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The Schein Nine

Eddie Lacy, Rex Ryan, Jeff Fisher facing make-or-break seasons

June is upon us and the 2016 season opener is less than 100 days away. OTAs have been in full swing for several weeks, mandatory minicamps are just around the corner and training camps begin next month. The temperature is rising. It's go time.

Every new season brings increased expectations for players and coaches, and some are running out of chances. For that bunch, it's time to put up or shut up.

Here's a look at nine NFL coaches and players who are officially on the clock, Schein Nine style:

1) Jadeveon Clowney, outside linebacker, Houston Texans

I am a huge believer in Clowney's incredible talent, and I've been a huge defender of his work ethic. I truly believe that he's simply been bit by the injury bug -- playing in 17 games in his first two NFL seasons -- and the fact that he's barely played has been a function of bad luck.

But now, it's time to put all of that behind him. Clowney was drafted ahead of Khalil Mack for a reason. He still has immense potential, and Texans fans haven't seen Clowney and three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt function together. Think about how scary that would be.

His reputation is on the line. Clowney says he is healthy. Thus, there are no excuses. Clowney needs to sack the quarterback at least 10 times this year, and I think he's capable of reaching that mark. Can he help lead the Texans to a second consecutive AFC South title? A sustained playoff run? And top-five defensive ranking? There are no more excuses.

2) Rex Ryan, head coach, Buffalo Bills

After only one year in Buffalo, the bloom is officially off the rose for this braggadocious head coach. As we guaranteed, Rex's act wore thin as the Bills finished 8-8 and failed to deliver on his expectations of making the playoffs. Ryan's poor in-game management and losses to inferior teams were often on display in Year 1.

And so was his ego, which extended into the draft, when Rex picked Shaq Lawson. Then, he and general manager Doug Whaley scoffed at the notion that they plucked an injured player. Well, Lawson just had shoulder surgery.

I still can't believe the Pegulas were duped into hiring Rex. But here's hoping for the great Bills fans. They know the act is up.

3) Ryan Tannehill, quarterback, Miami Dolphins

How good is Ryan Tannehill?

I thought last year could be a breakout season for the Miami quarterback, but it was a step back by any measuring stick. From Year 3 to Year 4, Tannehill's win total (8-8 in 2014 and 6-10 in 2015), completion percentage (66.4 to 61.9) and TD passes (27 to 24) all dipped. And more than any stat, we all felt it when watching him play.

It's time for Tannehill to live up to his contract extension. Adam Gase was hired as the Dolphins' new head coach, in part to his potential to maximize the quarterback. Gase fixed Jay Cutler in Chicago. He actually got something out of Tim Tebow in Denver. Now, it is Tannehill's time to shine. No excuses. If Gase can't get more production out of Tannehill in 2016, or if the QB can't make the jump, maybe Tannehill being the Dolphins' franchise quarterback is a pipe dream.

4) Justin Gilbert, cornerback, Cleveland Browns

Lost in the shuffle of the brief Johnny Manziel era, the Browns plucked Gilbert with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, 16 spots ahead of Manziel. This escapes many despite the cornerback being a total bust up to this point, struggling to show up on the field and in the meeting room. Want to make a Browns fan cringe? Remind them Cleveland picked Gilbert over Odell Beckham Jr.

A new coaching staff in Cleveland represents a fresh start, and Gilbert needs to prove he gets it heading into his third season. Gilbert's future in Cleveland -- and NFL future -- hangs in the balance this year.

5) Jeff Fisher, head coach, Los Angeles Rams

It's rather remarkable that Fisher still has a job. Mr. 8-8 hasn't even achieved mediocrity in his four subpar seasons with the Rams. With rookie Jared Goff being the Rams' presumable starter at quarterback, this will be a tough task.

On top of that, the team is in Los Angeles, where the spotlight is brighter. Fisher should be on the hot seat. He should have to win nine games to keep his job -- something the head coach hasn't done since 2008, when he was in Tennessee.

6) Gus Bradley, head coach, Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville cleaned up this offseason. They are ready to show major improvement under a likeable Bradley, but likeability only gets you so far.

However, the Jags do have a few things going for them. They have a budding passing attack with Blake Bortles and the receiving tandem of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. They have new playmakers on defense -- picking up uber-talented Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack in the draft, signing Malik Jackson in free agency, and getting back their 2015 top draft pick, Dante Fowler Jr. They are the second-best team on paper in the AFC South.

This all sounds great and definitely shows promise, but Bradley and Co. must show significant improvement from their 5-11 record one year ago. If he can't, a new coach will likely be asked to right the ship.

7) Eric Fisher, tackle, Kansas City Chiefs

The offensive tackle was the top overall pick in the 2013 draft. Frankly, I think that says more about the 2013 class. Fisher has been far from reliable or solid for the Chiefs' O-line. He has even beefed up his weight this offseason in an effort to improve.

It's a big year for the Chiefs, seemingly the forgotten team in the AFC. They were piping hot down the stretch last year, winning their final 10 regular-season games. Yet, they are an afterthought going into 2016. They are going to need overachievers to duplicate last year's performance.

For Fisher, he's got a lot to prove if he wants to stay in Kansas City, or in the NFL as a starting offensive lineman.

8) Eddie Lacy, running back, Green Bay Packers

It's great that Lacy has lost weight after working diligently to get in shape and improve his diet. It also hits home how he simply didn't care and how out of shape he was last year. Lacy rushed for a measly 758 yards in 2015, marking the first time the running back didn't have an 1,100-yard season.

In February, I wrote about how Lacy was the single biggest key to the Packers becoming the Packers again. So there are no more excuses for Lacy. He needs to give his full focus and execute soundly to give Aaron Rodgers a needed balance that eluded the offense a year ago.

Packer nation is relying on Lacy to act like a pro. Only time will tell.

9) Colin Kaepernick, quarterback, San Francisco 49ers

Remember him?

He stayed in San Fran, which is great for the quarterback, whether he knows it or not. Kaepernick can be rejuvenated in Chip Kelly's offense, after his 2015 performance (1,615 passing yards for six touchdowns and five INTs in just nine games). Kelly and Kap are a perfect fit. If Kaepernick can't put up numbers under Kelly or beat out the immortal Blaine Gabbert, then consider the goodwill from his 2013 campaign all but depleted.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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