Projecting the 6 Worst Offenses in the NFL in 2015

By Vincent Frank

We focused on the six-best offenses in the NFL heading into the 2015 season in an article earlier this month. Using advanced statistics, previous success and offseason moves, we came to the conclusion that the Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts possess the two-best offenses in the league.

Taking a less optimistic spin here, this article is going to check in on the six-worst offenses in the NFL. Unfortunately for fans of these bottom-tier teams, not much changed from a season ago. You will see tgree AFC South teams near the top of the list with one surprising NFC West inclusion.

Here are your six-worst offenses in the NFL heading into the 2015 campaign.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

Courtesy of USA Today Sports: Blake Bortles needs to get help in order to progress under center.

Courtesy of USA Today Sports: Blake Bortles needs to get help in order to progress under center.

Let us preface this by saying general manager David Caldwell has done a nice job finding young talent on offense. The likes of Blake Bortles, Storm Johnson, T.J. Yeldon, Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee should make for a solid group down the road. It just won’t be in 2015.

Without a true No. 1 wide receiver or a running back with extensive previous success in the NFL, the pressure is going to be on Bortles to improve off of what was a tremendously inconsistent season. The former No. 3 overall pick put up 11 touchdowns compared to 17 interceptions en route to leading the Jaguars’ offense to a dead last ranking in points scored. He also put up less than 200 passing yards five different times and led Jacksonville to less than 15 points seven times. Both of those stats need to change in a hurry.

The problem with expecting tremendous progression from Bortles as a sophomore is that he doesn’t have a consistent ground game to rely on. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the Jaguars offensive line finished with a -28.8 run-blocking grade, good for 25th in the NFL. The team averaged 4.5 yards per rush, but wasn’t able to stick to the ground game because of a 26th-ranked scoring defense. As you already know, the two go hand in hand. If Jacksonville’s defense improves, it will help the team’s offense create more balance. Unfortunately, the Jaguars are slated to have the worst defense in the NFL this year.

There’s a talented young group here. That much is hard to deny. However, Jacksonville’s offense this upcoming season will be the base upon which the future is set. It can’t expect much progression from a year ago, at least until these youngsters prove they can perform as starter-caliber players in the NFL.

2. Cleveland Browns

No franchise quarterback to call their own and a lack of any real talent at wide receiver. These are two reasons why Cleveland ranks so low on this list. And despite one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, a lack of skill-position talent is going to haunt the Browns big time in 2015.

As of right now, Dwayne Bowe is the Browns’ top receiver with Brian Hartline and Andrew Hawkins vying for a starting job opposite him. Depth might not be an issue here, but talent surely is. Without the services of Josh Gordon, who is suspended for the entire 2015 season, there just isn’t much upside to this unit. Even if Bowe and Hartline perform anywhere near their previous levels, who is going to act as a consistent deep threat for Josh McCown? Taylor Gabriel has a chance, but he remains an unproven commodity. That’s going to create some issues for the myriad running backs slated to see defenses loading up against the run.

Speaking of the Browns’ running back situation, that’s the one bright spot on the team’s offense. Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West combined for over 1,400 total yards and 13 scores as rookies last season. Cleveland also received tremendous value by adding former Miami (F) running back Duke Johnson in the third round of the draft last month. With a whole host of talent at running back and a strong offensive line, maybe that area of the offense can keep the entire unit above water.

However, none of this even comes close to addressing the biggest issue in Cleveland, the quarterback position. It’s safe to assume veteran free-agent signing Josh McCown will be under center when the season comes calling. It’s a less-than-ideal situation for a team that exhausted a first-round pick on Johnny Manziel last year. It also won’t bring the desired outcome for an organization that has not had a franchise quarterback since before the Berlin Wall fell. That’s the biggest issue for this squad moving forward.

3. Washington Redskins

Courtesy of USA Today Images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports: There needs to be more coordination from coach to QB for Washington in 2015.

Until we see Robert Griffin III perform like a starter-caliber quarterback in the NFL, Washington’s offense is going to be among the worst in the entire NFL. By now, RGIII’s struggles are well documented. He’s won five of his past 20 starts, throwing a total of 20 touchdowns compared to 18 interceptions during that span. This is a far cry from the 9-6 record the former No. 2 overall pick posted as a rookie in 2012.

Sometimes, it’s an easy cop out to blame a quarterback for his team’s struggles. But in this case, RGIII deserves a lot of the blame. His tape from a season ago was hard to watch. With opposing defenses stacking the box against the run, the quarterback still couldn’t find receivers in single coverage down the field. His mechanics broke down in the face of pressure, he showed no real ability to progress past his initial read, and the results were disastrous. First and foremost, RGIII simply needs to play better football.

Outside of that, Jay Gruden needs to call a better game and utilize Washington’s talent to the best of its ability. Even going against defenses that were selling out against the run, Alfred Morris averaged 4.1 yards per rush. Unfortunately, the Pro Bowl running back saw 20-plus touches just five times last season. A lack of commitment to the running game was a big issue for Gruden during his tenure as the Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator. Through one season in Washington, it appears that has followed him to D.C.

4. Tennessee Titans

Relying on a rookie quarterback to change the fortune of a team’s offense is foolish. It’s going to take Marcus Mariota at least a year before he can be considered an average starting quarterback in the NFL.

One of the primary issues for Mariota will be finding consistent receivers to throw to. The combination of Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright may have tallied 85 receptions last year, but they caught a total of 53 percent of the passes thrown in their direction. It has even gotten to the point where head coach Ken Whisenhunt called out Hunter publicly. Second-round pick Dorial Green-Beckham will be a solid addition down the road, but he’s in no way capable of making an immediate impact after an enigmatic college career prevented him from seeing the field a whole lot. Veteran additions Hakeem Nicks and Harry Douglas are nothing more than gap fillers until Green-Beckham and fellow rookie Tre McBride realize their full potential.

In order for Mariota to up the performance of an offense that ranked 30th in the NFL in scoring last season, he’s going to need more production from the running game. 2014 second-round pick Bishop Sankey entered his rookie campaign with high expectations, but inconsistent playing time led to a substandard 3.7 yards per carry average. While Tennessee did add an under-the-radar performer in David Cobb with its fifth-round pick last month, we need to actually see him perform against NFL competition before drawing any real conclusions there.

Much like the division-rival Jaguars, these Titans have some nice young pieces. It’s now all about getting production from those who have struggled in the limelight of the NFL. If that doesn’t happen, there’s no reason to believe this unit will improve much in 2015.

5. St. Louis Rams

Let us be clear here for a second. Nick Foles is a downgrade from Sam Bradford in St. Louis. That might not mean a whole lot considering Bradford rarely saw the field for the Rams in previous seasons, but it’s still worth noting. This is only magnified by the fact that Foles will now be playing against NFC West defenses, which includes three of the top six units in the league.

We covered Robert Griffin III and his horrendous tape above. Much like his former NFC East counterpart, Foles’ tape was a complete dumpster fire last season. One specific game against the San Francisco 49ers comes to mind first. Unable to push the ball down field, Foles failed to lead his Eagles team past the mid-field mark for nearly four quarters before finding some type of rhythm. While a small sample size, his inability to show any type of accuracy or field vision in that specific outing was alarming. Now going up against San Francisco’s defense as well as the Legion of Boom and a potentially dominant Arizona Cardinals defense, Foles is going to have to up his game big time.

The larger issue at hand here is that Foles struggled in a quarterback-friendly scheme with Chip Kelly and the Eagles last year—an Eagles team that had much more talent than this current Rams squad. Unless Todd Gurley can find himself on the field early in the season after rehabbing from a torn ACL he suffered last year at Georgia, St. Louis is going to rely a great deal on Foles to pass the ball against some of the best defenses in the NFL. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have anywhere near the receiving targets he’s had in the past. That’s going to be a major issue in 2015.

If the Rams played in another division, they might be near the middle of the pack, but the competition they have to go up against in 2015 is going to lead this offense to the bottom rung of the NFL in terms of total yards and scoring. That’s the harsh reality of the situation.

6. Houston Texans

Ryan Mallett or Brian Hoyer? That’s going to be the biggest question for the Texans during training camp and the preseason. Whoever wins that starting job will have to perform at a high level without the services of Andre Johnson, who moved on to the division-rival Indianapolis Colts back in March. This means that third-year receiver DeAndre Hopkins will be relied on to be the team’s No. 1 receiver. It also means that the combination of Cecil Shorts and Jaelen Strong will have to step seamlessly into big roles. That’s a lot to ask.

As long as Houston has Arian Foster playing anywhere near the level we have seen in the past, this ranking might be a bit ridiculous. Though, it’s hard for the team to rely on a running back that has missed nearly one third of possible games over the past two seasons. Foster’s age and workload also have to be taken into account here. He’s simply not at the point in his career where he can carry an offense on his back. Unless that happens, the Texans are looking at a pretty disappointing offense in 2015.

Photo: USA Today Sports