Five Offenses to Keep an Eye On
There are still some dominoes that are likely to fall in free agency, but for the most part teams will look awfully similar to how they look now. With the NFL hopeful about a season that could start on time in September, the only thing we can do is to begin looking forward to kickoff.
Much of the storylines for the remainder of the off-season will likely revolve around the constantly changing COVID-19 situation. However, the NFL has already underwent a free agency period and a draft that have resulted in teams changing their rosters and looking forward to the start of the new season as well.
With that, I thought it would be a fun exercise to take a look at five offenses that should be fun to watch next season based on how they currently look on paper. A note of importance is that these are not necessarily the five best offenses, but rather five offenses that offer promise and will be intriguing to watch.
For example, the Kansas City Chiefs will not be included on this list even though they are arguably the best offense in the league. They proved it last postseason in route to a Super Bowl victory and suffered no substantial losses in the offseason to look any differently. But, because they will largely look the same on the field and we know they will be a popular presence on NFL RedZone over the course of the season anyways, there is no point in including them on a list of intrigue.
This will be a fun exercise to do with defensive units as well (coming shortly), but for now we will start the offenses. Those that are listed here are not the only intriguing offenses, rather ones that stand out more than others.
Without further ado, let's get into this list of offenses that could light up the scoreboard.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Is anyone surprised about the first team that is mentioned here? Who could be after the Buccaneers acquired Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski in a singular off-season while maintaining juggernauts like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin?
Truth be told, the Bucs may have been the most fun offense to watch last season. With Jameis Winston at quarterback, there was a good shot you would be seeing a touchdown or a pick-six within a few seconds. The Bucs ranked atop the leaderboard at many offensive statistics, but they could have been so much more efficient and controlled more games had they not struggled with turnovers.
Enter Tom Brady.
One of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, who happens to also be one of the best at protecting the football, Brady will have no shortage of targets to throw to. With an above-average offensive line and a respected offensive-mind head coach like Bruce Arians, all of the ingredients are there for the Bucs to light the league on fire. Yet to be mentioned are tight ends O.J. Howard and Cam Brate, and young offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich that add even more spunk to this unit.
Some storylines that are sure to follow the team throughout the season are whether or not there are enough targets to go around to make everyone happy and how Brady adapts to a different offensive style that Arians deploys. We will watch to see how those play out, and likely see a ton of scoring along the way.
2. Denver Broncos
The Broncos haven't had an functional offense since Peyton Manning departed.
For a half-decade, this is a team that has had to rely on their defense to keep them in games and win them. They have struggled to keep up with the Chiefs in the AFC West recently and improving the offense would be a step in the right direction to change those that.
General Manager John Elway took it upon himself to surround promising second-year quarterback Drew Lock with an adequate supporting cast this off-season. With youngsters such as Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant already in the fold, the cupboard wasn't completely bare and with an offensively focused draft, the cupboard now looks strong.
Joining Sutton in the wide-receiver room are Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler, first- and second-round picks, respectively. All three of those players offer different skill sets and should provide Lock with plenty of pass-catching options. Throw in last year's first-rounder in Fant and this year's fourth-rounder Albert Okwuegbunam (a college teammate at Missouri) at tight end and the Broncos have the making of a track team. There is speed everywhere.
With the addition of Melvin Gordon to go with the already impressive young duo of Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, the Broncos can lean on their running game as well. In fact, that may be preferable in some games when their impressive defense is taking control.
Signing Graham Glasgow and drafting Lloyd Cushenberry to solidify the interior offensive line will help in both facets. New coordinator Pat Shurmur will have plenty at his disposal and should breathe some new air into this offense.
3. Arizona Cardinals
Quarterback Kyler Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury are entering their second season in the NFL and DeAndre Hopkins is joining forces with them. Dare I say more?
Vegas thinks Murray could be a darkhorse MVP candidate based on his 16-1 odds to win the award. Obviously, preseason betting odds should be taken with a grain of salt. But, the point still stands that Murray could do some damage in his second NFL season. He seemed to improve with every passing week last year.
Having a bonafide All-Pro in Hopkins as a go-to target should do wonders for Murray and the offense. Hopkins catches everything in his path and will make life a lot easier for Murray in pressure situations. The emergence of Kenyan Drake as a lead back after the trade last season is also an encouraging development.
With other targets such as Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, there is legitimate potential for potency here. If last year's draft picks Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler can prove their worth, there is even more reason for excitement.
The tight end position isn't the strongest and it will be interesting to see how the offensive line performs. But, this is a squad that is on the rise and certainly has talent on the offensive side of the ball. Having a young team in the NFC West may not lead to a ton of wins, but this will be a team to keep an eye on.
4. Cleveland Browns
Once again, it is a new era in Cleveland. With the amount of turnover for the Browns in recent years, it feels like that is said almost every season.
However, this feels different. The Browns also would make a list similar to this one last year, but Freddie Kitchens proved to be inept as head coach.
Enter Kevin Stefanski. An analytically minded and creative coach, he comes to the Browns after serving as Minnesota's offensive coordinator. While Robert Saleh and Eric Bieniemy were strong fits to be the next coach, Stefanski seems to be a good hire. He will be tasked with making sure his talented offensive personnel can translate that talent onto the field.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield's development is the whole key. The fiery and rash-talking former No. 1 overall pick is entering a pivotal juncture in his career. He struggled mightily last season and arguably took a step back from a promising rookie season. It is put up or shut up time for Mayfield, and he has the talent and the supporting cast to put up.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry make up what is one of the best wide receiver duos in the league. OBJ is coming off a disappointing campaign, which will likely fuel his fire and have him back better than ever. Nick Chubb is emerging as one of the premier running backs in the league, and Kareem Hunt is no slouch as a backup running back who provides a constant pass-catching threat.
The signing of Austin Hooper at tight end seemed like one of the best fits of the whole off-season. Signing Jack Conklin to play right tackle and drafting Jedrick Wills with the 10th overall pick immediately solidifies the bookends of the offensive line.
This team has the pieces. Let's see how they perform. Can they finally end the league's longest playoff drought?
5. Cincinnati Bengals
In comes Joe Burrow. Out goes Andy Dalton. No offense to Dalton, who did a lot during his time as a Bengal, including five playoff appearances in his first five seasons.
But, the team seemed to hit a bit of a snag with Dalton at the helm since and has lacked any sort of buzz for a few seasons. Drafting Burrow to be the franchise quarterback at the top of the draft seems to have rejuvenated the franchise.
Burrow had one of the best college football seasons of all time last season, culminating in a Heisman Trophy and National Championship. He seems like the real deal, with his impressive persona and ability to make any throw.
Sure, the Bengals looked absolutely dreadful last year. But, there are things to work with for sure.
The Bengals hired Zac Taylor last off-season in hopes he would be the next Sean McVay, and he still very well could be. Taylor seems like a good fit for Burrow to go through his development as a player. The Bengals have some impressive weapons as well.
Getting receiver A.J. Green back will be a huge boost for this offense, and he joins Tyler Boyd, John Ross, and the recently drafted Tee Higgins to form a strong foursome at the position. Ross and Higgins have to prove they belong in this league, but talent is not lacking. Having a lead back such as Joe Mixon will help to take some pressure off of Burrow as well.
As long as the offensive line isn't a complete disaster, it will be fun to watch Burrow stand back there and take charge of his offense. If he performs anything like he performed in his last season at LSU, we will be in for a treat.