Vet on the hot seat: LaDainian Tomlinson

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

We're going out of the box for our AFC West veteran on the hot seat in the form of LaDainian Tomlinson.

There are plenty of folks in the new-look AFC West who will face pressure. But most of those players are on teams that are a long shot to win the division.

Tomlinson's Chargers are the prohibitive favorites to win the division. So, while Tomlinson hasn't done much personally to put pressure on him, he is a vital cog to the Chargers' cause. If he falters, the team will be in danger of floundering.

Tomlinson went through a long contract renegotiation this offseason. The result was a new deal to keep him in Southern California. However, if Tomlinson, who will turn 30 in June (which is borderline ancient for an NFL running back), has a poor season, it could be his last in San Diego. He is coming off injuries in the past two postseasons and 2009 was his least productive yardage total in his eight-year NFL season. If the injuries continue to pile up and Tomlinson's yardage total goes down, it could be a major sign that his career is winding down.

Tomlinson may not be playing for his career, but he has had to have a strong 2009 and that's why he is the most pressured veteran in the AFC West.

An honorable mention pick is new Denver quarterback Kyle Orton. New Denver coach Josh McDaniels believes in Orton. Still, Orton needs to show he can capably replace the traded Jay Cutler (Orton was part of the package that sent Cutler to Chicago) or both Orton and McDaniels will feel the heat.