Power Ranking All 32 Offenses Post-Draft
It’s not often that we get to write a piece where the idea is to be as offensive as possible.
More specifically, we are taking an early look at all 32 NFL teams and where each club’s offense ranks in terms of capabilities and potential.
These are not predictions for the 2014 season, but rather, a look at where every club stands right now. Of course, the only somewhat accurate gauge of these units won't come until August at the very least.
Remember, the order of ranking isn’t who we feel will score the least or the most points this upcoming season. There’s certainly more than one way to light up the scoreboard in the NFL, in particular the passing attack, where we have seen record numbers the last two seasons when it comes to interception returns for touchdowns.
Here we will take into account factors such as yards gained, red-zone efficiency and turnovers. We will also consider each team’s offseason arrivals and departures as well as the influence of the 2014 draft.
While we will be obviously taking a look backward in terms of last season’s performance, the goal here is to spin things forward.
Considering there were a dozen changes at offensive coordinator this offseason, there could be some surprises ahead.
32. Carolina Panthers
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 18th
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 26th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Mike Shula
The Carolina Panthers featured the league’s second-ranked defense this past season, a major factor in their reaching the playoffs and winning a division title for the first time since 2008.
They may have to lean on that unit even more in 2014.
While we’re not predicting doom and gloom for Ron Rivera’s team, we have to be concerned about how this club will move the ball in the coming season. There are plenty of changes in terms of the wide receiving corps due to the departures of Steve Smith, Ted Ginn and Brandon LaFell.
Veterans such as Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant hope to help, and first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin may have to step up sooner than later. Tight end Greg Olsen led the team in receiving in 2013. The offensive line will have a different look with the retirement of left tackle Jordan Gross.
Quarterback Cam Newton enjoyed a Pro Bowl season, throwing for 24 scores (13 interceptions) and rushing for a team-high six touchdowns. He remains the big-play component in a ground attack that ranked 11th in the NFL this past season.
In 2014, Rivera’s running game may need to make a much bigger impression if the Carolina offense is to have any consistent success.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 32nd
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 31st
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Jedd Fisch
Obviously, there is nowhere to go but up for the Jacksonville Jaguars this fall.
A year ago, the team finished dead last in the league in scoring with 247 points. Over the past two seasons the Jaguars have totaled a mere 502 points in 32 games. That’s 104 points less than the Denver Broncos (606) managed in 2013.
So what’s the forecast this season? Veteran quarterback Chad Henne returns, while first-round pick Blake Bortles is expected to watch and learn all year. Free-agent running back Toby Gerhart is now the main man in the backfield in lieu of Maurice Jones-Drew, who signed with the Oakland Raiders.
Underrated Cecil Shorts and second-year pro Ace Sanders are the starting wideouts for now, but we should see our fair share of Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson, picked up in the second round of this year’s draft.
Former Denver Broncos Pro Bowler Zane Beadles is now at right guard, while 2013 first-round left tackle Luke Joeckel hopes to remain healthy all season.
Strides are slowly but surely being made here. But to paraphrase the old saying, Jacksonville wasn’t built in a day.
30. St. Louis Rams
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 21st
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 30th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Brian Schottenheimer
We can see the tweets and comments coming.
The St. Louis Rams are near the bottom of the league in offense according to these power rankings? With all the talent they’ve accumulated in recent seasons?
A year ago, despite having to use two quarterbacks in Sam Bradford and Kellen Clemens, the team did manage to average 21.8 points per game, the first time since 2006 than the Rams averaged at least 20 points per contest for a season.
Still, despite a young receiving corps that includes speedster Tavon Austin and a ground attack highlighted by the emerging Zac Stacy, there are question marks along the offensive line with left tackle Jake Long coming back from injury and the inevitable learning curve for first-round blocker Greg Robinson.
Can Bradford hold up all year? He’s missed substantial time in two of his first four seasons, although he threw 14 touchdown passes compared to only four interceptions in his limited stint in 2013.
It’s also safe to say that moving the football against the likes of the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals six times a season doesn’t inspire much confidence. Call this offense an enigma for now.
29. Cleveland Browns
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 27th
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 17th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Kyle Shanahan
The euphoria of the Cleveland Browns landing quarterback Johnny Manziel in the first round of May’s draft was soon followed by a resounding thud.
How long that thud lasts is one of the biggest questions surrounding Mike Pettine’s team.
The Browns certainly have some things in place when it comes to their offense in 2014. Quarterback Brian Hoyer showed some promise before going down with a knee injury in October. The addition of free-agent running back Ben Tate is a big plus, and tight end Jordan Cameron comes off a Pro Bowl year in which he caught 80 passes, seven for scores.
The offensive front features Pro Bowlers in left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack. Second-round pick Joel Bitonio could challenge for a starting job at right guard as well.
But what is the latest on Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon, the NFL leader with 1,646 receiving yards in 2013 despite sitting out the first two games of the season due to suspension? Last Friday, ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported that the star performer is facing another suspension.
This week, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam threw his support to Gordon. “Josh is learning and growing and improving as a person,” said Haslam during a luncheon at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, as reported by Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer:
He's learning how to work hard. He's learning how to be a professional. Josh is a smart young man. All of us have made mistakes when we were that age. We're counting on Josh being a good football player for the Browns for a long time to come.
Regardless of the length of time, it’s hard to elevate the Browns’ offensive ranking any higher, at least for now.
28. Oakland Raiders
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 24th
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 23rd
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Greg Olson
Have the Oakland Raiders done enough this offseason on the offensive side of the ball to raise the concern of the rest of their AFC West brethren?
We know general manager Reggie McKenzie added a lot of names on defense for the second straight year. But will some of the moves on offense pay off sooner than later?
The team traded for veteran quarterback Matt Schaub via the Houston Texans and drafted Fresno State’s Derek Carr in the second round last week. Schaub comes off a forgettable 2013 and looks to jumpstart his career once again.
We are still waiting for Darren McFadden to play an entire 16-game season. In 2013, the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft actually finished third on the team in rushing behind fellow running back Rashad Jennings and quarterback Terrelle Pryor, both no longer with the team. Enter Maurice Jones-Drew via the Jacksonville Jaguars, more than one year removed from the injury that shelved him for the final 10 games of the 2012 season.
Free agency brings three new starters up front in the form of left tackle Donald Penn, right guard Kevin Boothe and right tackle Austin Howard. It also brought wide receiver James Jones, who totaled 310 passes, 37 for scores, in seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers. He hopes to make life easier for both Denarius Moore and Rod Streater, the latter Oakland’s leader in catches this past season.
There are certainly some nice pieces in place here. But the Raiders offense still has more questions than answers in terms of firepower, at least for now.
27. Houston Texans
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 31st
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 11th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Bill O’Brien (Head Coach)
The tension over who would be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft was fairly substantial. Eventually, the Houston Texans selected defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
The suspense over when head coach Bill O’Brien and co. would select a quarterback lasted much longer. The team grabbed University of Pittsburgh product Tom Savage.
As for this season, at least for now, the Texans’ starter is well-traveled veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who comes off a relief role with the Tennessee Titans in which he threw for 14 scores but committed an equal amount of turnovers.
There are certainly weapons for him in place in Houston, although the best of the bunch doesn’t seem very happy these days.
Wideout Andre Johnson, 14th in league history with 927 receptions, knows the frustration of starting over again, this time coming off a 2-14 season. “When you bring a new coach in, you go through a rebuilding process,” said Johnson via Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle.
“Some people say it’s not. Some people say it’s a quick fix. Everybody has their own opinion. But I’ve been through the situation more than once.”
Frustrations are certainly understandable, especially when you enter the season on a 14-game losing streak. But the cupboard is now bare here. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins certainly showed some flashes in 2013, and the return of former Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster, who missed eight games a season ago, certainly helps. The Texans added depth in the backfield via Andre Brown, who led the New York Giants in rushing this past season.
Now let’s see if it all comes together. And more importantly, can the club cut back on those 31 turnovers a year ago?
26. New York Giants
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 28th
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 28th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Ben McAdoo
There was some good news for the New York Giants in 2013. The team won seven of its final 10 games following a 0-6 start.
But it was the offense that was the problem all season. Only four teams in the league scored fewer points and gained fewer yards. But no team in the NFL coughed up the football more than Tom Coughlin’s club. Keep in mind that the Giants totaled a disturbing 44 turnovers while their offensive unit produced just 29 touchdowns.
How much better will the offense be in 2014? Quarterback Eli Manning was responsible for 29 of those 44 turnovers and is currently recovering from offseason ankle surgery. Wide receivers Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle have a new teammate in rookie Odell Beckham Jr., while free-agent pickup Rashad Jennings is the top name on the depth chart in terms of the running game. New York hopes to see a healthy David Wilson sooner than later, and rookie Andre Williams bears watching.
The Giants offensive line had its issues last season, and there doesn’t seem to be any front-runner for the tight end job. And these days in the NFC East, the inability to consistently score points just doesn’t add up to a lot of success.
25. Buffalo Bills
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 22nd
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 19th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Nathaniel Hackett
The Buffalo Bills made a big move on Day 1 of the 2014 NFL draft.
Let’s see if it helps the team in its attempt to move out of the AFC East basement for the first time since 2007.
The Bills gave up a few draft choices in 2015 to move up and grab wide receiver Sammy Watkins with the fourth overall pick. And the happiest person in Orchard Park, besides head coach Doug Marrone, has to be second-year quarterback EJ Manuel.
The club also added a little more speed to a crowded backfield via another trade with the addition of running back Bryce Brown, late of the Philadelphia Eagles. He joins C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and free-agent pickup Anthony Dixon on a Bills team that was second in the league in rushing in 2013.
As for Watkins, he joins second-year pro Robert Woods and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers wideout Mike Williams as well as receivers T.J, Graham and Marquise Goodwin.
A healthy Manuel, who made just 10 starts during his rookie campaign, is essential to the improvement the Bills make on this side of the football. Marrone’s club produced only 31 offensive touchdowns a year ago, including just 16 scores through the air. Of course, what can you expect when you’re forced to start three different quarterbacks during the season?
24. Washington Redskins
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 23rd
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 9th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Sean McVay
There’s a new head coach in the nation’s capital. But does that mean we will see the same old results from the Washington Redskins?
Jay Gruden inherits a club that has finished last in the NFC East in five of the past six seasons. In between there was a division title in 2012 thanks in part to a big year from then-rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.
A healthy Griffin would go a long way this season, especially with new wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts. They join veteran Pierre Garcon, who led the NFL with 113 catches in 2013. Second-year tight end Jordan Reed bears watching once again as well.
Washington ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing one year after leading the league in that category, thanks mainly to talented running back Alfred Morris.
Of course, one of the Redskins’ biggest problems this past season was the inability to hang on to the football. One year after committing a league-low 14 turnovers, Washington coughed up the football 34 times in 16 contests.
There are certainly a lot of talented pieces in place here for Gruden to work with. It will be interesting to see just how long it will take this unit to jell.
23. Tennessee Titans
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 19th
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 22nd
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Jason Michael
New head coach Ken Whisenhunt hopes to do for Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker what he helped do for San Diego Chargers veteran signal-caller Philip Rivers this past season.
The latter was the league’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2013. Locker would just like to come back and stay on the field all season. The former first-round draft choice has taken his lumps, literally, over the last two seasons.
The Titans are thus building a wall around their young quarterback. First-round pick Taylor Lewan is expected to start at right tackle alongside guard Chance Warmack, the team’s top selection in 2013.
While running back Chris Johnson is no longer with the club, the Titans are stacked at running back with Shonn Greene, Jackie Battle, rookie Bishop Sankey and free-agent addition Dexter McCluster, who figures more in the backfield than he did as a wide receiver with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Speaking of that position, Kendall Wright caught a quiet 94 passes in 2013, just two for scores. Nate Washington and Justin Hunter combined for seven touchdowns, while tight end Delanie Walker was a big factor, catching 60 passes and leading the club with six touchdown grabs.
During the team’s 3-1 start a year ago, the Titans played turnover-free football. Hence, all of their 25 turnovers came in the club’s final 12 games, most of those with veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (now with the Houston Texans) at the helm.
Now, let’s see if Whisenhunt can keep Locker on the field enough to warrant consideration for NFL comeback honors as well.
22. New York Jets
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 29th
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 25th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Marty Mornhinweg
In this ever-changing age of the National Football League, it’s wise not to mess with tradition.
That means that with head coach Rex Ryan at the helm, it is a must that the New York Jets select a defensive player with their first pick in the draft. So it was no surprise that the team added safety Calvin Pryor, late of the Louisville Cardinals, in the first round.
But what about an offensive unit that produced only 25 touchdowns this past season, including just 13 through the air, and a club that produced the fourth-fewest points in the league? Free agency brought both Eric Decker and Jacoby Ford, while the addition of running back Chris Johnson, cast off from the Tennessee Titans after six seasons, may wind up being an enormous plus.
Meanwhile, the draft netted tight end Jace Amaro in the second round and wide receivers Jalen Saunders and Shaquelle Evans in the fourth. That’s a lot of new toys for second-year quarterback Geno Smith, who hopes to cut back on those 25 turnovers as a rookie.
This could be an intriguing attack as the 2014 season unfolds.
21. Minnesota Vikings
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 14th (Tied)
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 13th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Norv Turner
You have to like the fact that aggressive general manager Rick Spielman jumped back into the bottom of the first round of last week’s NFL draft and selected University of Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, the team’s quarterback of the future.
Does that mean the immediate future?
New head coach Mike Zimmer and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner inherit a Vikings team that didn’t have a great deal of trouble scoring points last season when it had the ball. The offensive unit produced 41 touchdowns, but the Purple Gang did commit 32 turnovers. And lest we forget, no team in the NFL allowed more points than Minnesota in 2013.
Turner inherits quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder to go along with Bridgewater. He also gets to work with running back Adrian Peterson, wideouts Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson and Jerome Simpson, as well as tight end Kyle Rudolph. Left tackle Matt Kalil leads a very respectable offensive line.
You can expect some interesting things when Zimmer’s club has the football this season. How long the Vikings have it for one reason or another may be an entirely different story.
20. Kansas City Chiefs
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 6th (Tied)
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 21st
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Doug Pederson
How big of a jump did the Kansas City Chiefs make under new head coach Andy Reid in 2013?
Consider that the team scored a league-low 211 points prior to his arrival and more than doubled that total (430) this past season. Also keep in mind that Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles scored an NFL-high 19 touchdowns in just 15 games. The Chiefs scored just 18 total touchdowns as a team in 2012.
The franchise certainly took its hits on the offensive side of the ball during free agency. Gone are offensive linemen Branden Albert, Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz. Versatile wide receiver/kick returner Dexter McCluster is now a member of the Tennessee Titans.
Reid still has quarterback Alex Smith, who threw a career-high 23 touchdown passes in 2013. Charles finished second in the league with 1,980 total yards from scrimmage and also led the Chiefs in receptions this past season. Veterans Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery could be joined sometime soon by another much-needed veteran wideout.
Somehow, Reid will make it all work. But also keep in mind that 11 of the club’s 52 total touchdowns came via returns this past season. That’s a lot of production for an offense to make up.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 30th
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 32nd
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Jeff Tedford
It’s hard to believe that with all they already have and what they managed to add that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won’t be a much better football team in 2014.
Then again, in terms of the offense, the Bucs couldn’t be much worse.
No club in the league gained fewer yards per game and only the Jacksonville Jaguars (247) and Houston Texans (276) scored fewer points than the Buccaneers (288), who averaged exactly 18 points per game.
That certainly wouldn’t make Jolly Roger or any other fan of the team happy.
New head coach Lovie Smith has offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford at his disposal. Veteran free-agent addition Josh McCown will be the starter behind center with a healthy Doug Martin in the backfield. The 2012 rookie sensation missed the vast majority of last season after totaling 1,926 total yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns during his debut campaign.
Former Pro Bowler Vincent Jackson (6’5”) will now team with rookies in wide receiver Mike Evans (6’5”) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (6’5”), giving McCown a tall set of targets.
Add a revamped offensive line that feature free-agent pickups in left tackle Anthony Collins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith, and the pieces are certainly in place for a much-improved performance.
18. Miami Dolphins
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 26th
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 27th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Bill Lazor
Just when it looked as if the Miami Dolphins were getting ready to close in on their first playoff berth since 2008, the offense picked a bad time to give up scoring.
With an 8-6 record and owners of a three-game winning streak, Joe Philbin’s team combined to score seven points in season-ending losses to the Buffalo Bills (19-0) and New York Jets (20-7). On the season, Miami averaged less than 20 points per game.
So what will be different in 2014? The offensive line has almost been completely revamped, including new tackles in veteran Branden Albert and rookie Ja’Wuan James, the latter being the team’s first-round pick this month. A year ago, the Dolphins ranked 26th in rushing offense and allowed a league-high 58 sacks, all of those inflicted on the person of quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
A bounce-back season from wideout Mike Wallace would be a big help. The former Pittsburgh Steelers speedster caught 73 passes this past season but scored just five touchdowns while averaging only 12.7 yards per reception. Tight end Charles Clay proved to be a big performer in 2013, catching 69 passes for 759 yards and leading the team with seven total touchdowns.
Finally, the aforementioned running game should benefit from the addition of free-agent running back Knowshon Moreno, who enjoyed a career year with the Broncos, totaling 1,586 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns for the AFC champions.
17. Baltimore Ravens
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 25th
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 29th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Gary Kubiak
What happened to that balance?
The defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens hardly looked the part in 2013, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Is it any wonder that quarterback Joe Flacco served up a career-high 22 interceptions in 16 games, just one year after the Super Bowl XLVII MVP was picked off just 10 times in 20 contests in 2012, including the club’s four-game postseason run?
We have to figure that Ray Rice and Brandon Pierce, who combined for only 1,096 yards rushing in 2013, will bounce back from a year in which only two teams in the league gained fewer yards on the ground. It’s also worth noting that only the Jacksonville Jaguars (43.9 percent) had a lower touchdown percentage inside the red zone (46.2 percent) than the Ravens this past season.
Flacco will also have the luxury of a pair of new targets in veteran wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels, late of the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans, respectively. Combined with wideouts Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones and a healthier tight end in Dennis Pitta, John Harbaugh’s squad should rebound from its so-so showing a year ago.
And the Ravens’ offensive front, which in part allowed 48 sacks in 2013, must respond with better play this season.
16. Arizona Cardinals
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 16th (Tied)
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 12th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Harold Goodwin
The Arizona Cardinals certainly flew a bit higher than in 2012, and their improvement should continue this fall.
The team not only doubled its win total, finishing 10-6 a year after posting five victories, but they scored 379 points in 2013, quite a jump from the 250 they totaled the previous season.
Head coach Bruce Arians is certainly hoping that veteran quarterback Carson Palmer can pick up where he left off in the second half of last season. The league’s No. 1 overall pick in 2003 with the Cincinnati Bengals threw nearly twice as many touchdown passes (16) than interceptions (nine) in his last nine outings after throwing eight scores while being picked off 13 times during the team’s 3-4 start.
While veteran Larry Fitzgerald led the club with 82 receptions and 10 touchdown grabs, Michael Floyd emerged as a big-play option, catching 65 passes and averaging 16.0 yards per reception. Free-agent additions such as tight end John Carlson and wideout Ted Ginn should aid Palmer’s cause.
Second-year running back Andre Ellington is expected to be the main man in the backfield this season and hopes to improve an Arizona running game that ranked 23rd in the league this past season. The return of guard Jonathan Cooper, who missed his rookie season in 2013 due to injury, figures to be a major plus.
15. Dallas Cowboys
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 5th
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 16th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Bill Callahan
Tag, you’re it!
Bill Callahan may still have the title of offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, but Scott Linehan will be the one calling the plays this season.
We have to wonder if that includes an increase in running back DeMarco Murray’s carries in 2014. Dallas’ ground attack finished 24th in the NFL in 2013, slightly up from the previous season, when only the Arizona Cardinals ran for fewer yards in the league.
All told, Dallas totaled fewer than 100 yards rushing in 11 games and fewer than 20 rushing attempts in half of their 16 games in 2013.
So will it be another year of quarterback Tony Romo carrying the attack? In 15 games in 2013, he threw more than three times as many touchdown passes (31) as interceptions. Combine that with Kyle Orton’s one-game performance, and the Dallas offense produced 45 touchdowns this past season, 12 on the ground and 33 through the air.
Romo will have ageless tight end Jason Witten, explosive wideout Dez Bryant and emerging Terrance Williams to throw to. And while talented wide receiver Miles Austin was let go this offseason, Rowan Cavner of DallasCowboys.com says that doesn’t rule out the Cowboys bringing back the former undrafted free-agent story.
Last week, for the third time in four years, Jones and the Cowboys drafted an offensive lineman in the first round. Versatile Zack Martin figures to start at left guard alongside tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick.
If Romo can return nearly 100 percent from his offseason back surgery, this could wind up being a conservative pick in terms of a power ranking.
14. Seattle Seahawks
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 8th (Tied)
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 18th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Darrell Bevell
Sometimes we watched the Seattle Seahawks and wondered how they managed to score 417 points in 2013.
Some of that was made easier by the fact that no team in the NFL forced more turnovers (39) than Pete Carroll’s club.
Combine that with a team that coughed up the football only 19 times last season, and it's clear that ball security and efficiency was the key to the Super Bowl XLVIII champions’ attack this past season.
Quarterback Russell Wilson took his lumps in 2013 and still threw 26 touchdown passes for the second time in as many seasons. The league’s fourth-ranked ground attack was again led by workhorse Marshawn Lynch and spelled on occasion by Robert Turbin. Don’t forget that Wilson finished second on the team with 539 yards rushing last season. Look for second-year runner Christine Michael's role to increase this season.
With Golden Tate now in Detroit, wide receivers Doug Baldwin, Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice take center stage, granted the latter two can stay healthy. Zach Miller and Luke Willson are the main performers at tight end. Speaking of health, Carroll is certainly hoping that left tackle Russell Okung can avoid the injuries that caused him to miss half the season in 2013.
This offense will likely continue to not look very petty. But it’s amazing, the reflection that comes off the base of that Lombardi Trophy.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 16th (Tied)
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 20th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Todd Haley
Despite wins in six of their final eight games, the Pittsburgh Steelers still finished with an 8-8 record for the second straight year.
And what had to be particularly unnerving for head coach Mike Tomlin, besides the erratic play of his defense, was a ground game ranked near the very bottom of the NFL in 2013.
Only four teams in the league ran for fewer yards than the Steelers. But that figures to change this upcoming season with the duo of promising second-year running back Le’Veon Bell and veteran workhorse LeGarrette Blount, who comes over from the New England Patriots. Bell totaled 1,259 yards from scrimmage during his debut campaign, running for a team-high eight scores while also contributing with 45 receptions.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger enters his 11th NFL season and has rarely looked better. He hopes to have tight end Heath Miller all season in 2014 and has to be anxious to connect with Pro Bowl wideout Antonio Brown once again.
The elusive performer finished second in the league in both catches (110) and receiving yards (1,499) this past season. He figures to pair with second-year pro Markus Wheaton now that wideout Emmanuel Sanders has moved to the Denver Broncos. But keep an eye on rookie Martavis Bryant, a fourth-round pick from Clemson. Veterans Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey hope to make an impression as well.
Finally, Tomlin’s offensive line came into its own late last season and will get center Maurkice Pouncey back after missing him for all but a few moments of the 2013 season. After allowing four of more sacks in six of their first nine games in 2013, the Steelers saw Roethlisberger sacked only seven times in the team’s final seven contests.
12. Indianapolis Colts
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 14th (Tied)
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 15th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Pep Hamilton
It may surprise some to know that Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck was one of the more improved players in the league in 2013, especially when it came to taking care of the football.
A year after he committed 23 turnovers during his rookie campaign, the first overall pick in the 2012 draft coughed up the football just 11 times this past season.
With the healthy return of performers such as wide receiver Reggie Wayne, tight end Dwayne Allen and running back Vick Ballard, combined with the talents of emerging wideout T.Y. Hilton and tight end Coby Fleener, the Indianapolis attack should be pretty potent.
Speaking of Ballard and the ground attack, just what can we expect from running back Trent Richardson in his second season with the Colts? Chuck Pagano's club was tied for 20th in the NFL in rushing in 2013. That seems like the biggest question mark when it comes to this unit, and it indeed could remain a dilemma.
11. Detroit Lions
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 13th
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 6th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Joe Lombardi
The Detroit Lions looked like they were on their way to a big year before the turnover bug bit the team during the second half of 2013.
A 1-6 finish low-lighted by 21 turnovers in those contests cost the team a playoff berth and head coach Jim Schwartz his job. Enter Jim Caldwell; perhaps his appointment is one reason the Lions opted for tight end Eric Ebron with their first pick in the 2014 draft.
Think about Caldwell’s previous stops around the league with the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens. Can you say Dallas Clark and, to a degree, Dennis Pitta?
(Joseph) Fauria is good in the red area right now; we’re working on developing the rest of his game and running routes and things. This guy can run routes and get open and get separation. ...
You know, we had a lot of drops last year. I think that was, if you want to say an issue with the receivers, for me personally it was the number of drops.
Of course, we can’t speak of receivers without mentioning Calvin Johnson, who scored a dozen touchdowns in 14 games last season, just one year after setting the NFL single-season record with 1,964 receiving yards.
He and quarterback Matthew Stafford now have a new teammate in Super Bowl champion wideout Golden Tate. Running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell are a productive duo, and tight end Brandon Pettigrew returns for his sixth season.
We know the Lions have talent on all sides of the football. Let’s hope not much gets in the way of that this season.
10. San Diego Chargers
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 12th
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 5th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Frank Reich
Brass knuckles football?
Rather than the often-used term "ball control," we opted to use a different description for last season’s San Diego Chargers.
We can expect more of the same this season.
Running back Ryan Mathews comes off a career year, as does Donald Brown, who joins the team from Indianapolis after finally looking like a first-round draft choice in 2013. Versatile Danny Woodhead finished as the Chargers’ second-leading rusher and receiver, totaling eight touchdowns.
Eight-time Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates led the club in catches in 2013, but also keep an eye on third-year pro Ladarius Green. At wide receiver, Keenan Allen was a 1,000-plus-yard performer as a rookie last year; he returns along with Vincent Brown, Eddie Royal and a hopefully healthy Malcom Floyd.
And talk about a bit of irony: A year ago, quarterback Philip Rivers earned NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors thanks to the combination of head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. The latter has moved on to coach the Tennessee Titans and was replaced by Reich.
A combination of the above performers and the continued improvement of a solid offensive line could lead to bigger and better things in 2014.
9. San Francisco 49ers
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 11th
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 24th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Greg Roman
Even the names in the San Francisco 49ers backfield scare opposing defenses.
There’s running backs Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and now rookie Carlos Hyde. They are all part of a team that finished third in the league in rushing this past season.
Fourth-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick hopes to take advantage of a talented and deeper wide receiving corps. Keeping Michael Crabtree and veteran Anquan Boldin together all season would be a major plus. Add former Buffalo Bills speedster Stevie Johnson and rookie Bruce Ellington, and big things could be in store.
Tight end Vernon Davis caught just 52 receptions in 2013 but totaled 13 touchdowns, nearly two-thirds of Kaepernick’s season total. And the offensive line may be the best in the business.
But the beauty of this offense has been its efficiency and ability to take care of the football. Under head coach Jim Harbaugh the last three seasons, the Niners have committed just 44 turnovers in 48 regular-season contests.
8. Atlanta Falcons
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 20th
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 14th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Dirk Koetter
No pun intended, but we are going to take a flyer on the Atlanta Falcons in 2014.
And we are predicting big things from the recently dormant Atlanta ground game, one that ranked 29th in the league in 2012 and dead last this past season.
Health comes in the form of an upgraded offensive line and the new right-side combo of veteran free-agent guard Jon Asamoah and rookie tackle Jake Matthews, the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft.
Assistance will also come via the fresh legs of running back Devonta Freeman, a fourth-round pick from Florida State. Veterans Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers return as well, but it's likely that Freeman emerges as the major force on an improved running attack.
Combine a new emphasis on balance with quarterback Matt Ryan and his receiving corps of Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas, and the results could be impressive. Add in the addition of veteran return artist Devin Hester, and better field position could make life easier for Ryan and co. throughout the season.
7. Cincinnati Bengals
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 6th (Tied)
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 10th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Hue Jackson
The Cincinnati Bengals are one of the league’s most balanced teams on both sides of the football.
However, for some reason, their success is often dictated by the performance of quarterback Andy Dalton, which was certainly the case in 2013.
Including the team’s latest postseason disaster, Dalton threw 27 touchdown passes but committed 12 turnovers. In six losses, the three-year pro threw for only seven scores and coughed up the ball 14 times.
Do the math. Despite another playoff appearance, Dalton committed a total of 26 turnovers in 17 contests.
So why the optimism here, especially considering the team has a new offensive coordinator in Hue Jackson?
The backfield is loaded with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Giovani Bernard and rookie Jeremy Hill. The pass-catching corps included Pro Bowler A.J. Green and fellow wideout Marvin Jones as well as tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert. An efficient offensive front allowed just 29 sacks.
Meanwhile, only the Denver Broncos were better this past season in the red zone than the Bengals, who converted 34 of their 46 opportunities into touchdowns, a nifty 73.9 percent.
With Jackson at the controls, we can also look for the Bengals to make the running game more of a factor. The team finished just 18th in the NFL in rushing last season. That figures to change in 2014, much to the benefit of not only Dalton but the Cincinnati defense as well.
6. Green Bay Packers
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 8th (Tied)
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 3rd
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Tom Clements
If the NFL is indeed quarterback-driven, the Green Bay Packers had the corner on using them last season.
With any luck, Rodgers and some of his teammates are able to stay upright all season. Still, consider the fact that he and Scott Tolzien, Seneca Wallace and Matt Flynn all took turns behind center, and it’s amazing that only two teams in the NFL gained more yards than the Packers in 2014.
A big part of the club’s success was a much-improved ground attack led by Eddie Lacy, the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2013. The former Alabama star finished eighth in the league with 1,178 rushing yards along with a team-high 11 touchdowns, and the Pack went from 20th in the NFL in rushing to seventh one year later.
Fullback John Kuhn returns, as does the talented James Starks. Cobb and fellow wideout Jordy Nelson will be back as well, along with Jarrett Boykin. Green Bay also added wide receiver Davante Adams in the second round of the draft. Andrew Quarless returns at tight end, but the Pack also addressed this area in the draft by selecting Richard Rodgers in the third round.
A challenged offensive line welcomes back tackle Bryan Bulaga this season as well.
With all the pieces in place in 2014, it will be interesting to see what this club is capable of offensively after such an impressive showing this past season.
5. New England Patriots
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 3rd
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 7th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Josh McDaniels
There were a lot of obituaries written for the New England Patriots as the 2013 season unfolded.
Was quarterback Tom Brady starting to show signs of age? Could the offense survive without players such as wide receiver Wes Welker, running back Danny Woodhead and oft-injured tight end Rob Gronkowski?
The answer was yet another "yes."
Lost in last season’s “down” year for the Pats was the fact that only the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears scored more points than Bill Belichick’s team. Despite the fact that Brady (25) threw 30 fewer touchdown passes than Peyton Manning (55) in 2013, their teams still met in the AFC title game.
Also lost was the fact that New England finished ninth in the NFL in rushing, the second straight season that the team ranked in the top 10 in this category. Running back Stevan Ridley led the club with 773 yards rushing and seven scores. Shane Vereen actually totaled more receptions (47) than carries (44).
Will Brandon Bolden see more carries in 2014, or can rookie fourth-round pick James White fill the LeGarrett Blount role for the Pats?
Second-year wide receivers such as Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce should be bigger factors this season, as should free-agent pickup Brandon LaFell. Of course, Julian Edelman did his best Welker impression in 2013, leading the club with 105 receptions.
Obviously, Gronkowski’s health is a big factor here. But this team has learned to adjust no matter who is on the field and will figure to frustrate opposing defenses once again.
4. New Orleans Saints
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 10th
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 4th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Pete Carmichael
If we were power ranking NFL offenses at home, we might be putting the New Orleans Saints at the front of the line.
A year ago, Sean Payton’s club averaged 34.0 points per game at the Superdome. In 10 road contests, including the playoff split with the Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks, the Saints totaled just 183 points in 10 outings.
That’s pretty simple math.
Still, we need a calculator when it comes to quarterback Drew Brees, who has now thrown for 5,000-plus yards in three straight seasons. He has All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham, as well as wide receivers Marques Colston, Kenny Still and now rookie Brandin Cooks.
Those concerned about the departure of running back Darren Sproles may not realize that underrated Pierre Thomas, the team leader with 549 yards rushing in 2013, totaled more catches (77) than Sproles (71) this past season.
Payton’s club did finish just 25th in the league in rushing a year ago. But don’t be surprised if that number changes dramatically in 2014 as the Saints look to recapture that formula that earned them a Super Bowl championship in 2009.
3. Chicago Bears
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 2nd
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 8th
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Aaron Kromer
Yes, that is not a typographical error at the top of the page.
Only the Denver Broncos scored more points (606) than the Chicago Bears (445) in 2013. And keep in mind that Marc Trestman’s team did that with two different starting quarterbacks.
Of course, the Chicago defense was busy giving up points faster than the offense could score them. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that this attack has emerged as one of the most dangerous in the league.
Quarterback Jay Cutler will once again have running back Matt Forte, wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett at his disposal. Jeffery really came into his own in 2013, as he and Marshall combined for 189 catches totaling 2,716 yards and 19 touchdowns.
And be it Cutler or last year’s backup Josh McCown (now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), a revamped offensive front allowed just 30 sacks, 14 fewer than the previous season.
If the Bears can get their defense back on track, this could be a very dangerous club this season. And who would have thought that Chicago’s calling card would be a balanced and explosive offense?
2. Denver Broncos
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 1st
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 1st
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Adam Gase
So what can the Denver Broncos’ record-setting attack do for an encore?
Find the kind of balance that actually leads to a Super Bowl title.
In 2013, led by prolific quarterback and league MVP Peyton Manning, John Fox’s club set NFL single-season records for points scored (606) and touchdowns (76). Manning threw a league-record 55 touchdown passes, while five Broncos players scored at least 10 touchdowns.
Two of those five performers, wide receiver Eric Decker (New York Jets) and running back Knowshon Moreno (Miami Dolphins), are now members of the AFC East. But there are still plenty of toys in the Mile High City in the form of wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker, plus tight end Julius Thomas.
Th Broncos will have a new starter on this unit in the form of running back Montee Ball, a second-round pick in 2013. And free-agent wideout Emmanuel Sanders, late of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is expected to take up the slack left by Decker's departure. Rookie wideout Cody Latimer could also be a player to watch.
Up front, the return of a healthy Ryan Clady takes a bit of the sting out of the free-agent departure of guard Zane Beadles. Clady’s fill-in, Chris Clark, moves over to right tackle, with Orlando Franklin moving over to left guard.
The Broncos are certainly capable of scoring well over 500 points once again this upcoming season. Depending on how much defensive improvement they wind up making, the questions will be whether they will want or need to score that much.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
2013 Points Scored (NFL Rank): 4th
2013 Yards Gained (NFL Rank): 2nd
2014 Offensive Coordinator: Pat Shurmur
It’s hard not to like what we see in the Philadelphia Eagles these days, especially on the offensive side of the football.
Yes, the league’s second-ranked offense and No. 1 running attack has All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy, the league leader in rushing yards and total yards from scrimmage a year ago. There’s a new backfield mate in running back Darren Sproles, who is dangerous every time he touches the ball, especially in the passing game.
Riley Cooper came into his own last season, catching 47 passes for 835 yards and eight touchdowns, and will be counted on even more in 2014. Veteran wide receiver Jeremy Maclin returns after missing all of 2013 and will pair with Cooper. The Birds added Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff in last week’s draft.
Chip Kelly’s club also has abundant riches in tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz, who combined for 10 touchdowns last season. This all came together due to the unexpected emergence of second-year quarterback Nick Foles, who threw an astounding 27 touchdown passes compared to only two interceptions in 2013. Philadelphia’s offensive line also played solid football this past season.
Notice we left the mention of the departure of wide receiver DeSean Jackson for last, despite the fact that he finished first on the team in receptions. He was released after six seasons with the club and is now a member of the Washington Redskins.
Could the three-time Pro Bowler come back and haunt his former team twice a season? There is no doubt. But it’s the Eagles’ potent offense that figures to cause opposing defensive coordinators nightmares throughout 2014.