Stock Up, Stock Down for NFL Offenses in 2015
We paraphrase The Longest Yard Mean Machine quarterback Paul Crewe in his team's game against the guards, sometime during the fourth quarter and in the midst of dealing with a blitzing linebacker known as Bogdanski: "It worked once....It'll work again."
For those of you who remember our recent look at defensive units on the rise and on the decline, we present the other side of the ball for your debating pleasure.
Here we list 10 teams, again conveniently broken down into two categories of five clubs apiece, in which we feel their offense is headed upward or downward.
Remember, we are not expecting epic moments for those units on the rise, and we are not forecasting disaster for the five squads headed for a bit of a fall. We are simply pointing out where we feel these attacks are headed this season.
As was the case on defense, you could put all 32 teams on this list of offenses and make your case for both sides of the argument. But we'll save those king-sized debates for another time.
Stock Up: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- 2014 NFL rank (yards gained): 30th
- 2015 offensive coordinator: Dirk Koetter
When you are the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, the spotlight burns especially bright.
When you are Jameis Winston, whose impressive feats as a player were often overshadowed by his lack of judgment and common sense off the field, that light can burn like a laser.
"It's about my actions," Winston said to Pat McManamon of ESPN.com. "I got to be a quarterback. When I'm off the field, I got to be a quarterback; when I'm on the field, I got to be a quarterback."
For our purposes, we will focus on the field as the former Florida State product inherits a Tampa Bay Buccaneers attack that gained the third-fewest yards in the league last season.
The Bucs' offensive unit scored just 28 touchdowns in 2014 and was ranked near the bottom of the league in rushing (29th) and passing (25th). Add in the fact that the club allowed 52 sacks and committed 33 turnovers, and where do you begin?
It will start with Winston, as well as new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who comes from the Atlanta Falcons. A return to 2012 rookie form by running back Doug Martin would be huge, although head coach Lovie Smith has Charles Sims waiting in the wings.
Winston has impressive targets in veteran wideout Vincent Jackson and second-year receiver Mike Evans. The latter finished second in the club with 68 catches but hauled in a dozen scores, while both he (1,051) and Jackson (1,002) eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark. Second-year tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins merits watching, as well.
There will also be a new-look offensive front that features a pair of 2015 second-round picks in left tackle Donovan Smith and right guard Ali Marpet. The duo joins veterans Logan Mankins, Evan Dietrich-Smith and underrated right tackle Demar Dotson.
Most of all, this unit features Winston, who could be ready to wow the rest of the NFL. The hope in Tampa is that all of that is on the field.
Stock Down: Cleveland Browns
- 2014 NFL rank (yards gained): 23rd
- 2015 offensive coordinator: John DeFilippo
Another year and another major change for the Cleveland Browns, a franchise that seeks its first playoff berth since 2002.
Gone after one year is offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, and enter John DeFilippo, who spent the last three years as the quarterback coach of the Oakland Raiders. That means he's somewhat used to seeing his share of different faces at the position.
Veteran Josh McCown is on course to becoming the Browns’ 23rd different starter behind center since 1999. Second-year pro Johnny Manziel remains in the mix, but it will be interesting to see if he sees the field anytime soon.
This is a club with some talent in the backfield in Isaiah Crowell, Terrance West and rookie Duke Johnson. The offensive line is formidable with the likes of eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, 2014 rookie standout Joel Bitonio and center Alex Mack, as well as the addition of 2015 first-round guard Cameron Erving.
But the rest of the cast is a bit underwhelming. Castoffs Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline lead a wide receiving corps that includes Andrew Hawkins (team-high 63 receptions in 2014) and incumbents Taylor Gabriel and Travis Benjamin. The team added tight end Rob Housler in free agency but lost former Pro Bowler Jordan Cameron to the Miami Dolphins.
Stock Up: Detroit Lions
- 2014 NFL rank (yards gained): 19th
- 2015 offensive coordinator: Joe Lombardi
It's been so far, so good for the Detroit Lions offense this offseason. And the best news has surrounded what appears to be a much-improved Matthew Stafford.
"I mean, it's obviously always a work in progress," Stafford said to Kyle Meinke of MLive.com on Thursday after the conclusion of minicamp. "You're always trying to find new ways to get better.
"But there's no question we've taken strides forward this spring."
Yes, the Lions were a playoff team in 2014, and their 11 wins were the most by the club since 1991. But their offense seemed like an afterthought at times, unless the team needed some fourth-quarter heroics from their strong-armed signal-caller.
The team's lack of balance hurt, but the league's 28th-ranked ground game not only has Joique Bell returning but also draftee Ameer Abdullah. Wide receiver Golden Tate had a monster year in his Motor City debut, totaling 99 catches for 1,331 yards and four scores. It wasn't a mega-year for banged-up receiver Calvin Johnson, but he still led the team in touchdown receptions (eight) and totaled 1,077 yards on 71 receptions.
Keep an eye on second-year tight end Eric Ebron at a position that was a problem—and injury-plagued—in 2014. Some tweaks on the offensive line (trade for Manny Ramirez, addition of rookie guard Laken Tomlinson) should make that a better unit in 2015.
Stock Down: New Orleans Saints
- 2014 NFL rank (yards gained): 1st
- 2015 offensive coordinator: Pete Carmichael
Yes, it's easy to say there's nowhere to go but down when you gain the most total yards in the league in 2014.
But for the New Orleans Saints, it's a matter of just how much potential slippage there could be without the likes of three-time Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham, wide receiver Kenny Stills and former Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs—all traded away this offseason. Add in the release of longtime running back Pierre Thomas, and this will be a much different attack than it has been in recent years.
Under head coach Sean Payton, who took over in 2006, the Saints have led the NFL in total offense five times in nine years and led the league in scoring in both 2008 and 2009. In fact, New Orleans has not ranked below sixth in total yards for nine straight years.
Payton still has prolific quarterback Drew Brees and weapons such as running backs Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson, as well as wide receivers Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks and free-agent pickup Josh Morgan. Tight ends Benjamin Watson and Josh Hill will try to fill the void left by the departure of Graham, which certainly won't be easy.
Is the Saints offense in for a big-time fall? That's hardly the case. But it's going to be a different kind of attack that New Orleans' opponents will have to face, one that may take a bit of getting used to for Brees and Co. as well.
Stock Up: Seattle Seahawks
- 2014 NFL rank (yards gained): 9th
- 2015 offensive coordinator: Darrell Bevell
As the Seattle Seahawks embark on their quest for a third straight Super Bowl appearance, the offseason buzz surrounding the team was about the major acquisitions of the 2015 offseason.
Three-time Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham brings his 386 catches and 51 touchdown receptions in five seasons to the Pacific Northwest and should help quarterback Russell Wilson as a passer.
In 2014, the Seahawks led the NFL in rushing but ranked 27th in the league in terms of passing yards. However, don't be fooled by that latter number, as the offense scored 40 touchdowns—20 on the ground and 20 through the air.
Relentless running back Marshawn Lynch finished fourth in the league in rushing and led the NFL with 17 total touchdowns this past season. Wilson still wound up running for 849 yards, and no doubt head coach Pete Carroll would like to see some of those yards transferred to the aerial attack.
It's a wide receiving corps that features Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Paul Richardson, Super Bowl surprise Chris Matthews and rookie third-round pick Tyler Lockett.
It also features Wilson, who enters the final year of his rookie contract and, according to colleague Jason Cole, wants to be the highest-paid player in the NFL. We'll get to that...eventually.
Stock Down: Denver Broncos
- 2014 NFL rank (yards gained): 4th
- 2015 offensive coordinator: Rick Dennison
It's simply a case of reality.
Quarterback Peyton Manning has been nothing short of amazing since he joined the Denver Broncos in 2012. Using the term "amazing" is appropriate when you consider he sat out the entire 2011 season due to multiple neck surgeries.
Three seasons in the Mile High City has brought 131 touchdown passes and just 36 interceptions. It has also brought disappointment in the form of two early playoff exits at home (2012 and 2014) and a 35-point loss in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Now, Manning and the team enter 2015 with more questions than answers. Most of the inquiries surround an offensive line that has seen its share of changes and continues to face uncertainty. The team saw guard Orlando Franklin and center Will Montgomery leave via free agency, center/guard Manny Ramirez was dealt to the Detroit Lions and four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady is out for the season with a knee injury. In other words...stay tuned.
New head coach Gary Kubiak and new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison hope C.J. Anderson can be the catalyst of a much-improved ground game. Wide receivers Demaryius Thomas (unsigned franchise player) and Emmanuel Sanders each totaled 100-plus catches in 2014, while Cody Latimer hopes to fill the shoes of Wes Welker. Veteran tight end Owen Daniels takes over for free-agent defector Julius Thomas, who totaled 24 touchdown receptions the past two seasons.
Yes, the air surrounding Denver these days may be even thinner than usual.
Stock Up: New York Jets
- 2014 NFL rank (yards gained): 22nd
- 2015 offensive coordinator: Chan Gailey
Yes, we know what many of you are thinking. So stop.
But it figures to be a different year for the always-interesting New York Jets, who were arguably the league's busiest team this offseason thanks to new general manager Mike Maccagnan.
Much-maligned quarterback Geno Smith could be primed for an effective year, led by one of the league's best and deepest ground games and a wide receiving corps that now includes former Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall.
Smith has to hold up his end of the bargain and his game as the Jets ranked dead last in the league in 2014 in passing yards per contest. In 32 outings with the club, he's thrown 25 touchdowns passes and run for seven scores, but he's also committed 42 of the team's 53 turnovers over that span.
Of course, the team's woes on offense extend beyond Smith's tenure with the club. The Jets have scored fewer than 20 points in 29 of their last 48 games dating back to 2012.
With running backs Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell, Zac Stacy and Stevan Ridley in the fold and targets such as wideouts Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley and second-year tight end Jace Amaro at his disposal, Smith is in a position to succeed. And don't be surprised if he does.
Stock Down: Dallas Cowboys
- 2014 NFL rank (yards gained): 7th
- 2015 offensive coordinator: Scott Linehan
We will chalk this choice here up to good old common sense.
That's not to say the Dallas Cowboys won't be lighting up some scoreboards around the league in 2015. However, expecting Jason Garrett's team to have a year like it did in 2014 without the league's leading rusher and NFL Offensive Player of the Year is somewhat...offensive.
The notion that the Cowboys can get anyone to do what DeMarco Murray did last season is a bit too optimistic. Granted, the club's star-studded offensive line featuring Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin could make running backs Darren McFadden (late of the Oakland Raiders), Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle look pretty damn good. But 147.1 yards per game on the ground may be asking a little much.
Still, veteran quarterback Tony Romo has wide receivers Dez Bryant (eventually?), Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and second-year man Devin Street. There's also ageless tight end Jason Witten and intriguing backup Gavin Escobar. Romo is coming off a season in which he completed 69.9 percent of his passes for 3,705 yards and 34 scores with only nine interceptions.
Of course, that was with Murray in the backfield.
Stock Up: Cincinnati Bengals
- 2014 NFL rank (yards gained): 15th
- 2015 offensive coordinator: Hue Jackson
We are forecasting bigger and better things for the Cincinnati Bengals offense in 2015, primarily for one reason: health.
Yes, quarterback Andy Dalton remains one of the more maligned players at his position despite helping lead the team to four straight playoff appearances. He is coming off a season in which he threw only 19 touchdown passes, was picked off 17 times and lost a trio of fumbles.
But he also didn't have perennial Pro Bowl wideout A.J. Green for the entire season, or the playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Wide receiver Marvin Jones missed all of 2014, and Mohamed Sanu did his best to fill in.
The Bengals did not bring back two-time Pro Bowl tight end Jermaine Gresham but are now loaded up on Tylers in the form of 2013 first-rounder Tyler Eifert and 2015 third-round pick Tyler Kroft. The offensive line was effective this past season and now welcomes rookie tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher.
But the catalyst of a year ago was the league's sixth-ranked ground attack featuring Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. You can look for them to get the ball aplenty to make things much easier for Dalton, who hopes not to feel as uneasy as he did in 2014.
Stock Down: Philadelphia Eagles
- 2014 NFL rank (yards gained): 5th
- 2015 offensive coordinator: Pat Shurmur
We admit that we still don't know what Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly's ultimate game plan is; what we do know is that the team has five quarterbacks on the roster in the form of Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Matt Barkley and G.J. Kinne who started a total of eight games in 2014—all by Sanchez.
The club released offensive linemen Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans this offseason and let wide receiver Jeremy Maclin hit the open market. He eventually signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Bradford looks like the starter as of now, but keep in mind he's missed 25 straight games dating back to his days with the St. Louis Rams. It would not be a shock to see Sanchez at the controls sometime during the season and not just due to injury.
The backfield now includes former Dallas Cowboys star DeMarco Murray and former San Diego Chargers Pro Bowler Ryan Mathews. They will team with the always-explosive Darren Sproles to give the Birds a lot of versatility. Wideouts Riley Cooper and Jordan Matthews are joined by 2015 first-rounder Nelson Agholor, while tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz make for a nice combination.
Perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters anchors a tweaked offensive line that overcame a lot of injuries in 2014.
For the most part, this is a group that looks good on paper. The problem is that the script always seems to be changing.
All free-agent information and player signings/transactions are courtesy of Spotrac. Depth chart information comes from Ourlads. Unless otherwise noted, all player and team statistics come from Pro Football Reference and ESPN.com.