Which Kansas City Chiefs are Under the Most Pressure in 2009?

ESPN: Top five players under pressure

Here's how the list shakes out for the folks over at the four letter network:

5. JaMarcus Russell

4. LaDainian Tomlinson

3. Reggie Bush

2. Tony Romo

1. Jason Campbell

I'm a little surprised by the addition of LT.  He's set for a major decline in production this season when age and carries are considered but somehow, someway he continues to reinvent himself to be the #1 fantasy option in football.  I fully expect Chargers GM A.J. Smith to have no hesitation in deciding that LT is done and cutting him loose if he fails to perform this season.

This list got me thinking about our team in Kansas City.  Do we have any players that have to perform in 2009 or face losing their job?  Will the new defensive system give the players a bigger learning curve?  What offensive players are facing a prove-it year?

Which three Chiefs players are under the most pressure in 2009?  Here's how my list would shake out:

3. Matt Cassel

I would definitely say there's a pressure to perform but Matt Cassel will be the Chiefs quarterback for several seasons because A) he appears to be the best fit for Todd Haley and Scott Pioli and B) he'll likely have a long-term deal in place before the season starts.

So, the pressure is there but I don't necessarily think he has to put up Pro Bowl numbers to keep his job.

2. Derrick Johnson

Entering the final year of his rookie contract, DJ has to show he can perform in the new 3-4 defense.  Zach Thomas is on record that this will be DJ's best system and should exploit his strengths.  A poor season could mean the Chiefs don't re-sign him.

I'm sitting in Austin, TX right now, DJ's alma mater, so I gotta be careful what I say.

1. Larry Johnson

It's simple.  The biggest salaries create the most scrutiny.  Larry Johnson currently has the biggest contract on the team (and franchise history) thus he's expected to put up big numbers.  Only problem is he hasn't done that the last two seasons. 

This season, more than any other, will make or break LJ.  After '09 (and even right now), the Chiefs can get cheaply get out of his contract. 

Ultimately, though, running backs are a dime a dozen in this league.  I think the smart way to run this offense is invest in the offensive line and rotate lesser running backs in and out of there.

***

Who did I miss?

Defensive ends transitioning to linebacker

Mainly, Tamba Hali and Turk McBride.  This is a difficult situation to assess.  On the one hand, the team can quickly decide whether or not these players will "get it" when it comes to making the switch.  On the other hand, they might be inclined to take their relatively low salaries and wait it out.

Wide receivers

Basically, everyone but Dwayne Bowe has no lock on a job for 2010.  They're all playing for their jobs in my opinion.  No one has stood out thus far in their careers.  Bobby Engram is working on a one year, $875,000 deal so he's certainly not guaranteed for 2010.  To be given a roster spot on the 2010 team, everyone after Dwayne Bowe has to step up.

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