By: Justin Lynch
Justin predicts the top five worst offenses in the NFL for this year, somehow the Raiders were (mostly) spared.
The NFL has shifted into a time of big offense, these teams apparently didn’t get the memo.
Honorable Mentions: Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With Jameis Winston in town, the Bucs expect to improve on an offense that finished 29th in ppg (17.3) last season. The highlight of the Bucs offense is their weapons on the outside. Veteran Vincent Jackson is still throwing up big numbers (70 rec, 1000 yards) and Mike Evans will try to improve on a rookie season that impressed many. Both are big targets and are really good in jump ball situations. Jackson is 32, but even if he has lost a step, Evans is good enough to take over that number one role. At tight end, the Bucs have Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a second rounder in 2014, who they have high hopes for.
But that’s about all the good in the Bucs offense. The Bucs had arguably the worst offensive line in the NFL last season, and, as we know well, throwing a rookie QB into the fire with no protection is a bad, bad sight (just ask David Carr). The Bucs line had the worst adjusted sack rate (11.3%). the worst stuffed rate (23%), and allowed the third most sacks (tied with San Fran). This offseason they spent draft picks on bulking up on the line, and as a result, they will likely start two rookies this season.
The running game is just as bad. Doug Martin forgot how to play football after a strong rookie year, averaging sub-4.0 yards/carry in each of the last two seasons. He also is not longer a threat in the passing game, catching just 25 balls the last two years after hauling in 45 in 2012. Martin expects to be the starter this year, and that’s because Mike James, Charles Sims, and Bobby Rainey are all borderline-NFL players.
The Bucs might have found their QB of the future, but until they figure out their issues on the line and in the running game Winston will be getting hit a lot and throwing a ton of picks. I believe Winston will be a successful NFL quarterback, but the Bucs need to get guys around him to help his development.
4. Tennessee Titans
The talk of the town in Tennessee will be Marcus Mariota. Mariota was a stand out at Oregon, winning the Heisman Trophy this past season, but many look to his spread offense roots as a cause for concern. Without getting into the future of Mariota as a QB, I think it is clear that he will have to go through some growing pains. Lucky for Mariota, the Titans have a ton of young talent around him that will grow as he does.
Bishop Sankey and his 3.7 yards/carry didn’t blow anyone away in his rookie season, but he’s only 22 and showed flashes of being a productive running back. Their tight end duo of Delanie Walker and Anthony Fasano is more than formidable and is a good security blanket for a young quarterback. The offensive line is still a work in progress, but with Taylor Lewan potentially emerging as one of the league’s best tackles, and Andy Levitre as a veteran presence at guard, Mariota’s blind side should be well covered.
The Biggest strength offensively for Tennessee is at the wide receiver position. They return youngsters Kendall Wright (25) and Justin Hunter (24), as well as veteran Nate Washington (31). All three contributed to last years team and were an underrated core group of receivers. This offseason the Titans drafted Dorial Green-Beckham, one of the most talented receivers in the draft, in the second round. DGB is 6’6” with a sub-4.5 40 time and is a big-time playmaker. He fell due to off the field issues, but he could very well end up being one of the best guys in this years class.
They also picked up a slot threat in Harry Douglas from Atlanta and former Giants standout Hakeem Nicks. In all likelihood, these guys will have little impact due to the depth at the position, but having guys like Douglas and Nicks around will not only be great assurance should the injury bug find the Titans starters, but they should also provide veteran leadership among an offense of NFL-newborns.
The Titans were the 30th offense in the league in terms of points last season, and they is unlikely to improve by very much. However, the Titans have the groundwork for what could be a budding offense, dependent on Mariota’s development. Regardless, we will not see their potential pan out this season.
3. New York Jets
The Jets went out this offseason and got Brandon Marshall. Marshall will allow Decker to play the sidekick role, something he is more cut out for. Jeremy Kerley is no slouch as a third receiver, either. They also smartly let go of Chris Johnson and plan to focus the running attack around power-runners Chris Ivory and newly-acquired Stevan Ridley. Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson are two of the best at their position as well.
Despite this, the Jets will again find themselves amongst the bottom feeders offensively. The Jets still have no quarterback. Geno Smith is expected to start, while Ryan Fitzpatrick will back him up. Geno Smith definitely made strides in his second season, improving his QBR, dramatically lowering his interceptions, and upping his completion percentage, but he still has a ways to go before he can be considered a viable option at quarterback.
The O-Line is slim after their top two guys and are overall just an average group. Marshall is now 31, and though he has been one of the league’s best receivers, he struggled (for him) in Miami without a real QB. Marshall’s touchdown totals were way down when he was without Jay Cutler, and Geno Smith is not someone I see finding Marshall for double-digit touchdowns. Also, are we sure Eric Decker is good? He made a name for himself playing as the second and third option for Peyton Manning, a role that everyone thrives in. His 2014 was not promising and he might not be anything more than another guy that Manning made worth something.
Overall, the Jets will not be a bad team due to their stacked defense, but their offense will struggle.
2. Houston Texans
The Patriots are so good that some like to joke that their second-unit could win a bunch of games in the NFL. Well, we might get to see some of that this season in Houston. Former Patriots assistant Bill O’Brien will again lead the charge, this time with former Patriots backups Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer at quarterback. Neither Mallett nor Hoyer have proven that they can run an offense in the NFL, though neither has had much of a chance.
Houston lost Ryan Fitzpatrick this offseason, as well as long-time receiver Andre Johnson. It is clear that the Texans are ushering in a new era offensively, lead by Deandre Hopkins and rookie Jaelen Strong on the outside. However, the biggest blow to the offense came recently. Arian Foster will undergo groin surgery and is expected to miss significant time. Though the Texans are hopeful he will return this season, their running game will be in shambles with in his absence.
Alfred Blue filled in for Foster in his absence last season and is expected to start the season in the backfield. Blue averaged an abysmal 3.1 yards/carry in 2014, ranking last among qualified backs. This is especially concerning because many times when a starting RB goes down, the backup is able to pick up at least 75-80% of the slack, usually due to a strong offensive line (Ex: Knile Davis and Joseph Randle).
Houston was league-average offensively last season, and returns a bunch of guys on the O-line. They finished 23rd in adjusted sack rate, but gave up the fourth-least sacks of any team. They were 13th in power, hinting towards, however, this can be attributed to the abilities of Foster more so than the offensive line. Houston backs averaged 1.5 ypc less when it wasn’t Foster running.
The Texans have a new quarterback, and are transitioning from a top-5 RB to one of the league’s worst. Another issue for the Texans is at tight end. Young QB’s tend to rely on tight ends, and Garrett Graham is nothing more than a decent red zone threat. Backup C. J. Fiedorowicz is another big target is expected to play a bigger role this season, but he’s nothing special either.
Houston was solid last year, but they will not be nearly as good as they were last season. In fact, I predict that they will be woeful offensively, mainly due to question marks at QB and RB.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
No surprise here. The lowly Jaguars were 31st in yards/game and last in scoring last season. Expect more of the same as the Jaguars trot out Blake Bortles at quarterback for his sophomore campaign. Bortles threw for six more interceptions than touchdowns last season and ranked dead last among qualifying quarterbacks in total QBR (25.2). But can you blame him? The Jaguars had one of the worst offensive lines in football, ranking 30th in adjusted sack rate and 26th in power.
The Jaguars took the first steps at fixing these issues this offseason, bringing in Stefen Wisniewski from Oakland as well as Jermey Parnell from Dallas. Both are expected to start alongside the three returning members of the O-line, featuring 2013 2nd overall pick Luke Joeckel. It’s nice to see the Jaguars starting to beef up their line, but don’t expect a huge improvement from them as a whole.
The Jaguars also dealt with a revolving door of skill position players last season. Jacksonville relied on many running backs throughout the year, including Toby Gerhart, Jordan Todman, Storm Johnson, and Denard Robinson. None of these guys are the answer, so the Jaguars drafted T. J. Yeldon in the second round of this year’s draft, in hopes that he can fill the shoes that Maurice Jones-Drew left.
At receiver, the Jaguars return Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns. Allen Robinson will also be back after suffering a season-ending foot injury. Cecil Shorts is gone, and Justin Blackmon’s career seems to be over, but the trio mentioned above is a decent, young core of receivers for Bortles.
In one of the biggest head scratchers of the offseason, at least in my opinion, the Jaguars signed Julius Thomas to a contract that made him the NFL’s highest paid tight end (Jimmy Graham has since taken that title). At $46 million over five years, the Jaguars get a guy that has never played a full season and turned down $8 million/year (reportedly) to leave Peyton Manning for Blake Bortles. So, yeah, good luck with that.
Overall, the Jaguars have a glimmer of hope. They believe Bortles is the quarterback of the future, and their young core of wideouts is promising. T. J. Yeldon was a good pickup, and an improved offensive line will be good for everyone. However, this is still the NFL’s worst offense. They have improved, but until Blake Bortles proves he deserves to be in this league, I can’t put the Jaguars anywhere else, especially considering the lack of talent around him.