Without a doubt, Andy Dalton.
It's odd. Yes. This is a quarterback that breaks a single-season franchise record for yards passing and touchdowns, but there you go. Dalton, who has won 31 of 49 regular season games since being drafted in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft, begins the first year of a mega-deal that he signed during the offseason. A deal that maxes out at $115 million if he wins a couple of Super Bowls.
That's the stand for Dalton. At the very least, win a playoff game.
However, another player is facing mounting pressure.
With Tyler Eifert out for eight weeks after suffering a dislocated elbow against the Baltimore Ravens, tight end Jermaine Gresham is going to shoulder a lot. OK, he should have been able to handle mostly anything, but he hasn't. Not in the way Cincinnati fans expected. Heading into the fifth season, where are the seasons with 60 or more receptions... there's one (2012). Oh. One. Good for you. Where are the seasons with 600 yards or more... there's one (2012). At least the villain knows that he's a villain playing the final year of a five-year deal.
The pressure to perform in the hopes of making something of a career that's lacked superstar entertainment while hoping to earn a decent second contract?
One of the significant perceptions working against Jermaine Gresham is that he drops the football when he's not fumbling it or causing endless amounts of penalties. Two of those three remain in a constant state of reality while the third is added generically because of a critical moment but doesn't characterize the season as a whole.
In 2013, Gresham set a career-high with 11 penalties (including four offensive holds and four false starts) while also setting a career-high in fumbles (3). And he did this playing 14 games (tied a career-low) while only generating 46 receptions, 458 yards receiving and four touchdowns (all career-lows).
Its not that 2013 was a bad season for Gresham -- more like a shadow of a thought that would surface from time to time.
With the acquisition of Tyler Eifert, the declining numbers make sense. But the mistakes, the mental errors, are consistently causing headaches with Cincinnati's ambitious design to find positive growth.
On the other hand, the biggest misconception are the drops. Gresham dropped three "catchable" balls this season (for a drop rate of 6.12), which is, by far, his greatest season.
Who do you think is under the most pressure to perform? Dalton, Gresham, another player? Maybe a coach...