An offense is a complex idea. It is a series of units that work together to accomplish a single goal. There are 4 main groups: Offensive Line, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, and Quarterbacks. In order for a team to be successful, all 4 groups must click. A bad offensive line results in bad running back and quarterback play. A bad running back makes the quarterbacks job a lot more difficult. A bad quarterback makes the wide receivers job that much more difficult. Bad wide receivers make a quarterbacks job very hard. Even if you have stars at each position, depth is a must in case of injuries and other unforeseen occurrences. Suffice to say, there needs to be equal talent for an offense to be effective.
Last season, the AFC West teams finished 10th(Chargers), 15th(Broncos), 25th(Chiefs), and 31st(Raiders) in total offense. This off season, every team has made moves that will impact their offensive units. I took an in depth look at how each teams offensive units look heading into the 2010 season.
The offensive line is arguably the most important unit of an offense. The offensive line is responsible for 2 main things. Give the quarterback enough time to make a play, and make holes for the running back to run through. Both those things are much easier said then done. The offensive line consists of 5 positions: LT LG C RG RT. In pass protection, the LT and RT are responsible for protecting the quarterback from blitzing linebackers who come off the edges. LG, C and RG are responsible for protecting the quarterback from the opposing d-lineman. LT is usually the most important position on the o-line since LT's are responsible for protecting the blindside of the quarterback. Without a good LT, well ask Joe Theismann how it works out. So without further ado, let's look at the offensive lines in the AFC West.
Here are the 2009 AFC West Offensive Line Stats:
Last year, Oakland had one of the worst offensive lines according to NFL.com statistics. They gave up the 3rd most qb hits(97) and 3rd most sacks(49). Now, some of that can be attributed to Jamarcus the Hutt, but not all of the blame. In addition to qb hits and sacks, the o-line only allowed the running attack 4.1 ypc and just 7 touchdowns on the season. In the off season, Oakland picked up rookies Bruce Campbell and Jared Veldheer. They are hoping that one of the rookies steps up into the opposite tackle position of Mario Henderson.
Kansas City Chiefs
Tackles: Brandon Albert, , Barry Richardson,
Last year, KC had a below average offensive line according to NFL.com statistics. They gave up the 12th most qb hits(85) and 6th most sacks(45). They did boast an above average rushing attack averaging 4.4 ypc but just 8 touchdowns. This off season they signed veterans Ryan Lilja and Casey Wiegmann. Ryan Lilja looks to start at guard while Casey could be a bench player.
San Diego Chargers
Last year, San Diego had a top 10 offensive line according to NFL.com statistics. They were 29th in qb hits(53) and 27th in sacks(26). On the other hand, they had a terrible running game. They averaged just 3.3 ypc but 17 touchdowns. However, the lack of running game shouldn't be blamed on the offensive line. The lack of a running game can be attributed to an aged and ineffective Ladanian Tomlinson.
Last year, Denver had an average offensive line according to NFL.com statistics. They were 25th in qb hits(62) and 16th in sacks(34). They had an average running game. They averaged 4.2 ypc and 9 touchdowns. The 2009 offensive line would have been a lot better if stud RT Ryan Harris was not injured early in the season.
There were two occurrences this off season that have very much effected two AFC West teams as it relates to their offensive lines. Denver's pro bowl LT tore his left patellar tendon while playing basketball and San Diego's stud LT Marcus McNiell is threatening a holdout till at least week 10. Both of these players are extremely important to their teams. Their absences will definitely be felt. Kansas City and Oakland's offensive lines are a bit of a question mark heading into TC. KC hopes that Lilja is enough to shore up the pass rush. Oakland hopes that one of their rookies is good enough to start the season opposite of Mario Henderson.
Ranking these o-lines is difficult. When fully healthy, Denver arguably has the best o-line. However, given the circumstances of this off season, the best unit has to be San Diego.
1. San Diego
3. Kansas City
Although the league has become a passing one, running backs are still very important to today's NFL offense. Players such as Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, and Ray Rice can change the tone of the game with one explosive play. Last season, the AFC West was pretty mediocre in their rushing attacks. Here are the stats from 2009:
|11||Kansas City Chiefs||16||18.4||294||438||27.4||1,929||4.4||120.6||8||76T||91||20.8||11||5||14|
|31||San Diego Chargers||16||28.4||454||427||26.7||1,423||3.3||88.9||17||36||80||18.7||7||0||2|
Michael Bush- Oakland fans are excited about Bush. In his first two seasons of play, Bush has averaged a very nice 4.6 ypc. He has also only surrendered 1 fumble each season. Even better is that he has shown progression in those two years. In 2008, he averaged 4.4 ypc while last season he averaged 4.8 ypc. His attempts also increased to 123 as opposed to 98 from 2008. With another year under his belt, Michael Bush looks to be Oakland's best playmaker headed into 2010.
Darren McFadden- Yikes. When Oakland drafted Darren McFadden with the 4th pick in the 2008 draft, they were expecting the explosive running back who had won numerous awards at the University of Arkansas. Instead they got a running back who has struggled to shift to the NFL game. In his rookie season, McFadden averaged 4.4 ypc on 113 attempts. In 2009, McFadden regressed. He averaged just 3.4 ypc on 104 attempts. Even more alarming is his fumbling problem. McFadden has 7 total fumbles in 2 years. 3 in his rookie season and 4 in 2009.
Oakland averaged 4.1 ypc last season. Bush was the lone bright spot on the Raiders offense. With Jason Campbell taking over for Jamarcus Russel, Bush's job should be easier. The only question is whether the offensive line will be good enough to let Bush shine in 2010.
Kansas City Chiefs
Jamaal Charles- Believe me when i say, Chiefs fans are going crazy for this guy and with good reason. Since being drafted, Charles has been a spark for the porous Chiefs offense. In his rookie year, he averaged 5.3 ypc on 67 attempts. In 2009, he averaged a remarkable 5.9 ypc on 190 attempts. He fumbled just once in his rookie year, and twice in 2009.
Thomas Jones- Possibly the best off season acquisition, Jones is coming off one of his best years as a pro. With the Jets, Jones averaged 4.2 ypc on 331 attempts. He had 14 touchdowns and gained 1,402 yards. He also fumbled just twice.
On the surface, Kansas City has one of the best running back tandems in the league with up and comer Jamaal Charles and veteran Thomas Jones. However, there is reason for skepticism as to how good this pair is going to be. Thomas Jones came from the Jets who arguably had the best run blocking o-line in the league. Will he be nearly as successful with Kansas City's o-line?
Finally, is Jamaal Charles all that KC is making him up to be? KC fans point to his final 4 games when he got over 100 yards in each game and nearly got 300 against Denver. However, I would point out the teams they played against. Week 14 against Buffalo, Week 15 against Cleveland, Week 16 against Cincinnati, and week 17 against Kansas City.
All of these teams with the exception of Cincinnati ranked in the bottom 10 in run defense. Buffalo(30), Cleveland(28), Denver(26). Cincinnati ranked 7th and gave up an average of 98 rushing yards a game. In the game against KC, Charles ran for 102 yards. So Charles was on par with what the Cincinnati defense gave up each game.
So the question is, is Jamaal Charles as talented as his final 4 games suggest, or was he a benefactor of circumstance? I know what Chiefs fans will say, but it is a legitimate question. Up until week 14, Charles only got 100+ yards once and that was against Oakland who ranked 29th. So how good is Charles? We will see, but my bet is he isn't as spectacular as Chiefs fans seem to think.
Ryan Matthews- Ryan was the 1st running back selected in the 2010 draft. San Diego traded up to # 12 to get him. After ranking last in rushing attack last season, San Diego gave up a ton and are gambling on Matthews. Many people praised San Diego for getting "their guy". However, it was arguably the riskiest move in the draft. Matthews played at Fresno State. He did not play at an elite school such as Texas, USC, Alabama, or Florida. In addition, Matthews has never had a full season of injury-free play. He has been injured every year since his freshman campaign. The Chargers are gambling a lot on Matthews. They are hoping he comes into the league and gets 250 carries and 40 receptions.
Darren Sproles- Sproles is a secondary option for San Diego. Last year, Sproles has a significant increase in carries compared to 2008. In 2009, he got the ball 93 times opposed to 61 from 2008. The disheartening stat is that with 30+ more carries, Sproles only got 13 more yards then he did in 2008. Sproles is not an every down kind of running back. He is a decent secondary option. His true worth is on special teams.
San Diego can't possibly do worse from 2009 can they? Well, yes they can. Matthews is an exciting player, but his injury prone nature doesn't bode well for his NFL career. If he can stay healthy, the Chargers offense will be better for it. However, if Matthews gets hurt at any point in the season, they will have to rely on Darren Sproles for the rest of the season...Yikes.
Knowshon Moreno- When McDaniels drafted Knowshon last year with the 12th pick, it was surprising to say the least. A year later, it appears that Josh knew what he was doing all along. Knowshon is the centerpiece of the Denver running attack. Last year, Knowshon ran 247 times for 947 yards. He averaged just 3.8 ypc. It was a disappointing rookie year for Knowshon. He was decent, but not great while splitting carries with Correll Buckhalter. He scored 7 td's. He also lost 4 fumbles. On the bright side, Knowshon averaged 7.6 yards per catch. He scored 2 times.
Correll Buckhalter- Buckhalter was brought into the Bronco organization last year. He was an after thought due to the other high profile players that McDaniels signed. However, Buckhalter provided a very nice spark in limited action in 2009. Last season, he rushed 120 times for 642 yards. He averaged 5.4 ypc. Buckhalter is a nice compliment to Knowshon. The key to Buck is can he stay healthy enough to be effective?
The league has changed over the years. Not only is it not a run first league anymore, running back committees are almost necessary in today's look. Each team except San Diego has a nice committee of running backs heading into TC. KC has Thomas and Charles. Oakland has Bush and McFadden. Denver has Knowshon and Buckhalter. So who has the top run game going into 2010? There are plenty of reasons to question how good Jamaal Charles is and how effective Thomas Jones will be in Kansas City. But for now, KC undoubtedly has the best run game in the AFC West.
1. Kansas City
2. Denver Broncos
3. Oakland Raiders
4. San Diego Chargers
They say a quarterbacks bestfriend is the offensive line. However, the wide receivers can't be far behind. Wide Receivers can make a quarterback look really good, or really bad. The AFC West is home to a ton of wide receivers who are loaded with potential. The best receivers in 2009 were Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson. In 2010, Brandon Marshall is a dolphin and Vincent Jackson looks to be holding out. With those 2 juggernauts gone, who has the best wide receiver corps? Let's examine.
Wide Receivers On Roster: Damola Adeniji,, Shaun Bodiford, , Yamon Figurs, Jacoby Ford, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jonathan Holland, Paul Hubbard, Nick Miller, Louis Murphy, Chaz Schilens, Todd Watkins,
Last season, Oakland ranked 29th in pass yards last season with 159.8 yards per game. It's a shame because Oakland has some good pieces on their team. Chad Schilenz could be a good even great player, but 09 was plagued by injuries. Louis Murphy and Johnnie Lee Higgins are good role players. In order for Oakland to be successful, they are going to need 09 draft pick Darrius Heward Bey to step up. Last season, Bey caught just 9 passes for 124 yards. He dropped a ton of passes last year. If Oakland wants it's offense to be a force, Bey needs to produce a lot more then he did in 09. Even if Bey steps up, he won't be their best receiving threat. Zach Miller is arguably the best receiving threat on the team. The 4th year tight end led all Oakland receivers last season with 66 passes for 805 yards. With a new qb in Jason Campbell, Oakland's receivers should benefit from playing with a quarterback not named Jamarcus Russel.
Kansas City Chiefs
Last season, KC finished 25th in passing yards. They averaged 182 yards per game. They could have finished a lot lower if they had not signed Chris Chambers. Chambers came to KC in week 9. After being signed, he caught 36 passes for 608 yards. The Chief's best receiver, Dwayne Bowe, had a bad year last year. He was suspended for 4 games for violating the leagues drug policy. He ended the season with 47 catches for 589 yards and 4 touchdowns. KC drafted RB/WR/KR Dexter McCluster to give Cassel another target for the upcoming season. With Matt Cassel at the helm, KC struggled to move the ball through the air last season. The offensive line was part of the problem, but the lack of receiving options was also to blame. KC is hoping that McCluster is a force to be reckoned with from the slot.
San Diego Chargers
San Diego had one of the best passing offenses last season. They ranked 5th in passing yards. They averaged 271 yards per game. Behind quarterback Phillip Rivers, the Chargers reached the AFC Divisional game, but lost to the New York Jets. The Chargers have a high fire powered passing offense. However, with Vincent Jackson threatening a hold out, San Diego has arguably lost it's best receiver. They still have Antonio Gates who is always a huge threat. However, the combination of Malcom Floyd, Antonio Gates and Legedu Naanee just doesn't inspire the same amount of fear that Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates do.
The big news this off season for Denver was that the Broncos traded Brandon Marshall for 2 2nd round picks. Now the question is, who is going to make up the 100+ catches and 1000+ yards that Marshall accounted for last season. The Denver offense was primarily made up around Marshall. After Marshall, the closest receiver was Jabar Gaffney(54 catches, 732 yards, and 2 TD's). Denver drafted 2 wide receivers in the 2010 draft: Demayrius Thomas and Eric Decker. Demayrius is a big, fast receiver who is a vertical threat. Decker is a tall, sturdy possession receiver. Eddie Royal had a great rookie year in 08. However, in 09, his production dropped significantly. The wide receiver position is a big question mark for Denver. McDaniels looks to be building a New Orleans Saint style of offense in which there are a bunch of good receivers, but no clear # 1. We will see how it works out in the coming weeks.
If Vincent Jackson was going to be an active part of the Chargers, it would be a no brainer. Vincent Jackson draws the double teams and it opens things up for Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, and the other receivers. However, without Jackson, SD will be seeing more attention on the other receivers. The same thing goes for Denver. Without Marshall, defenses won't have to focus so much on 1 receiver. Oakland has some good receivers in place to have a pretty good offense. KC needs some help in the receiver department. Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers aren't going to cut it. Especially if Bowe played like he did in 09.
1. San Diego
4. Kansas City
Last but certainly not least are the quarterbacks. When we see a quarterback lead a team to the Super Bowl without any running game(Peyton Manning) , it is safe to say that the league has become a passing league. The AFC West has not had a real strong quarterback class in a while. The quarterbacks are still mediocre with 1 player being supreme to the others. Let's take a look.
Oakland fans are thrilled that they don't see Jamarcus Russell on their roster. After 3 years of terrible play, poor work ethic, and too many jelly donuts, the Raiders cut ties with the former # 1 overall pick. In the 2009 draft, they traded for Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell. Campbell is a decent qb. He is leaps and bounds better then Jamarcus. He has good pieces around him in Oakland and will have a good season provided his offensive line holds up.
Kansas City Chiefs
Quarterbacks on Roster: Matt Cassel, Brody Croyle, Tyler Palko
Last season, the Chiefs traded for Cassel who had a terrific year with the New England Patriots after Tom Brady went down with injury. In 09, Cassel had an okay year. He passed for 271 times for 2,924 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. He was much better in 08 then he was in 09. Then again, he was surrounded by much more talent. Many believe Cassel is a decent starting qb, but his real calling is as a back up. I respectfully disagree. He is a better qb then most people give him credit for, but he certainly is not a Peyton Manning. I think he has what it takes to be a starter in this league, but KC needs to give him a line and wide receivers to work with.
San Diego Chargers
Quarterbacks on Roster: Johnathon Crompton, Phillip Rivers, Billy Volek
Phillip Rivers is an elite quarterback. In 09, he passed 317 times for 4,254 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. It helps that he has two fantastic receivers in the game(Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates). This year, he it looks as if he is going to be without one of those targets. Will Phillip Rivers' production drop? We shall see. It will likely dip a little. However, Rivers is way too talented to not have the Chargers be a top 15 offense.
Last season, Denver traded starting Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears for a ton of draft picks and Kyle Orton. Orton was the starter and was very efficient in Josh McD's system. Kyle had his best season as a pro and finished with 336 passes for 3,802 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. However, 11 of his interceptions came in the final 8 weeks of the season. With another year under the system, the Broncos expect more from Orton in 10. They drafted Tebow in the 1st round of the NFL draft. He projects to be the Broncos future starter. He will also get opportunities to play this year.
There is no doubt. Phillip Rivers is the best quarterback in the division. It is not even close. He is an elite quarterback. Behind him, it's debatable. Kyle Orton is the 2nd best quarterback based purely on stats. He outperformed both Matt Cassel and Jamarcus Russel last year. It's hard to project where Jason Campbell is. He played with a porous Washington team. But is he better then Cassel? It's up for interpretation. Despite going 4-12, Campbell passed 327 times for 3,618 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. Matt Cassel passed 271 times for 2,924 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. It's always hard to judge quarterbacks on different teams, Campbell gets the nod here.
1. San Diego
4. Kansas City
So we have examined all aspects of each teams offense. No team is perfect, but some are closer then others. All of these examinations lead to one question, Who has the best offense going into 2010? Well, let's take one final look
4th best offensive line
3rd best running back
2nd best wide receivers
3rd best quarterback
3rd best offensive line
1st best running backs
4th best wide receivers
4th best quarterbacks
San Diego Chargers
1st best offensive line
4th best running backs
1st best wide receivers
1st best quarterbacks
2nd best offensive line
2nd best running backs
2nd best wide receivers
2nd best quarterback
Best Offense- San Diego
2nd Best Offense- Denver
3rd Best Offense- Oakland
4th Best Offense- Kansas City
There you have it, an entire breakdown of the offensive units in the AFC West. Hope you enjoyed it. I would love to hear your feedback. I already expect a backlash from AP, but hopefully it will bring up some meaningful discussion.