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

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We’re now in the middle of the pack.

Check out the teams who are knocking on the door of the top 10 at offensive skill positions.

17. Buffalo Bills – E.J. Manuel/Matt Cassel (QB), LeSean McCoy (RB), Sammy Watkins (WR), Percy Harvin and Robert Woods (WR).

Why are they ranked here?

Former Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone benched E.J. Manuel in favor of Kyle Orton last October. During Manuel’s young career, he’s only completed 58.6 percent of his passes to go along with a touchdown to interception ratio of 16:12.

With Rex Ryan now in charge, Manuel will get a fair shot to redeem himself.

“You don’t know how it’s going to shake out,” Ryan said. “There’s not anybody that knows how it’s going to shake out. We might predict this or predict that and if you polled everybody…you might get…there’s nobody probably going to line up exactly, so I think it’s going to be interesting. Let’s let it shake it out.”

Regardless of who’s under center this fall, Rex realizes what he’s working with.

“It’s safe to say we won’t have LeBron at quarterback. We may have LeBron at defensive tackle and at defensive end but we don’t have him at quarterback.”

Sammy Watkins had an impressive rookie campaign, as he caught 65 passes for 982 yards to go along with six touchdowns.

However, Watkins experienced double teams, which will be hard to do with Percy Harvin in the fold.

“What we’re trying to do is take a little pressure off Sammy Watkins,” Ryan said. “You might recall last year Sammy got double almost every snap. You roll your coverage to him and all that. With a guy like Percy Harvin that’s now going to be difficult to do. Percy can catch a slant and take it the distance and he can go over the top of you. He’s a game breaker.”

With all of that being said, the success of Buffalo’s offense will ultimately rely on LeSean McCoy’s versatility. We all know Rex loves to establish the tempo of the game on the ground. 

“We prefer to ground and pound it, we’re going to run it 50 times if we can on you.”

Luckily, Rex shouldn’t have to run the ball that many times with Watkins, Harvin and Robert Woods on the outside.

16. Cincinnati Bengals – Andy Dalton (QB), Jeremy Hill (RB), AJ Green (WR), Marvin Jones (WR) and Tyler Eifert (TE).

Why are they ranked here?

It seems to always be the same narrative with this team. Yes, the Bengals have tons of talent, but for whatever reason they just can’t get over the hump in postseason play.

Just to put it into perspective, the Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1990.

Over the last four years, Cincy has been unable to score over 14 points in any of their playoff games.

Fair or not, it all starts and ends with quarterback Andy Dalton. The 27-year-old has all of the physical tools to be great, but he lacks consistency.

However, Bengals owner Mike Brown is a believer. 

“You go round and about and Andy is perceived higher by some people than he seems to be all the time locally. He is the style of guy who can function best when he has a good group around him. He needs that. Maybe he needs it more than some, but they all need it. There is no quarterback that goes out and has success without good players in the mix.”

Which begs the question, does Dalton have the right guys around him?

When healthy, AJ Green is one of the top receivers in the world and Cincy has one of the best running back duos in the league returning, in Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. The duo combined for 1,804 yards on the ground with 14 touchdowns in 2014.

In order for Cincinnati to take that next step, getting a healthy Marvin Jones back may be the solution. The 25-year-old receiver missed the entire 2014 season following numerous ankle and foot injuries.

Returning to football after missing a full year can be rough, but Jones has full confidence within himself.

“I’m the same guy. I’ve been playing football since I was little so I know what to do and I know I’m going to do the same things that I did. Just for me to go and get my body back and get used to having to throw and catch with a defender on me and stuff like that. That’s just all I’m getting out of this. And hearing the plays and stuff like that. Everything’s the same as it was.”

In 2013, Jones caught 51 passes for 712 yards with 10 touchdowns.

If Jones returns to form, he’ll take a lot of pressure off of Green.

15. New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees (QB), Mark Ingram/CJ Spiller (RB) and Marques Colston (WR).

Why are they ranked here?

After finishing 1st in total offense in 2014, the New Orleans Saints can expect to see a major drop off in 2015.

New Orleans traded away two of their top three pass catchers in Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills.

The loss of Graham definitely hit Drew Brees hard. 

“Jimmy was like a brother to me,” Brees said. “He was close to so many guys on the team. That part of it is something that people lose track of. As a football player, he’s a rare, rare talent. Not having a guy like that on the field with you is a difference-maker. Just the relationships that you build in the locker room, that’s really the part that’s the hardest, just because you’re used to being around each other and the way your families do things together. You build a relationship and you become very close. But then, things happen and all of the sudden you’re on a different team. It doesn’t change the way we feel about each other. We’re just not going to see each other all that often.”

However, Brees is excited for the young guys to prove themselves.

“If anything it shows the confidence our organization has in the young players, especially the young skill players on offense, just feeling like those are guys that now have a chance to step up and fill a big void and fill a big role and continue to progress forward.”

Although Brees is one of the premier quarterbacks this league has to offer, and at the age of 36 he’s not getting any younger, which is why head coach Sean Payton may look for more out of their running attack.

Mark Ingram had the best season of his young career last year, as he rushed for 964 yards on a 4.3 yards per carry average with nine touchdowns. In order to give him some relief this upcoming season, New Orleans picked up C.J. Spiller, who Payton is very fond of.

“Spiller’s (skillset) is a unique one. I think one of things that helped us sign C.J. was the versatility that we look to have when he’s in the game. We’ll look at packages to put him out wide, packages where he’s in the backfield with another running back. The key with him when you watch him on tape is finding a way to get him the ball in space because he’s so explosive.”

Considering the lack of experience for this unit, if it wasn’t for Brees, their ranking would’ve been much lower.

14. Kansas City Chiefs – Alex Smith (QB), Jamaal Charles/Knile Davis (RB), Jeremy Maclin (WR) and Travis Kelce (TE).

Why are they ranked here?

Over the last three seasons, four-time Pro Bowler Jamaal Charles has averaged 250 carries a season and for very good reason.

Charles averages 5.5 yards per carry for his career, which is just a ridiculous stat. However, when running backs reach 30 years of age, you can typically expect a decline, but Charles wants to play way beyond 30.

“I want to play another six years. I’m seeing guys at 37 or 38 still playing football in the trenches and that’s somewhere where you don’t want to play. So I just want to change the game with the running backs. I want this to last longer and then when I retire, I’ll be happy with where I end my career at.”

Some believe Kansas City can’t afford to rest Charles, but backup running back Knile Davis thinks he’s every bit as good as Charles.

“I don’t feel like there’s a gap.”

In addition to their dynamic duo in the backfield, Kansas City added the speedy Jeremy Maclin, who will provide a deep threat they’ve been missing.

Quarterback Alex Smith is certainly thrilled to have Maclin.

“[He’s] a guy that just does it all. I don’t think you can really pigeonhole him in any one facet of the receiver game. A guy that can do all of those things really well, move him inside, move him outside, he’s good outside the numbers, he’s really fast, he’s good in and out of breaks.”

As great as the Maclin pickup was, the anticipation to see the growth of tight end Travis Kelce may be the most exciting thing for KC’s offense moving forward. Kelce has drawn comparisons to Rob Gronkowski.

Last year, Kelce led Kansas City with 67 catches for 862 yards.

Kelce is only 25 years old, but his confidence appears to be at an all-time high.

“Yesterday in practice, I can hear him make calls at the line of scrimmage because he wants the football,” Smith said.

“Things like that are encouraging. Obviously, he’s a tremendous player, but it’s so great to kind of see that confidence there on the field, him calling for when he wants the football. As a quarterback, that’s encouraging. You want a bunch of guys out there that are feeling good about their matchup and want the football.”

13. New York Giants – Eli Manning (QB), Rashad Jennings/Shane Vereen/Andre Williams (RB), Odell Beckham Jr. (WR) and Victor Cruz (WR).

Why are they ranked here? 

Five words: Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.

This duo last year was something to absolutely marvel at to say the least. OBJ caught 91 passes for 1,305 yards with 12 touchdowns. His remarkable rookie campaign warranted a Pro Bowl appearance as well as Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

With the 2015 season looming, OBJ has been able to enjoy his rise to stardom.

“Definitely been fun. I say fun because it’s the first time in life I haven’t had to go right from a season to another season or another training. It’s the first actual offseason I’ve ever had in my life. It’s been fun being able to go places you always dreamed of going and meet people you’ve always wanted to meet. Yeah, it’s definitely been fun.’’

Meanwhile, OBJ is currently recovering from a hamstring injury the Giants hope doesn’t linger.

Also, the guy who plans on taking pressure off OBJ, Victor Cruz is recovering from his torn patellar tendon.

“I’m just excited to get myself together and play alongside that kid next year,” Cruz said.

The former Pro Bowler believes he can return to that same level of play.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll return to form and I’ll return to the type of player that I was in years past, and I’m excited to put myself through this,” Cruz said. “I’ve overcome a lot of obstacles and I feel like this is just another one that’s come across that I have to conquer and move forward. I’m excited for this opportunity, but there isn’t a doubt in my mind that I’ll be back playing and playing like myself again.”

However, Rueben Randle did a nice job of filling in for Cruz. He caught 71 passes for 938 yards.

While New York’s passing game looks to be potent, their running game is the question.

New York added former Patriot Shane Vereen to their running back core that already features Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams.

Jennings is a fan of the Vereen move.

“It’s going to be big,” Jennings said. “Any time you can add depth at any position, any room, it’s valuable. He’s a guy that’s been on a team that knows the recipe of winning. We extract from that. We’ll be able to add. Also, he’s a great catcher from the backfield. So that’s going to entice the coordinator to throw to the running backs more. So I’m happy with that. He’s a good player and from everything I understand he’s a good teammate. I’m glad to have him aboard.”

If healthy, New York’s offense looks to be very versatile and dynamic, but Jennings took it a step further.

“I think we’re going to have a dominant offense. Eli (Manning) is really comfortable in the offense now — being able to control a lot from the line of scrimmage.”

Here are the teams ranked from 32-28, 27-23 and 22-18.


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.