In school you learn about inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning. At least we used to teach that in school. One calls for you to go from big picture to little picture while the other calls for the reverse. We have been giving you parts of the whole and hoping that it all adds up to something. Now, we will give you the whole and then break it down to its individual parts.
In order to do this we will utilize the PFF projections. Why PFF? It seems like as good a source as any, but more importantly we know that Bobby Slowik worked for them. That means no matter how much anyone buys into it that we know he buys into it. So, he will be interpreting the data to make the most of what he has. We will begin with the totals and slowly break it down from there.
Jacksonville Jaguars— 1,892 rushing, 4,446 passing, 414 rushes, 620 passes, 35 sacks, 1,069 total plays, 38 total TDs
Tennessee Titans— 2,216 rushing, 3,979 passing, 495 rushes, 545 passes, 47 sacks, 1,087 total plays, 45 total TDs
Indianapolis Colts— 2,127 rushing, 3,869 passing, 479 rushes, 547 passes, 50 sacks, 1,076 total plays, 44 total TDs
Houston Texans— 1,668 rushing, 4,069 passing, 400 rushes, 598 passes, 45 sacks, 1,043 total plays, 39 total TDs
Of course, these numbers are great but they become more meaningful when we break them down. The Texans appear to be pretty close to everyone. They are projected to gain 5.5 yards per play before we factor in lost yardage from sacks. It should be noted that they are second in the division to the Jaguars with 45 projected sacks. At least PFF doesn’t think our offensive line is that terrible.
Even before we break things down to their parts we can see what is lacking. The Texans running game is lagging behind everyone in the division. This is both true on a per carry basis and a total basis. So, as much as we may have wanted Deandre Hopkins back, maybe we should be trolling for running backs instead.
Titans— RB (471/1,959/4.16), QB (17/207/12.18), WR (8/50/6.25), Total (496/2,216/4.48/19)
Colts— RB (361/1,626/4.50), QB (118/547/4.64), WR (0/0/0), Total (479/2,127/4.44/19)
Jaguars— RB (331/1,490/4.50), QB (58/276/4.76), WR (25/126/5.04), Total (414/1,892/4.57/12)
Texans— RB (348/1,489/4.28), QB (52/179/3.44), WR (0/0/0), Total (400/1,668/4.17/13)
When you break things down they begin to make more sense and you can find spots where either the projections are off or you can do something to improve. The folks at PFF don’t think much of C.J. Stroud and Davis Mills as running quarterbacks. Mills averaged 3.4 yards per carry last year, so that part makes sense. Assuming Stroud will not do any better might be a stretch though.
Believe it or not, this registers as an improvement in both totals and efficiency over last season. The addition of Devin Singletary probably accounts for most of that, but the improvement of the offensive line is probably also a key. The question for management is whether to add a second prominent free agent back before the season or to trust that Xazavian Valladay will be significantly better than any of the projection systems.
Throughout most of the offseason we have been comparing individual quarterback to individual quarterback. There will be opportunities to do that with all of the projection systems intact, but before we go there it will probably be instructive to see what PFF thinks of each team’s overall passing game as viewed through the eyes of their quarterbacks.
Jaguars— 394/620, 63.3%, 4,446 yards, 27 TD, 16 INT, 7.17 yards per attempt, 35 sacks
Texans— 375/598, 62.7%, 4,069 yards, 26 TD, 18 INT, 6.80 yards per attempt, 45 sacks
Titans— 363/545, 66.6%, 3,979 yards, 26 TD, 13 INT, 7.30 yards per attempt, 47 sacks
Colts— 367/547, 67.1%, 3,869 yards, 25 TD, 15 INT, 7.07 yards per attempt, 50 sacks
I’m calling shenanigans on the projections for the Colts. I don’t see how Anthony Richardson and Garner Minshew lead the division in completion percentage. I think the rest of the numbers seem about right. PFF projects improvement for our passing game overall, but several indicators suggest we might have the worst quarterback play in the division. Not all of the 18 interceptions will be Stroud’s but the bulk will be.
The Titans and Jaguars are likely the class of the division on offense. There are a number of indicators that suggest that the Titans might actually be the better team on offense. I’m not sure how accurate that will be, but we have to remember that we haven’t looked at defenses yet. So, this isn’t necessarily a prediction that the Titans will retake the division crown.
Passing Game Breakdown
This one might be the most important category for coaches and scouts. Self-scouting is the most important scouting there is. Instead of reacting to other teams you want to identify your strengths and play to those. It is likely that this will be the biggest impact Slowik has on the offense.
Jaguars— RB (80 targets, 65 catches, 491 yards, 81.3 catch%, 6.14 YPT), WR (367 targets, 248 catches, 3,005 yards, 67.8 catch%, 8.19 YPT), TE (127 targets, 90 catches, 950 yards, 70.9 catch%, 7.75 YPT)
Texans— RB (128 targets, 105 catches, 765 yards, 82.0 catch%, 5.98 YPT), WR (310 targets, 206 catches, 2,371 yards, 66.5 catch%, 7.65 YPT), TE (110 targets, 81 catches, 832 yards, 73.6 catch%, 7.56 YPT
Titans— RB (101 targets, 83 catches, 633 yards, 82.2 catch%, 6.28 YPT), WR (291 targets, 197 catches, 2,435 yards, 67.8 catch%, 8.37 YPT, TE (111 targets, 82 catches, 911 yards, 73.9 catch%, 8.27 YPT
Colts— RB (95 targets, 79 catches, 553 yards, 83.2 catch%, 5.82 YPT), WR (306 targets, 208 catches, 2,453 yards, 67.9 catch%, 8.02 YPT), TE (110 targets, 80 catches, 765 yards, 72.7 catch%, 7.86 YPT
This just seems like a sea of numbers and I definitely understand if your eyes glaze over like you’re in an insurance seminar. However, numbers say a whole lot to guys like Slowik. One of the ways the Houston Astros revolutionized pitching was with a very simple concept. They looked at which pitches brought individual pitchers more success and just had those pitchers throw that pitch more. It seems easy enough right?
PFF is projecting that the Texans will throw to wide receivers at a much lower rate than the other teams in the division. That’s because it won’t be as successful. Their catch percentage is the lowest in the division and their yards per target is the lowest in the division. At the same time, the running backs and tight ends are roughly on par with the rest of the division. So, if you want to get the most out of Stroud and the passing game, you will probably rely more heavily on the running backs and tight ends.
Putting it All Together
This offense has two needs when you look at the overall results. They probably will need a third running back to help carry the load. If this back is also adept in the passing game it could be huge. They could certainly afford to sign a Delvin Cook or Ezekiel Elliott, but they may not have to. The best bet here is to go through training camp to see if Valladay can be that guy for cheap. If he is then you get that third back for minimal salary. If he isn’t then you scour the waiver wire right before the start of the season.
The wide receiver problem is just not as easily solved. There will be no shortage of names available when final cuts are made, but this team needs a number one wide receiver. Signing those guys in free agency is brutal because they are usually overpriced. Drafting them is hard too because most receivers aren’t great in their first season. Their best bet is to hope that the trio of John Metchie, Tank Dell, and Xavier Hutchinson show enough promise to potentially offer that in 2024.