The NFL’s calendar is nearly limitless. It exists from August to May. From training camp to draft class analysis. All things must sleep. Even the corporate football playing monstrosity has energetic bounds. There it is all tuckered out and tucked in. Dentures in the glass, windows open, the crickets’ string instruments, and air conditioner heaving.
While it slumbers it’s time for other things. Grass hill sitting. Big book reading. Mustard spilling. Mountain hiking. Those beautiful pleasures when the sun is fat and heaving in a white sky and we are all skinny, golden, and perfect 10s again. Time to exist in the now, and for football to exist in future hope and longing nostalgia. Bring on that long summer hot dog eating lull.
The monster will wake soon. Three months is hardly anytime at all. All of that knowledge of what just happened needs to reside somewhere, sloshing around in some cybernetic bowl, and this does exactly that by ranking each team 32-1 with dubious analysis attached, and, most importantly, summarizing the key additions, departures, and draft classes of each team.
This is part one.
32.) Washington Redskins—Record: 3-13. Point Differential: -169 (31). DVOA: -25.7% (30). Previously 30th.
Additions: Kyle Allen (QB), Peyton Barber (RB), Sean Davis (DB), Thomas Davis Sr. (LB), Kendall Fuller (DB), J.D. McKissic (RB), Wes Schweitzer (G), Logan Thomas (TE), Jeremy Vujnovich (OL)
Departures: Michael Burton (FB), Ereck Flowers (G), Case Keenum (QB), Colt McCoy (QB),
NFL Draft: 1-2: Chase Young, DE (Ohio State) 3-66: Antonio Gibson, RB (Memphis) 4-108: Saahdiq Charles, OT (LSU) 4-142: Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR (Liberty) 5-156: Keith Ismael, C (San Diego State) 5-162: Khaleke Hudson, LB (Michigan) 7-216: Kamren Curl, S (Arkansas) 7-229: James-Smith Williams, DE (N.C. State)
Everything finally fell apart for Jay Gruden last season with Case Keenum after consistent seasons mired in mediocrity with Alex Smith and Kirk Cousins at quarterback. Gruden gone. Dwayne Haskins taking over. Ron Rivera in. The second overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The rewards for all of this.
They added Chase Young, an all-time draft prospect in the mold of Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett, to a front composed of the first round Alabama interior of Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne, 2019 first round pick Montez Sweat, consistent pass rushing producer Ryan Kerrigan, and Matthew Ionadis, who proved 2018 wasn’t a fluke. Last season they combined for 29 sacks and 61 quarterback hits. It’s a murderous group. Even before the addition of Young, this group was worth watching regardless of the win-loss record, and now, it’s even more so.
The problem is the offense. It’s still looking like a blue spotted former baked potato under the steam tray. Dwayne Haskins was the worst qualified quarterback by QBR, DVOA, DYAR, and net yards an attempt, which is just a nice way to say he was the worst quarterback in the game. At least he’s skinny now. And all that was added to it was a former swing guard in Schweitzer, and the sub 4.0 yards a carry Tampa Bay cast off Barber. The receivers are young. Derrius Guice is a beautiful idea. Regardless, the offensive waters are green and stagnant.
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars—Record: 6-10. Point Differential: -97 (26). DVOA: -18.0% (28). Previously 28th.
Additions: Joe Schobert (LB), Darqueze Dennard (CB), Rodney Gunter (DL), Tyler Shatley (OL), Lerentee McCray (DE), Al Woods (DT), DE/LB Cassius Marsh (EDGE), Tyler Eifert (TE), Rashaan Melvin (CB), Mike Glennon (QB)
Departures: Calais Cambell (DL), Nick Foles (QB), A.J. Bouye (CB), Cedric Ogbuehi (OT), Marqise Lee (WR)
NFL Draft: 1-9: C.J. Henderson, CB (Florida) 1-20: K’Lavon Chaisson, DE (LSU) 2-42: Laviska Shenault, WR (Colorado) 3-73: Davon Hamilton, DT (Ohio State) 4-116: Ben Bartch, OT (St. John’s (MN)) 4-137: Josiah Scott, CB (Michigan State) 4-140: Shaquille Quarterman, ILB (Miami) 5-157: Daniel Thomas, S (Auburn) 5-165: Collin Thomas, WR (Texas) 6-189: Jake Luton, QB (Oregon State) 6-206: Tyler Davis, TE (Georgia Tech) 7-223: Chris Claybrooks, CB (Memphis)
The Jaguars are coughing up contracts from the past and choking on the salary cap. They currently have $37 million in dead cap space, including $18.75 million going to Foles, $5.6 million to Smith, $4 million to Bouye, $3.5 million to Lee, and $2.5 million to Campbell. They are a year away from getting out of the Andrew Norwell contract, and the Myles Jack contract if they need to, that is, if Schobert can’t save him by moving him back to his rightful position.
2019 should be another depressing claw mark on the scratching post made from a rotten fence post and rusted nails. But after back to back great drafts, a quarterback on a rookie contract (if they stick with Gardner Minshew), and cap space in 2021, things could become bearable for this team then.
The Jaguars are permitted to have a great season once a decade. 1999. 2007. 2017. Don’t question it. Just follow the narrative. That season won’t come in this one’s first iteration.
30.) Detroit Lions—Record: 3-12-1. Point Differential: -82 (24). DVOA: -12.1% (25). Previously 25th.
Additions: Halapoulivaati Vaitai (T), Jamie Collins Sr. (LB), Nick Williams (DT), Chase Daniel (QB), Danny Shelton (DT), Desmond Trufant (CB), Jayron Kearse (S), Geronimo Allison (WR), Duron Harmon (S), Reggie Ragland (LB)
Departures: Graham Glasgow (G), Jeff Driskel (QB), J.D. McKissic (RB), A’Shawn Robinson (DT), Logan Thomas (TE), Rashaan Melvin (CB), Darius Slay (CB), Damon Harrison (DT), Devon Kennard (LB), Ricky Wagner (T)
NFL Draft: 1-3: Jeffrey Okudah, CB (Ohio State) 2-35: D’Andre Swift, RB (Georgia) 3-67: Julian Okwara, OLB (Notre Dame) 3-75: Jonah Jackson, G (Ohio State) 4-121: Logan Stenberg, OL (Kentucky) 5-166: Quintez Cephus, WR (Wisconsin) 5-172: Jason Huntley, RB (New Mexico State) 6-197: John Penisini (lol), DT (Utah) 7-235: Jason Cornell, DE (Ohio State)
I don’t know what it is with former New England coaches targeting their former players. Matt Patricia added Collins Sr. to a 3-year $30 million contract even though he’s 30 years old, Shelton, and Harmon, to a team that already employs Trey Flowers. It’s never going to stop.
Matthew Stafford was extraordinary last season until he fractured his back. If he’s healthy he could maybe carry this team to mediocrity, but nothing more than that. The pass defense is still grotesque, and all the Lions added to it was a rookie cornerback to replace Slay. Detroit of course continued to pump their roster with run stoppers. You gotta stop the run. Get some more millennials into the coaching ranks. Patricia is proving he’s another rotten maggot seeded fruit from the New England tree.
29.) New York Giants—Record: 4-12. Point Differential: -110 (28). DVOA: -17.5.% (27). Previously 29th.
Additions: Dravon Askew-Henry (CB), Casey Krieter (LS), Eric Tomilson (TE), Austin Johnson (DL), Dion Lewis (RB), Colt McCoy (QB), Nate Ebner (S), Cameron Fleming (T), Kyler Fackrell (EDGE), James Bradberry (CB), Blake Martinez (LB), Levine Toilolo (TE)
Departures: Cody Latimer (WR), Mike Remmers (OL), Antonio Hamilton (CB), Michael Thomas (S), Antonio Hamilton (CB)
NFL Draft: 1-4: Andrew Thomas, T (Georgia) 2-36: Xavier McKinney, S (Alabama) 3-99: Matt Peart, OT (Connecticut) 4-110: Darnay Holmes, CB (UCLA) 5-150: Shane Lemieux, G (Oregon) 6-183: Cameron Brown, LB (Penn State) 7-218: Carter Coughlin, LB (Minnesota) 7-238: T.J. Brunson LB (South Carolina) 7-247: Chris Williamson, CB (Minnesota) 7-255: Tae Crowder, LB (Georgia)
New York (G) had the 31st ranked pass defense by DVOA and 29th by yards per attempt. But dammit they could stop the run and run the football. These things don’t matter much anymore. It’s a passing league.
The Giants added James Bradberry and Xavier McKinney to help out with that. The curtain is still chewed with holes. DeAndre Baker was one of the worst corners in the league his rookie season and was recently arrested. Who knows what’s going to happen there. Their best pass rusher Markus Golden is going to sign somewhere else this summer, and the kids are interesting, but none of them produced much in 2019. Next season is looking similar to last season. New York runs the ball well, stops the run, but is one of the worst teams in the league because of their passing game faults.
28.) New York Jets—Record: 7-9. Point Differential: -83 (25). DVOA: -15.8% (26). Previously 26th.
Additions: Frank Gore (RB), Patrick Onwuasor (LB), Breshad Perriman (WR), Jordan Jenkins (OLB), James Burgess (LB), Pierre Desir (CB), Greg Van Roten (G), Marqui Christian (DB), Josh Andrews (OL), Neville Hewitt (LB), Arthur Maulet (CB), Brian Poole (CB), Alex Lewis (G), Connor McGovern (C), George Fant (T),
Departures: Robbie Anderson (WR), Brandon Copeland (LB), Darryl Roberts (CB), Maurice Canady (CB), Trevor Siemian (QB), Demaryius Thomas (WR), Kelvin Beachum (T), Ryan Kalil (OL), Brent Qvale (T)
NFL Draft: 1-11: Mekhi Becton, T (Louisville) 2-59: Denzel Mims, WR (Baylor) 3-68: Ashtyn Davis, S (California) 3-79: Jabari Zuniga, DE (Florida) 4-120: Lamical Perine, RB (Florida) 4-125: James Morgan, QB (Florida International) 4-129: Cameron Clark, OT (Charlotte) 5-158: Bryce Hall, CB (Virginia) 6-191: Braden Mann, P (Texas A&M)
The Jets had one of the best drafts this season. All four of the players they selected should walk in, start, and have an immediate impact. The players they lost aren’t devastating. They rebuilt the entirety of one of the worst offensive lines in the league that will be even better by default since they’ll be blocking for Sam Darnold, instead of Trevor Siemian and Luke Falk.
The glaring sore is Adam Gase. Repeatedly players get worse playing for him, see last seasons additions of Le’Veon Bell, Kelechi Osemele, C.J. Mosley, and Jamison Crowder from an efficiency perspective. With Darnold healthy, and the roster talent, they could compete in this Tom Bradyless division, but Gase is still the coach, and his entire career has been a sham constructed by the illusion of coordinating Peyton Manning’s Bronco offenses.
27.) Miami Dolphins—Record: 5-11. Point Differential: -188 (32). DVOA: -36.7% (32). Previously 31st.
Additions: Kyle Van Noy (LB), Ereck Flowers (G), Shaq Lawson (EDGE), Byron Jones (CB), Emmanuel Ogbah (EDGE), Jordan Howard (RB), Ted Karras (C), Clayton Fejedelem (S), Matt Brieda (RB)
Departures: Reshad Jones (S), Aqib Talib (CB), John Jenkins (OLB), Samaje Perine (RB), Charles Harris (EDGE)
NFL Draft: 1-5: Tua Tagovailoa, QB (Alabama): 1-18: Austin Jackson, T (Miami) 1-30: Noah Igbinoghene, CB (Auburn) 2-39: Robert Hunt, OL (Louisiana) 2-56: Raekwon Davis, DL (Alabama): Brandon Jones, S (Texas): 4-111: Solomon Kindley, OL (Georgia) 5-154: Jason Strowbridge, DT (UNC): 5-164: Curtis Weaver, DE (Boise State): 6-185: Blake Ferguson, LS (LSU): 7-246: Malcolm Perry, WR/RB (Navy) 7-251: Stephen Sullivan, TE (LSU)
The Dolphins had the most cap space and draft capital entering the 2020 NFL offseason. Look upon the rewards it brought. Starters at eight different positions. There’s something to be said about at least grabbing serviceable. The Dolphins did that, and they added top talent in Van Noy and Jones. Xavien Howard and Jones on the outside is something you can build a defense with.
It’s still a young roster and it’s going to take at least a year to get it rolling. Next season they’ll fully reap the rest of the assets handed over in the Laremy Tunsil robbery, and they still have cap space to play around with then.
There’s also the case to be made they could be mediocre or even good this year. A large influx of talent. The 2019 numbers are skewed because of the -107 point differential they had with starting quarterback Josh Rosen. This feels like a bad to mediocre season in 2019 before the Dolphins become a playoff caliber team the following season.
None of this really matters though. The only thing that does is that even at 5-11 tanking for Tu’a worked, and they were able to stave off Ryan Fitzpatrick diving head first into the dumpster. I hope the hip is fine. The Dolphins haven’t had an average offense since Joe Philbin was the head coach in 2014. We all want to see more RPOs in the pro game.
26.) Carolina Panthers—Record: 5-11. Point Differential: -130 (29). DVOA: -26.9% (31). Previously 27th.
Additions: Robbie Anderson (WR), Teddy Bridgewater (QB), Justin Burris (S), Pharoh Cooper (KR), Seth DeValve (TE), Zach Kerr (DL), Keith Kirkwood (WR), John Miller (G), Russell Okung (T), Seth Roberts (WR), P.J. Walker (QB), Stephen Weatherly (DL), Tahir Whitehead (LB), Michael Schofield (OL), Jayron Kearse (S)
Departures: Cam Newton (QB), Kyle Allen (QB), Greg Olsen (TE), Eric Reid (S), Trai Turner (G), Greg Van Roten (G), Daryl Williams (OL), Dontari Poe (DT), Luke Kuechly (LB), Mario Addison (EDGE), Vernon Butler (DL), Gerald McCoy (DT), Bruce Irvin (EDGE), James Bradberry (CB)
NFL Draft: 1-7: Derrick Brown, DT (Auburn) 2-38: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE (Penn State) 2-64: Jeremy Chinn, DB (Southern Illinois) 4-113: Troy Pride Jr., CB (Notre Dame) 5-152: Kenny Robinson, S (West Virginia) 6-184: Bravvion Roy, DT (Baylor) 7-221: Stantley Thomas-Oliver III, CB (Florida International)
Teddy Bridgewater’s western redemption continues. He went from second round pick, to almost beating the Seahawks in a playoff game while playing in a I-formation offense behind an awful offensive line, to having his leg detonated and mangled, to going 5-0 as the Saints backup quarterback in 2019, to making $21 million a year in Carolina in an offense that should be able to take advantage of his strengths: accuracy, mobility, touch, and decision making.
Carolina should be able to score 27 points a game or so, but they may give up 31 a game. They lost eight starters from their 2019 defense which amounts to 6,053 snaps, a little less than half of their total defense. They used the 2020 NFL Draft to replace this side of the field by drafting seven players. I love Brown and Gross-Matos, and the Chinn selection was a great one, but that’s an enormous amount of turnover.
25.) Cincinnati Bengals—Record: 2-14. Point Differential: -141 (30). DVOA: -25.2% (29). Previously 32nd.
Additions: Mackensie Alexander (CB), Vonn Bell (S), Josh Bynes (LB), D.J. Reader (DT), LeShaun Sims (CB), Xavier Su’a-Filo (G), Mike Thomas (WR), Trae Waynes (CB)
Departures: Andrew Billings (DT), Tyler Eifert (TE), Clayton Fejedelem (S), Tony McRae (CB), LaRoy Reynolds (LB), Nick Vigil (LB), LaRoy Reynolds (OLB)
NFL Draft: 1-1: Joe Burrow, QB (LSU) 2-33: Tee Higgins, WR (Clemson) 3-65: Logan Wilson, LB (Wyoming) 4-107: Akeem Davis-Gaither, OLB (Appalachian State) 5-147: Khalid Kareem, DE (Notre Dame) 6-180: Hakeem Adeniji, T (Kansas) 7-215: Markus Bailey, LB (Purdue)
There are as many things to love about the Bengals as there are stripes on their kitty-cat jerseys. First off, they have a great skill position group. Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd, Auden Tate, John Ross coming off the best season of his career, was it good (?), no, but still, and whatever the franchise tagged 32 year old A.J. Green does is all gravy. And you know, they drafted Joe Burrow who had one of the all-time great NCAA seasons in a pro-style offense filled with great skill players.
The defensive line is one of the best in the league. Carlos Dunlap, Chris Hubbard, Geno Atkins, and Carl Lawson combined for 27 sacks and 64 quarterback hits, and they added D.J. Reader, who’s going to be a better pass rusher here. They also used the offseason to improve the worst part of the defense—the linebacker group. Nick Vigil is finally gone. The rookies are intriguing, it’s still surprising Davis-Gaither slid like he did, and Bynes is better than anyone they had last season. The secondary is fine if you have a bright attitude.
There are two big concerns. The offensive line is a mess. The unit won’t be settled until week one, and even then, it may constantly evolve throughout the season. Zac Taylor may not be a very good coach. He’s young, but name one thing the Bengals did well last season. I can’t either. Andy Dalton is a completely fine quarterback and he had the worst season of his career by an enormous margin. If Taylor knows what he’s doing, and last season was a learning year for the whippersnapper, then Cincy could compete for the seven seed this season. I just can’t quite get there.
24.) Chicago Bears—Record: 8-8. Point Differential: -18 (T-20). DVOA: -2.1% (15). Previously 17th.
Additions: Nick Foles (QB), Jimmy Graham (TE), Robert Quin (EDGE), Tashaun Gipson (S), Ted Ginn (WR), Demetrius Harris (TE), Artie Burns (CB), Germain Ifedi (T), John Jenkins (EDGE),
Departures: Prince Amukamara (CB), Kyle Long (G), HaHa Clinton-Dix (S), Aaron Lynch (EDGE), Chase Daniel (QB), Nicholas Williams (DT), Nick Kwiatkoski (LB), Leonard Floyd (EDGE), Kevin Pierre-Louis (EDGE)
NFL Draft: 2-43: Cole Kmet, TE (Notre Dame) 2-50: Jaylon Johnson, CB (Utah) 5-155: Trevis Gipson, LB (Tulsa) 5-173: Darnell Mooney, WR (Tulane) 7-226: Arlington Hambright, T (Colorado) 7-227: Lachavious Simmons, T (Tennessee State)
Chicago had an all-time great defense in 2018. Last season they fell from 1st to 4th in points allowed, from 1st to 22nd in turnovers forced, from 1st to 9th in net yards per attempt allowed, and from 1st to 8th in defensive DVOA. The biggest reason for this drop off was the unsustainable number of turnovers they forced in 2018. They created 17 more in 2018 with 36 total.
This wasn’t unexpected. The defense was going to drop off in 2019, the question was how much. All-time great to top ten is and isn’t enormous. The offense needed to get better last season to pick make up the difference. They didn’t. Chicago went from a mediocre offense to one of the worst in the league, Trubisky regressed in nearly every aspect of the position, and the Bears missed the playoffs.
To fix this they gave up an asset to take on the obscene [NAME REDACTED]ish Foles contract to ‘push’ Trubisky—I can’t wait for the training camp photos of these two—added a tackle that struggles with pass protection, a project tight end, an old lackadaisical tight end, and an old and fast receiver.
The offseason talent they generated doesn’t add up on the offensive side of the ball. Unless Chicago starts forcing 36 turnovers a season, or Trubisky turns his career his around, the Bears will be mired in mediocrity.
MAYBE, JUST MAYBE
23.) Los Angeles Chargers—Record: 5-11. Point Differential: -8 (16). DVOA: -6.7% (21). Previously 23rd.
Additions: Brian Baluga (T), Linval Joseph (DT), Chris Harris Jr. (CB), Nick Vigil (LB), Darius Jennings (WR)
Departures: Michael Schofield (OL), Melvin Gordon (RB), Geremy Davis (WR), Jaylen Watkins (DB), Philip Rivers (QB), Adrian Phillips (S), Jativis Brown (LB), Derek Watt (FB), Travis Benjamin (WR), Thomas Davis Sr. (LB), Nick Dzubnar (LB)
NFL Draft: 1-6: Justin Herbert, QB (Oregon) 1-23: Kenneth Murray, LB (Oklahoma) 4-112: Joshua Kelley, RB (UCLA) 5-151: Joe Reed, WR (Virginia) 6-186: Alohi Gilman, S (Notre Dame) 7-220: K.J. Hill, WR (Ohio State)
There’s one big problem with the Chargers, and it’s the biggest problem a team could have, the quarterback position. There are a lot of issues with Herbert’s NCAA video, the amount of screen passes he threw, his accuracy issues, how wide open his deep completions where when he actually hit them, and he’s trying to join Matt Schaub and Joe Flacco as the only successful 6’6” quarterbacks the league has had. Tygod Taylor is a blast in a power run scheme that’s play action heavy, but the Chargers aren’t set up for that. Each quarterback is diametrically opposed. They’re either going to have two different offenses going, or set up a different one for each guy and fight it out from there. It doesn’t make much sense.
The cover 3 heavy defense that allows their overhangs to run all around the field and make plays was great in 2018, but fell off in 2019. Defenses are more volatile than offenses. Asking Davis Sr. to do what he did last year was elder abuse. Murray can run multiple tasks even if the vision needs to catch up. It’s an improvement nonetheless in a defensive scheme that requires its linebackers to be great in coverage, and with the addition of Harris Jr. I’d bet for it to plop back up to a fringe top ten one.
They also won’t have the same one-score and turnover misfortune next season now that Philip Rivers and the RV he parked on sacred ground has relocated to Indy. The talent is there to compete for a playoff spot. The quarterback position is just too bizarre though.
22.) Cleveland Browns—Record: 6-10 Point Differential: -58 (22). DVOA: -10.1% (23). Previously 22nd.
Additions: Case Keenum (QB), Chris Hubbard (T), Jack Conklin (T), Kevin Johnson (CB), Karl Joseph (S), Andy Janovich (FB), Andrew Sendejo (S), Andrew Billings (DT), Austin Hooper (TE), Adrian Clayborn (DL)
Departures: Demetrius Harris (TE), Ricky Seals-Jones (TE), Joe Schobert (LB), Christian Kirksey (LB), Justin Burris (S), Damarious Randall (S), Eric Kush (OL), Eric Murray (S), Will Parks (S), T.J. Carrie
NFL Draft: 1-10: Jedrick Wills, T (Alabama) 2-44: Grant Delpit, S (LSU) 3-88: Jordan Elliott, LB (Missouri) 3-97: Jacob Phillips, LB (LSU) 4-115: Harrison Bryant, TE (Florida Atlantic) 6-187: Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR (Michigan)
The Browns are the Vikings dizygotic twin. Outside zone heavy offense. A quarterback whose performance sparks controversy. Young running backs who see the world as gaps in space. Two receiver offenses. Multiple tight ends. One from a purple egg and yellow, and the other from a brown and orange egg. A placenta of one’s own.
New head coach Kevin Stefanski is going to take the outside zone and play action passing game to Cleveland. It should work out just fine. It’s a fairly safe offense that will get Baker Mayfield on the run and set up easier throws. He’ll no longer have to win from the pocket, and sprint out of the stadium at the first semblance of pressure.
It’s going to be interesting to see how a secondary composed of Greedy Williams, Grant Delpit, Denzel Ward, and Karl Joseph looks. The potential is astronomical. Cleveland is going to need it. The pass rush is two deep unless Olivier Vernon has his first healthy season since 2016.
21.) Las Vegas Raiders—Record: 7-9. Point Differential: -106 (27). DVOA: -11.0% (24). Previously 24th.
Additions: Nelson Agholor (WR), Maliek Collins (DL), Jeff Heath (S), Eric Kush (OL), Nick Kwiatkoski (LB), Cory Littleton (LB), Marcus Mariota (QB), Carl Nassib (DL), Nick O’Leary (TE), Jason Witten (TE), Prince Amukamara (CB), Devontae Booker (RB)
Departures: Deshone Kizer (QB), Mike Glennon (QB), Tahir Whitehead (LB), Karl Joseph (S), Daryl Worley (CB), Benson Mayowa (DL), Eric Tomilson (TE), DeAndre Washington (RB),
NFL Draft: 1-12: Henry Ruggs III, WR (Alabama) 1-19: Damon Arnette, CB (Ohio State) 3-80: Lynn Bowden Jr., WR (Kentucky) 3-81: Bryan Edwards, WR (South Carolina) 3-100: Tanner Muse, LB (Clemson) 4-109: John Simpson, OL (Clemson) 4-139: Amik Robertson, CB (Louisiana Tech)
The biggest hole on the Raiders was their linebacker position. That unit was all out of vape juice. This could be a strength with the addition of Littleton (cucumber-melon) alone, and even if Kwiatkoski’s (epic bacon) contract was a little exorbitant, he’s a dramatic improvement over Whitehead or Nicholas Morrow. They still don’t have a pass rush though and the secondary is a youth movement. It usually takes defensive backs two to three years to fully adjust to the big leagues.
I do like their offense after last offseason’s Jerry Springer spitting, cracker slinging divorce between Antonio Brown and the Raiders’ front office, where Brown freezing his feet off in the Master Chief’s cryochamber was the most normal part of it all. Their offensive line was one of the best in the league, and Josh Jacobs proved he was one of the rare running backs worth a round one pick. Despite Hunter Renfrow leading the team in wide receiver targets, they were ninth in offensive DVOA, and now they have the speed of Ruggs and whatever the hell Bowden Jr. is. Carr has shown the ability to lead very good offenses when the pass protection is there, and Oakland has exactly that.
That being said, Marcus Mariota is still lurking over everything waiting to have a Tannessance of his own. Which week do you think this happens? Sound off in the comments below.
20.) Los Angeles Rams—Record: 9-7. Point Differential: +30 (12). DVOA: 5.5% (12). Previously 16th.
Additions: Leonard Floyd (EDGE), A’Shawn Robinson (DT)
Departures: Eric Weddle (S), Clay Matthews (EDGE), Blake Bortles (QB), Greg Zuerlein (K), Nickell Robey-Coleman (CB), Dante Fowler Jr. (EDGE), Cory Littelton (LB), Brandin Cooks (WR)
NFL Draft: 2-52: Cam Akers, RB (Florida State) 2-57: Van Jefferson, WR (Florida) 3-84: Terrell Lewis, OLB (Alabama) 3-104: Terrell Burgess, S (Utah) 4-136: Brycen Hopkins, TE (Purdue) 6-199: Jordan Fuller, S (Ohio State) 7-234: Clay Johnston, LB (Baylor) 7-248: Sam Sloman, K (Miami of Ohio) 7-250: Tremayne Anchrum, OL (Clemson)
The Rams have fallen apart as quickly as they were constructed. They are top heavy and wobbly. The top talent has shrunken like heads on pikes though. Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald are two of the best players at their respective position, but the other top talent has disappeared from 2018. Todd Gurley and his bone on bone knees were released. Jared Goff is no longer on his rookie contract and can’t carry an offense on his own. Andrew Whitworth dropped off last season and was resigned until his age 51 season. The Superbowl interior of their offensive line was replaced with various rookies and Austin Corbett. Brandin Cooks was exchanged for a second round pick as a way to get back cost effective talent after trading multiple first round picks, and removes an injury risk after his lost 2018 season.
When a quarterback makes $28 million a season there are going to be holes on the roster. The quarterback has to make up the talent deficiencies with his play. Certain components of the roster are left behind. Russell Wilson does this. Goff doesn’t. The Rams are stuck where they’re at until he does.
19.) Denver Broncos—Record: 7-9. Point Differential: -32 (21). DVOA: -9.0% (22). Previously 21st.
Additions: Jurrell Casey (DL), A.J. Bouye (CB), Melvin Gordon (RB), Nick Vannett (TE), Graham Glasgow (G), Christian Covington (DL)
Departures: Joe Flacco (QB), Ronald Leary (G), Andy Janovich (FB), Chris Harris Jr. (CB), Connor McGovern (C), Devontae Booker (RB), Derek Wolfe (DE)
NFL Draft: 1-15: Jerry Jeudy, WR (Alabama) 2-46: K.J. Hamler, WR (Penn 3-77: Michael Ojemudia, CB (Iowa) 3-83: Lloyd Cushenberry, C (LSU) 3-95: McTelvin Agim, DL (Arkansas) 4-118: Albert Okwuegbunam, TE (Missouri) 5-178: Justin Strnad, LB (Wake Forest) 6-181: Netane Muti, G (Fresno State) 7-252: Tyrie Cleveland, WR (Florida) 7-254: Derrek Tuszka, LB (North Dakota State)
Is Drew Lock good? I don’t have a good feel for it after his five starts. Tune into the collective unconsciousness and it will give you visions to decipher that state the same. He won games. He was accurate. He didn’t take sacks and he had plenty of time to throw. The ball wasn’t pushed down field. I’ll have to sit and wait until the gods show me the truth or until more football is played.
He’s in a good spot though. They added Jeudy and Hamler to an offense that already has wide receiver number one Courtland Sutton, and Noah Fant should be much better his second year. Plus there’s the one-two combination of Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay rushing behind an offensive line that has already proved it can block a power scheme attack.
It’s impossible not to love the defensive veterans they added for middle to late round draft picks in Bouye and Casey. Bradley Chubb will be back after an early ACL tear. Hopefully this season Vic Fangio doesn’t need four weeks to understand dropping Chubb and Von Miller back in coverage is, as the Thesaurus says, dumb as hell. If Lock is good, they can be a playoff team. If Lock is bad, he’ll still be better than Flacco or Brandon Allen, and the rest of the talent here may still be able to carry it.
18.) Arizona Cardinals—Record: 5-10-1. Point Differential: -81 (23). DVOA: -5.8% (20). Previously 19th.
Additions: DeAndre Hopkins (WR), Devon Kennard (LB), Jordan Phillips (DT), De’Vondre Campbell (EDGE)
Departures: David Johnson (RB), Rodney Gunter (DL), Cassius Marsh (EDGE), Zach Kerr (DL), Pharoh Cooper (KR), Damiere Byrd (WR)
NFL Draft: 1-8: Isaiah Simmons, LB (Clemson) 3-72: Josh Jones, T (Houston) 4-114: Leki Fotu, DT (Utah) 4-131: Rashard Lawrence, DT (LSU) 6-202: Evan Weaver, LB (Cal) 7-222: Eno Benjamin, RB (Arizona State)
Last season Murray took 48 sacks tying him with Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan for the most in the league. This knocked down a fantastic rookie season. His net yards an attempt came out to 5.78, which was 28th in the league. The pass protection wasn’t incredible, but it wasn’t that bad. Murray took dainty cute little nap time sacks to save his body from getting devoured by defensive leviathans. Awwww, he’s so cute.
If Murray can improve in this facet, and take a normal number of sacks, the Cardinals have all the makings of a top ten offense. They added a top three wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins—hold on, this can’t be right—for the salary dump undead creation David Johnson, who had one great season that came in 2016, and the 40th overall pick—I still can’t believe it. An impossible no brainer from Arizona and Houston’s perspective. Hopkins and Christian Kirk, who emerged as a wide receiver one last season, will play on opposite sides and Larry Fitzgerald will be sprinkled into the slot. Who am I kidding? It’s five wide all day doggy.
They also retained Kenyan Drake, who played an entirely different sport than Johnson did in this offense last season.
The pass rush is empty though. It’s Chandler Jones speed skating and that’s it. Pro Football Reference has Arizona with a blitz rate of 39.75%, but it didn’t amount to much. They had a mediocre pressure rate, because Jones is an All-Pro near 20 sack player, and one of the worst third down defenses out there. Vance Joseph doesn’t have the track record of conjuring up successful aggressive pressure heavy defenses that are typical in Arizona, and part of their current plan, as seen by the Phillips, Campbell, and Kennard signings. Hopefully he’s able to recreate previous Todd Bowles and James Fletcher Arizona madness and turn one of the worst defenses around into something aggressive and passable.
17.) Atlanta Falcons—Record: 7-9. Point Differential: -18 (T-20). DVOA: -5.0% (17). Previously 20th.
Additions: Dante Fowler Jr. (EDGE), Chris Harris (EDGE), Hayden Hurst (TE), LaRoy Reynolds (OLB), Laquon Treadwell (WR)
Departures: Austin Hooper (TE), Adrian Clayborn (DL), De’Vondre Campbell (EDGE), Wes Schweitzer (G), Ty Sambrillo (T), Vic Beasley (EDGE), Devonta Freeman (RB)
NFL Draft: 1-16: A.J. Terrell, CB (Clemson) 2-47: Marlon Davidson, DT (Auburn) 3-78: Matt Hennessy, C (Temple) 4-119: Mykal Walker, LB (Fresno State) 4-134: Jaylinn Hawkins, S (California) 7-228: Sterling Hofrichter, K (Syracuse)
First round draft picks coming. The Falcons have nine first round picks on their offense. Can you name them? Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Chris Lindstrom, Kaleb McGary, Jake Matthews, Laquon Treadwell, Calvin Ridley, Hayden Hurst, and Todd Gurley. Damn, that’s actually nine. Nevermind.
Matt Ryan is entering his age 35 season. This feels like his last ride, his last great season, after a mediocre one in 2019. Ryan should be able to bounce back, behind an offensive line with a year around the campfire, and even if Gurley has injury concerns, it’s likely he’ll be better than Freeman anyways.
The defense is always the same. It’s young. It’s fast. It’s injured! Last season it fell apart once Keanu Neal hit injured reserve and they couldn’t communicate on the back end. Who cares if it is this season though? They have Davidson and Grady Jarrett working together on the same side of the line of scrimmage and that’s what All-22 dreams are made of. Fowler is great at running stunts and he should be able to work off either one of them. The pass rush should be better. The secondary is wait and see, but probably not.
Check back tomorrow for part two