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

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These next five teams have some elite skilled position guys, but there’s still plenty of question marks moving forward, which is why they find themselves near the middle of the pack.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at what needs to be done for these teams to reach the next level.

22. Houston Texans – Brian Hoyer/Ryan Mallet (QB), Arian Foster (RB), DeAndre Hopkins (WR), Jaelen Strong (WR) and Cecil Shorts (WR).

Why are they ranked here?

With veterans Ryan Fitzpatrick and Andre Johnson no longer in H-town, Brian Hoyer/Ryan Mallet and DeAndre Hopkins have major shoes to fill.

Hoyer is coming off a disappointing season in Cleveland, where he accumulated a touchdown to interception ratio of 12:13.

However, most believe Hoyer will win the job solely because of his experience and ties with head coach Bill O’Brien, which dates back to their New England days, but O’Brien is torn as of right now.

“That decision may be made before training camp,” O’Brien said. “They’re out here competing (in OTAs and at minicamp) every single day, and it’s pretty intense. So, we may pick a guy very soon. And if we don’t, and the decision does go into training camp, it’ll be made pretty early on. The team needs to know who the guy is, and we need to go forward.”

No matter who the quarterback is, they can expect to be handing the ball off to Arian Foster early and often.

“Well, we have a very good running back,” O’Brien said. “So you can rest assured that as long as he’s healthy and he’s out there, we will run the ball. I can tell you that. That’s one thing we will do.”

The problem with relying on Foster so heavily is that teams will load the box, unless DeAndre Hopkins takes his game to another level. The former first round pick out of Clemson has seen early success during his first two seasons, as he’s caught 128 passes for 2,012 yards with 8 touchdowns, but with Johnson gone, more of the burden rest on his shoulders.

“It feels great,” he said. “My motto is I’m going to go out and work every day no matter who is here. It’s a mentality that I always play with since I’ve been playing football.”

If Hopkins is able to become a legitimate number one option, it’ll open up things for Cecil Shorts and rookie Jaelen Strong down the line.

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston (QB), Mike Evans (WR), Vincent Jackson (WR) and Doug Martin (RB).

Why are they ranked here?

In 2014, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ranked near the bottom in every major offensive statistic, which is a major reason why they held the top pick in the NFL Draft.

With Jameis Winston being the new face of the franchise, expectations have skyrocketed, but dealing with pressure is something Winston’s grown accustom to.

“Well if you watched any Florida State games last year, we always cut it close, but what happened?” Winston said. “We always came through.”

As horrid as Tampa Bay’s offense was last year, the silver lining was the receiving duo of Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. Both guys had 1,ooo+ yard seasons in 2014.

Winston is well aware of what the two big receivers bring to the table.

“Two, man. Two of them! Oh my gosh. Two 6-5 guys that can make plays after the ball. My friend, anyone can go out there and throw to those guys. It’s definitely a blessing to have those guys.”

If it wasn’t going to be Winston, it would’ve been Marcus Mariota in Tampa Bay, but Evans is pleased with the decision.

“Out of him and Mariota, I liked Winston more. He doesn’t run as much. With that being said, I think he’ll come in and do well for us. He can sit in the pocket and deliver the ball. That’s more opportunities for the receiver.”

At the same time, the Bucs offense won’t reach it’s full potential unless Doug Martin is able to go back into a time machine, which is only three years back.

Martin made the Pro Bowl during his rookie campaign, after rushing for over 1,400 yards with 11 touchdowns, but ever since then he’s been a complete shell of himself, only rushing for 950 yards the last two seasons.

Tampa Bay has depth at the position with guys like Bobby Rainey, Mike Jenkins and rookie Dominique Brown vying for carries, but Martin invites the competition with open arms.

“Competition out here helps us all. If you don’t have anybody that’s pushing you then who’s going to make you better? We have Bobby (Rainey), Mike (Jenkins), Dominique (Brown) the rookie, and all of the other running backs – Charles Sims. Everybody’s pushing each other and we’re all going to be better because of it.”

20. Minnesota Vikings – Teddy Bridgewater (QB), Adrian Peterson (RB), Mike Wallace (WR) and Kyle Rudolph (TE).

Why are they ranked here?

With all of the Adrian Peterson talk coming to a screeching halt, the Minnesota Vikings can finally focus on football.

After finishing with a dismal record of 5-11 in 2013, Minnesota improved with a 7-9 record this past season and rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was a major reason for the upgrade.

Bridgewater started in 12 games, hoisting a 6-6 record, while completing 64 percent of his passes.

As Bridgewater prepares for his second season, expect for him to be more of a leader.

“I’m a young guy still on the team, but guys are pushing me forward to say something in the huddle, or break the team down, or break the offense down. “That just gives you that confidence in yourself, confidence in your leadership and I’ve been extremely comfortable doing that so far.”

Despite Bridgewater’s solid rookie campaign, Minnesota finished 28th in pass offense, which shouldn’t come as a surprise when your top receiver at the time (Greg Jennings) only caught 59 passes.

With Mike Wallace now in the twin city, Minnesota’s aerial attack should become more explosive. 

“It’s a vertical offense [compared to] a short, West Coast offense,” Wallace said. “You go down the field a lot more here, more to what I’m accustomed to.”

By the way, that Adrian Peterson guy should be a good help as well. Something that keeps him motivated is chasing Emmitt Smith. 

“I don’t think it’s impossible. A lot of things are still to come. … I look at things that anything is possible. He played 15 years. I’m going into year nine but I’ve only got eight on the body. That’s a long-term goal [to break the record].”

If Peterson is able to run at a historical pace, it’ll open things up for Bridgewater in the passing game.

“Hopefully my presence will be able to lose a guy or two by bringing guys in that focus on stopping the run,” Peterson said. “With coach [Norv] Turner’s offense, there’s so much that he throws out there, so I’ll be more involved in the pass game, being out wide, presenting myself for Teddy to check down. But I think the biggest thing will be just the run threat and making the defense play more balanced.”

This unit has potential to do some really nice things, but it’s not going to happen overnight.

Will Bridgewater endure a sophomore slump? Will AD be the same AD? And does Wallace have the drive to be great?

All of these questions will be answered soon enough.

19. Arizona Cardinals – Carson Palmer (QB), Andre Ellington (RB), Larry Fitzgerald (WR), John Brown (WR) and Michael Floyd (WR).

Why are they ranked here?

In spite of missing veteran quarterback Carson Palmer for over half of the 2014 campaign, the Arizona Cardinals were able to pull off an 11-win season, which gave them a wildcard berth.

Nevertheless, the injury bug finally caught up with Arizona, as they were one and done in postseason play at the hands of the Carolina Panthers.

With Palmer probably only having a couple more quality seasons left in the tank, his main focus is getting his palms on the Vince Lombardi trophy.

“I think about that all the time. Absolutely. You only get so many shots. I’m hoping this is lucky No. 13. I believe it is. It is another thing, though, to go out and prove it.”

In order to make that a reality, Arizona will have to get much more out of their running game moving forward, which ranked dead last in the NFC last year.

Most believe Andre Ellington will still be the top back, but rookie David Johnson won’t go away quietly, according to running backs coach Stump Mitchell.

“He’s coachable. He’s a smart young man, he’s physical. He’s going to make Andre (Ellington) pick up his game when given the opportunity.”

Arizona’s trio of receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd is amongst the best this league has to offer, but if they’re able to establish some type of running attack it will make things much easier for everyone.

18. Detroit Lions – Matthew Stafford (QB), Joique Bell/Ameer Abdullah (RB), Calvin Johnson (WR) and Golden Tate (WR).

Why are they ranked here?

The Detroit Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1991.

Yes, 1991.

Matthew Stafford has went through his ups and downs in the Motor City. Last year, Stafford had a touchdown to interception ratio of 22:12, but only completed 60 percent of his passes.

In Stafford’s defense, he didn’t have too many options outside of Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Also, Johnson missed a few games due to an ankle injury. It’s also important to note it was Detroit’s first season with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.

“Last year there was a whole new offense going in with a whole new terminology,” Stafford said. “Quite a few new faces last year coming in during the offseason, and expected to be big parts of our offense. And then, I think, just getting to know the personality of the guys you’re dealing with — the coaches.

“And now, this time this year, it’s great to see them again. You know them, you know what they’re all about, you know what you’re going to get from each guy and how they work. Feel obviously more comfortable in the offense. We’ll add more things this year that we didn’t have last year. Tweak the offense to make sure we play as good as we can.”

With Reggie Bush gone, Detroit will rely on Joique Bell and rookie Ameer Abdullah to do the heavy lifting in the backfield.

Stafford is already a fan of the rookie out of Nebraska.

“I think as a runner he has great balance,” Stafford said after a recent OTA practice. “He’s obviously a low-to-the-ground guy. He seems to hide pretty well behind there and he’s got good vision.

“Out of the backfield, catching the ball, he’s great. He’s got great hands. He has a good feel for route running.”

During Abdullahs’s four years in Lincoln, he rushed for 4,588 yards on a 5.6 yards per carry average, while catching 73 passes out of the backfield.

Lombardi is excited to use Abdullah more in the passing game.

“He didn’t get a chance to show everything he can do as a receiver at Nebraska. He’s even better in that phase of the game than I thought when we drafted him. So it’s kind of a bonus seeing how well he catches the ball, how well he runs routes.”

When healthy, we know Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate will get their numbers, but finding that third offensive threat will be key for Detroit in 2015.

Here are the teams ranked from 23-27 and teams 28-32.


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.