The NFL is loaded with former Alabama football players. Most of them serve important roles on their respective teams and will have to have strong 2023 seasons to meet expectations.
Recently, Alyssa Barbieri of Touchdown Wire spoke to writers from all 32 NFL wire sites to ask which player on their respective team has the most amount of pressure on them to perform.
In total, seven former Crimson Tide members are considered to have immense pressure on them in the 2023 season.
Whether it be the quarterbacks or a couple offensive linemen, former Alabama stars are facing a very important season. Here’s who they are and why the pressure is on them.
“Williams had offseason knee surgery and his trade request after the arrival of La’el Collins in free agency didn’t see him shipped to another team. The former first-round pick will play the fifth and final year of his deal at right tackle, where he’s projected to start by the season opener. While learning a new position at the pro level, he’ll have to fend off Collins, last year’s starter on the right edge who is coming along faster than expected after the mid-December season-ending injury. He’s fighting to keep the job all season, while also showing either the Bengals he deserves a long-term contract for the right side, or other teams he deserves a shot at either side as a free agent. Either way, he’s suddenly the biggest question mark on the formerly embattled Bengals offensive line.” – Chris Roling, Bengals Wire
Williams has had to fend off injuries in the past, but will now serve a crucial role on the offensive line for the Bengals, protecting MVP-hopeful quarterback Joe Burrow and potential help the offense become one of a Super Bowl caliber.
“It’s not been easy for fans to embrace Williams. The No. 12 overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft caught exactly one pass as a rookie, missing more than half the season recovering from knee surgery. This offseason, he’s already been suspended for the first six games for violating the NFL’s gambling policy. Williams clearly has talent and could make a big impact as soon as he gets back on the field. However, if he doesn’t, expect Williams to join the wrong side of the “Detroit vs. Everybody” equation for both the fan base and perhaps some teammates, too.” – Jeff Risdon, Lions Wire
It’s clear that Williams has some catching up to do. Last season was excusable because of his recovery from a torn ACL, but now missing six games because of a suspension will start to have fans wondering if he was the wrong pick for their franchise.
“It’s an obvious answer, but Tua Tagovailoa is clearly the Dolphin with the most pressure on him in 2023. The former first-round selection balled out in his first season under Mike McDaniel, setting career highs in yards and touchdowns while leading the NFL in passer rating. However, he was also unable to remain on the field due to multiple concussions, which led the team to starting seventh-round pick Skylar Thompson down the stretch and into the playoffs.
“Entering his fourth season, Tagovailoa has to prove that he can remain on the field and continue improving after a strong first year in McDaniel’s offense. With the Dolphins already picking up his fifth-year option, he’s essentially guaranteed the starting job beyond 2023, but he has to earn that next contract.” – Mike Masala, Dolphins Wire
The 2022 season proved that Tagovailoa has the talent and ability to b a franchise quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, it also generated concerns regarding his availability. As Masala points out, Tagovailoa has the burden to prove that he’s capable of staying on the field and healthy for a majority of the 2023 season.
“The pressure is on Patriots quarterback Mac Jones to make people forget about last season. He literally went from being the accepted successor of Tom Brady as a rookie Pro Bowler to people calling for him to be replaced by Bailey Zappe in his second year. It’s time for Jones to show the world who he really is in 2023. Whether he’s the future face of the franchise or simply a backup remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: Jones is all out of excuses.
“Bill O’Brien has been brought in as the new offensive coordinator, along with Adrian Klemm to coach up the struggling offensive line. The Patriots are also one of the frontrunners in the DeAndre Hopkins sweepstakes. Everything could fall into place for a massive bounce-back year for Jones.” – Jordy McElroy, Patriots Wire
The regression was real and the sophomore slump hit Mac Jones hard. Patriots fans are so accustomed to winning, thanks to Tom Brady, that being in last place in the AFC East is something that they are not used to and will not tolerate. Jones must turn things around in 2023 or else his time in New England may be short-lived.
“No player is more important to the Giants in 2023 than second-year right tackle Evan Neal. He struggled mightily as a rookie due to a change of position and injury, but the team is relying heavily on him to turn things around in an Andrew Thomas-like style. They’re thin at tackle and in order to take advantage of their new influx of receivers, the Giants need quarterback Daniel Jones to remain upright and be given some time in the pocket. If Neal continues to struggle it could potentially stunt the team’s growth and even lead to some regression this season.” – Dan Benton, Giants Wire
Evan Neal left Alabama as one of the strongest offensive line performers in the Nick Saban era. Unfortunately, it hasn’t exactly carried over into the NFL. In a division now run by Jalen Hurts and the Eagles, the Giants must fight their way back into playoff contention through the wildcard with the help of Neal, Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley.
Jalen Hurts - Philadelphia Eagles
“With more money comes more problems, and Jalen Hurts is now the third highest-paid quarterback in NFL history after inking a five-year, $255 million deal. He’s the face of the franchise, and with that honor bestowed upon you, the pressure and expectations increase. Hurts was the MVP runner-up in 2022 and like Lane Johnson, the Eagles are nearly unbeatable with the former Alabama/Oklahoma signal-caller in the starting lineup. After some initial debate about whether he’d be an elite NFL signal caller, Hurts has amassed a 22-8 record as a starter in the regular season since the 2021 campaign (second behind Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes) and has won 17 of his last 18 regular-season starts.” – Glenn Erby, Eagles Wire
Jalen Hurts went from second-round backup quarterback to making an appearance in the Super Bowl and nearly being a consensus top-five quarterback in the league. The pressure is on the continue playing at such a high level in the 2023 season.
“Expectations are unreasonably high for Najee Harris as he heads into his third season. Despite amassing 2,930 yards of offense and scoring 20 touchdowns in his first two seasons, his critics see he’s underachieved. The team has made it clear they play to be physical and run the football in 2023 and despite having Jaylen Warren and a young quarterback in Kenny Pickett on the roster, the offense is going to run through Harris.” – Curt Popejoy, Steelers Wire
Najee Harris has become the center of the Steelers’ offense. As Popejoy mentions, some fans and analysts believe he hasn’t played up to his full potential. A lot will be asked of Harris in the 2023 season and it’s up to him to reach the expectations set for him by the coaching staff.