NFL

Which NFL Team Has The Best Offensive Weaponry?- Part II

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Championships are won between the trenches, but regular season games can be won from you skill position guys. For the casual fan, this piece is for you.

In the first part of the offensive weaponry series, we looked at the teams with the worst skill positions in the NFL.  Now let’s take a look at the teams ranked in the 27 to 23 area.

27. Oakland Raiders – Derek Carr (QB), Latavius Murray (RB), Amari Cooper (WR), Michael Crabtree and Mychal Rivera (TE).

Why are they ranked here?

The Oakland Raiders have been the laughing stock of the NFL for a little over a decade now. The franchise hasn’t seen postseason play since their Super Bowl appearance back in 2002, when they were demolished by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-21.

However, things finally appear to be heading in the right direction for the Raiders.

Derek Carr showed signs of being the franchise quarterback during his rookie campaign, as he threw for 3,270 yards to go along with 21 touchdowns and only 12 picks.

Head coach Jack Del Rio is definitely a fan.

“Carr’s a special young talent,” Del Rio said. “He’s got a really quick release, good decision-maker; he’s shown some of that grit we’re looking for, some of that toughness, so he’s a guy that we feel like we have an opportunity to build around.”

Building around Carr is exactly what Oakland attempted to do this off-season because despite Carr’s flashes of greatness, the Raiders ranked dead last in total offense just a season ago, only averaging 15.8 points a game.

The additions of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree should give Carr a much needed boost in the aerial attack moving forward.

When someone is selected as high as Cooper was, expectations are sure to be through the roof. 

“I think the way we like to do things is to come in and earn your role and compete,” Del Rio said. “But the expectation level should be high for a young man that comes in that is selected that high in the draft. But he’ll need to prove it on the field and earn it. That’s how, really, it is with everybody. There certainly is a high expectation that goes along with somebody selected that high.”

On the flip side, Crabtree knows a thing or two about being drafted high, considering he was the 10th overall pick of the 2009 draft. Although things haven’t gone as planned thus far, Crabtree is hopeful a change of scenery does the trick.

“The Raiders have a legendary program,” Crabtree said. “If you can get them back to the top, that’s a big deal. It’s a challenge for me, but I’m ready to take on that challenge. Me and my team, the rest of the guys in the locker room, they’re ready too. I can’t do anything but ride with them.”

While the passing game seems to have hope moving forward, the running game is in more of dire straights. The unit ranked dead last in 2014, averaging only 77.5 yards a game on the ground, while only totaling 4 rushing touchdowns for the entire season.

With Darren McFadden no longer in the fold, it appears Latavius Murry will likely be asked to carry the load going forward.

“Right now, he’s been running with the lead group, but he knows that he has to earn that through camp, through the preseason,” Del Rio said. “But he’s done a nice job this offseason. He is taking steps and growing as a young player.”

In limited action, Murray averaged 5.2 yards per carry on 82 attempts last season.

Despite Oakland’s low ranking on this list, it doesn’t mean they can’t turn into an explosive offense soon. It’s just that we have to see it first because all they have is potential at this point.

26. Philadelphia Eagles – Sam Bradford (QB), DeMarco Murray/Ryan Matthews (RB), Riley Cooper (WR), Jordan Matthews (WR), Nelson Agholor (WR) and Brent Celek (TE).

Why are they ranked here?

Well, where do I start?

To say Chip Kelly and his Philadelphia Eagles had an interesting off-season would be the understatement of the century.

Philly decided to swap out Nick Foles for Sam Bradford at quarterback, while also parting ways with LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin.

However, Philly saved face as they gathered ex-nemesis DeMarco Murray and former first round pick Ryan Mathews.

Murray is sure to be a good fit in Kelly’s system moving forward.

“Obviously, you just look at him statistically in terms of what he did,’’ Kelly said. “You know what kind of workhorse back he is. He has unbelievable patience and vision.

“There’s a toughness to him. He never really takes negative yardage plays.”

With that being said, the major concerns lie at quarterback and receiver. Despite the concerns, all signs point to Sam Bradford being the man under center this fall.

“New England, Pittsburgh, Green Bay — [Tom] Brady, [Ben] Roethlisberger, [Aaron] Rodgers. It all starts with the quarterback. And then you have to build the roster around that. And we’re trying to, and we think Sam’s got potential, we think Mark [Sanchez has] potential,” Kelly said.

As bad as Kelly may have wanted Marcus Mariota, it just wasn’t going to happen unless Philly had a top two pick.

“We’ve got to build it around it, but when you look at all the winning organizations … if you want to play with the odds as we want to play, it’s got to be with a quarterback situation and then the only way you’re going to get a quarterback is you got to be really not very good so you finish in the top 1-2 in the draft. If we’re not very good and we finish with the top 1-2 in the draft, I don’t think I’m going to be here, so we better find another way to find a quarterback. And that’s what we did with Sam.”

Has Philly properly built their team around Bradford?

I don’t think so, especially when you consider they lost their most explosive weapon at receiver in Maclin, who signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Word around town is that Chip Kelly is an offensive mastermind. Well, it’s safe to say his brilliance will get tested this upcoming season because his number one receiver is Jordan Matthews. Yes, Jordan Matthews.

25. Washington Redskins – Robert Griffin III (QB), Alfred Morris (RB), DeSean Jackson (WR), Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed (TE).

Why are they ranked here?

Surprisingly, the Washington Redskins finished the 2014 campaign ranked in the top half of total offense. However, this is the prime scenario of when stats can be deceiving.

Washington only averaged 18.8 points a game, which ranked in the bottom ten of the league.

In limited time, Robert Griffin III actually completed nearly 70 percent of his passes, but on the down side, he had a touchdown to interception ratio of 4:6.

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden expects a much more efficient RG3 in 2015.

“Going into Year 2 in this system should be a big jump, you know. You’re not really thinking about who’s where, what’s my footwork. Everything should come a lot more natural for you, and hopefully, we see that transition from year one to year two in this system with the terminology and knowing where to go with your footwork and anticipation of getting the ball out quicker. Hopefully, that comes.”

It’s well documented Gruden and RG3 don’t see eye-to-eye, but RG3 is looking at the bigger picture.

“We’re going to make sure we work together in a positive way to make sure this team is successful,” he said. “We’re going to win. That’s all we can do.”

The receiving core duo of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon was solid, but you can only do so much when you have dramatic inconsistencies at the quarterback spot.

As far as the running attack goes, Alfred Morris proved to be a steady workhorse. The 26-year-old back rushed for over 1,000 yards to go along with 8 rushing touchdowns.

On the downside, Washington experienced a fumbling problem, as they ranked amongst the top of the league in that category.

Look, there’s no questioning the raw talent and potential explosiveness this offensive unit has, but the unreliability at quarterback is holding them back dramatically.

24. Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton (QB), Jonathan Stewart (RB), Kelvin Benjamin (WR), Jerricho Cotchery (WR) and Greg Olsen (TE).

Why are they ranked here?

Much to Carolina Panthers fans delight, their favorite son Cam Newton is locked up for the next five seasons at the very least.

Newton, 26, agreed to a 5-year, $103.8 million dollar deal, which makes him the third highest paid player in the league, only behind Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger. 

“I’m thankful this opportunity came and it’s over with. Now that I can focus on playing football and getting the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl and winning the Super Bowl, it puts me somewhat in cruise control at the moment,” Newton said. “I know I’m nowhere where I want to be right now, but yet that gives me more drive to get to where I want to be … sooner rather than later.”

In order to make Newton’s Super Bowl aspirations a reality, Carolina will have to give him better weapons offensively.

Carolina’s running game was efficient, but Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert both dealt with injuries in 2014.

And as far as the passing game is concerned, there’s cause for major concern there.

It’s never a good sign when your tight end leads the teams in catches, as Greg Olsen did with 84 catches.

To be fair, rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin was a bright spot. The 6-foot-5 receiver caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards to go along with 9 touchdowns.

As the season went on, however, teams started to give him more attention, which slowed down his production. In the final 5 weeks of the regular season, Benjamin only caught one touchdown pass.

When you only have one big time receiver, teams will start to double and force you to beat them with someone else and Carolina was unable to do so.

If Carolina wants to be a legitimate threat in 2015, they’ll need Jerricho Cotchery to step up his game because 48 catches and one touchdown just simply won’t cut it.

23. Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco (QB), Justin Forsett (RB), Steve Smith SR. (WR), Marlon Brown (WR) and Maxx Williams (TE).

Why are they ranked here?

2015 is sure to look completely different for the Baltimore Ravens offensively. Sure, Baltimore will have their top receiver in Steve Smith Sr. returning, but after him things look a bit shaky to say the least.

Two of their top three pass catchers from a season ago are gone, Torrey Smith and Owen Daniels.

Head coach John Harbaugh will definitely miss Torrey Smith’s play making ability.

“He’s a deep threat at all times,” Harbaugh said. “He’s very fast. He’s big. He can go up and make a play on the ball, so much so that teams interfere with him more than anybody in the league, to keep him from making those plays.”

So, who’s up next?

It appears to be Marlon Brown, who only has 73 catches in his very young career. 

“I was taking notes. I was taking notes because I knew that the time was going to come. And I felt like once that time comes, I better be ready. Last year I was trying to get ready and play.”

In addition to Brown, Baltimore will need rookie tight end Maxx Williams’ maturation process to be fairly quick.

“For me, my goals are just go out there and play,” Williams said. “And, really, whatever [media is] saying about that, really, I can’t affect that. All I can do is do what I do, and that’s go out there every day and try to improve, try to earn my spot on the team and go out there and try to make plays.”

And makes plays is something he’ll have to do because Baltimore loves to air the ball out with Flacco, despite having a solid running attack behind the legs of Justin Forsett.

Here’s 32 through 28.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.