33 under the duo's guidance. Going all it to surround their veteran quarterback with as much talent as possible, the team upgraded the offensive line by adding Smith and Moses. Furthermore, they also used their first-round draft pick on left tackle Olu Fashanu.

2. Bryce Young, Carolina Panthers

Fresh off a disastrous rookie campaign, Young averaged just 5.5 yards per attempt, the fourth-lowest total in NFL history. He also posted a 73.7 passer rating, the worst mark in the league. However, the Alabama product was surrounded by a bad offensive line while lacking any true game-breakers on the outside. Furthermore, his offensive play-caller changed multiple times, while Frank Reich was also fired following a 1-10 start. Now under the guidance of Dave Canales, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator has overseen multiple breakout years from quarterbacks, including Baker Mayfield and Geno Smith. Additionally, Carolina upgraded its pass-catching core by trading for Diontae Johnson and drafting Xavier Legette.

3. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

Set to enter year five in South Beach, Tagovailoa still has not signed a long-term contract extension. The 26-year-old has shown flashes of being Miami's long-term franchise quarterback. Tagovailoa led the NFL in passer rating and yards per attempt in 2022. The former fifth-overall pick also topped the league in passing yards (4,624) a year ago. However, despite four straight winning seasons, the Alabama product has failed to get the Dolphins over the hump in the playoffs and deliver the franchise's first postseason win in two decades. He struggled on the big stage against the Kansas City Chiefs on Wild Card Weekend in a 26-7 beatdown by completing just 20 of his 39 passes for 199 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception.

4. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

A free agent after the 2024 season, Prescott is entering the final year of his four-year, $160 million contract extension that he signed in March of 2021. Likely to command a big payday on the open market on the heels of the recent deals for Jared Goff and Trevor Lawrence, the nine-year veteran led the NFL in touchdown passes in 2023 while finishing second in the NFL in QBR and third in passing yards. However, he once again faltered in the postseason in the team's wild-card round loss to the Green Bay Packers after leading Dallas to the second seed in the conference and an NFC East division title. Now 2-5 in the playoffs in his career, with the Cowboy's Super Bowl drought nearing three decades, fans in Big D are beginning to become restless towards the 30-year-old.

5. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

Lawrence has endured a rocky four-year tenure in Jacksonville. The former No. 1 overall pick saw Urban Meyer get fired just 13 games into his rookie campaign. Now, under the guidance of Doug Pederson, the longtime Philadelphia Eagles head coach helped Lawrence get back on the rails in 2022. The Clemson product led the Jaguars to seven wins in their final nine games, resulting in the team's first playoff berth since 2017. He completed 69.7% of his passes for 2,273 yards while tossing 15 touchdowns to two interceptions.

Finally, appearing to be the generational prospect that followed him through the college ranks, the 24-year-old took a step back in 2023. He posted a league-high 21 turnovers (14 interceptions, seven lost fumbles), causing the Jaguars to stumble down the stretch and miss the playoffs after sitting at 8-3 on Thanksgiving. Ultimately, choosing to lock him up to a five-year, $275 million extension, the Tennessee native's $55 million average annual salary ties him for the NFL lead.

6. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

Still regarded as one of the game's elite quarterbacks, Burrow does not face the same pressure as other players on this list. However, after suffering a second-year-ending injury in 2023, the former Heisman Trophy winner has now seen two of his four NFL seasons cut short due to injury. With the Bengals entering 2024 surrounded by Super Bowl expectations, the team returns one of the NFL's elite wide receiver tandems in Jamar Chase and Tee Higgins. Additionally, Cincinnati bolstered its offensive line in the draft by adding Trent Brown and selecting University of Georgia tackle Amarius Mims at 18th overall. One of the biggest threats to dethrone the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC is that if Burrow cannot stay healthy, it will not matter for the franchise.

7. Stefon Diggs, Houston Texans

The Texans acquired Diggs in April for a 2025 second-round pick. Aiming to rebound after a down 2023 campaign, the Maryland native hauled in 107 passes for 1,183 yards and eight touchdowns, the lowest totals of his Buffalo Bills tenure. As a result, Houston general manager Nick Caserio voided the final three years of the 30-year-old's deal, leaving him on a one-year prove-it contract. A popular pick to repeat as division champions and challenge for the AFC conference crown, the Texans already have an exciting young wide receiver tandem in Nico Collins and Tank Dell, leaving many mouths to feed for second-year quarterback C.J. Stroud. Will Diggs put the team's goals above his own while restoring his value with free agency on the horizon?

8. Evan Neal, New York Giants

Expected to be one of the premier tackles in the league coming out of Alabama, the Giants thought they had the perfect running mate across from Andrew Thomas in Neal. Instead, following an injury-riddled first two seasons in the league, the 23-year-old has also struggled mightily in pass protection. According to Pro Football Focus, he appeared in 15 games as a rookie while allowing a team-high seven sacks, ten hits, and 39 total pressures, leading to a 44.1 grade. Choosing to retool their offensive line in the offseason, the Giants inked Jermaine Eluemunor, Austin Schlottmann, and Aaron Stinnie to deals, leaving Neal's starting spot in jeopardy heading into a make-or-break year three in New York.

9. Quentin Johnston, Los Angeles Chargers

Johnston is suddenly the go-to option for Justin Herbert in the passing game. Los Angeles will hope that the TCU product can put a disappointing rookie campaign behind him, which saw the 21-year-old haul in just 38 receptions for 431 yards and two touchdowns while posting a drop rate of 4.5 percent. The Chargers will feature a new look wide receiver room in 2024. Gone are Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. The former was traded to the Chicago Bears in a salary cap-shedding move, while the latter inked a one-year deal with the New York Jets. Set to compete for targets with Joshua Palmer, D.J. Chark, and rookie Ladd McConkey, if Johnston does not take a leap forward in year two under the helm of Jim Harbaugh, it will be a long season for the Chargers in the ultra-competitive AFC West.

10. Cam Jurgens, Philadelphia Eagles

How do you replace a legend and one of the most decorated players in Philadelphia sports history? Despite an ultra-strong draft that saw them land two of the class's top three corners in Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean, general manager Howie Roseman did not pick a center until the sixth round, meaning Cam Jurgens will be the first man tasked with replacing Jason Kelce. A former second-round pick out of the University of Nebraska, he started 11 games at right guard a year ago following a foot injury in Week 4 that saw him land on the injured reserve list. Now tasked with sliding inside and snapping the ball to Jalen Hurts, the 24-year-old will also be in charge of directing the Eagles tush push play.

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