It’s 2017 in the sports world, so only one thing reigns supreme: offense. In basketball rule changes have removed the hand check and freed up smaller, less intimidating players, allowing them flourish as championship-bound jump shooters (a la Golden State). On the other end of the spectrum, casual baseball fans are pleading with the league to generate more guaranteed offense in a game because it sitting through three and a half hours of for a 3-2 contest isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. Point being, offense has come to the forefront of everyone’s mind in sports because it puts butts in seats and keeps viewers at home tuned in anticipating what happens next.
Football is no different from this paradigm shift--in fact, you could probably say it was a major proponent of it. By giving quarterback’s more protection in the pocket and receivers more leeway down the field, the NFL shifted away from its gritty defensive character of old and set forth a chain reaction in other major American sports leagues (mainly the NBA and NHL). Offense has become the paramount focus of professional football, and as more players enter the league, offensively challenged athletes are hastily being added to the endangered species list.
Yet even as NFL puts offense at center stage, those athletes that struggle to contribute positive yards or points have slithered their way onto rosters (and in some cases, championship-caliber teams!). And other times, it’s not necessarily something wrong with a group of players, but the offensive culture around them facilitated by a head coach or coordinator. Regardless, each team has a black eye on the most productive side of the ball and for the remainder of this piece we’re going to countdown the absolute worst offensive contributors on every roster in the NFL. Without further ado, let’s get to the countdown!
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32 Arizona Cardinals - Carson Palmer
Arizona went from 13-3 and competing for a trip to the Super Bowl in 2015 to 7-8-1 and struggling to remain relevant as a viable contender in the NFC West this year... so what happened to them? Look no further than the degenerating play and body of Palmer to find your answer.
Last year Palmer was launching deep shots down the field with confidence (the key ingredient in Arizona’s offensive attack) and was serving as the perfect complement to the budding David Johnson and a strong defensive unit. Now, he’s struggling to deliver strikes thanks to a wobbly lower-body that took 40 sacks this season (up from 25 in 2015).
Add in that Palmer had the most disheartening playoff performance since ex-Carolina Panther Jake Delhomme in last year’s NFC Championship game and it seems to fit the bill. Palmer is a broken man physically and emotionally, and is definitely unfit to lead the team. Time for Arizona and Arians to find someone new--and fast.
31 Atlanta Falcons - Mohamed Sanu
A wise contributor from this very site once pegged Sanu as the worst wide receiver on his own roster. After signing big money for a quiet body of work in his first couple of years in the league, Sanu has proven to be an overpaid possession receiver for an Atlanta offense that doesn’t rely on any one element to be at its best.
Just look at where Sanu is in team’s pecking order. First comes the obvious--give stars like Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman the ball as much as you can. Then comes the speedy change of pace players in Taylor Gabriel at receiver and Tevin Coleman in the backfield. Finally we get into that third tier of guys that you just want to catch the ball and gain positive yards. Sanu has done that, but he’s also the only receiver to have fumbled on the team all year!
One fumble doesn’t ruin a season or career (at least not often) but they aren’t greeted with open arms either. When the rest of your teammates are playing at a remarkably high level, and depend on an elite offense to realize Super Bowl dreams, you don’t want to be the weak link other guys give the side eye. Sanu is that guy and then some.
30 Baltimore Ravens - Marty Mornhinweg
It’s true that outside of the now retired Steve Smith Sr., Joe Flacco and the occasional hot running back, Baltimore hasn’t had true offensive talent in the building since their Super Bowl run. At the same time, this is an NFL team with NFL players, so someone’s gotta produce, right?
Right, and even though recent coordinators have been dealt a poor hand in terms of talent, they haven’t found ways to optimize what Baltimore offers in any sort of way. It’s a team with a strong offensive line, and one that should at least amount to middle-of-the-pack rushing and passing attacks. Baltimore is in the bottom half of the league in yardage totals and points, making them relatively punchless when they’re supposed to be the aggressors.
This could point to a bigger issue with head coach John Harbaugh, who hasn’t had much success employing offensive coordinators. But with that being said, Marty Mornhinweg needs to sharpen up quick before they put the whole coaching staff out of work.
29 Buffalo Bills - EJ Manuel
Now this one seems a bit unfair because Manuel isn’t even the starting quarterback and everyone already knows he’s a bit of a trash heap in terms of NFL potential. But somehow, someway, Manuel may find himself under center again come next Fall as the Tyrod Taylor contract situation enters murky waters. That means only one thing: Buffalo’s playoff drought will inevitably continue, and city itself will be perpetually more depressing.
Need I remind you of the most important part of his stat line: he played less than 100 snaps all season and fumbled twice! The guy can’t be trusted to take care of the football, let alone advance a team down the field on a regular basis. Now he’s the back-up plan at quarterback should things not pan out between Buffalo and Taylor?
Definitely feels like the franchise is going off half-cocked, and Taylor’s going to call their bluff and get the money he wants. And you know what, Buffalo’s gonna pay up. Mainly because there’s no chance they’ll risk putting Manuel back in the line-up in front of this success-starved fanbase.
28 Carolina Panthers - Cam Newton
Where to begin with the once SuperCam? 2015 felt like a dream as Newton dabbed his way to the top of the league and into our hearts... until a crushing loss in Super Bowl 50 reminded us how feeble Cam was against top-flight competition.
Fast-forward to 2016 and we look back on the season before with confusion. Was that really the peak of Newton’s powers or was it just an alignment of weak schedule and hot quarterback (along with a way better defense and running game to boot) that made up the mirage of Cam? I guess we’ll know for sure by the end of the 2017 season, but what we do know is that Newton is the straw that stirs the drink on Carolina’s offense. Without him putting on his cape to save the day, that team is flat and uninteresting.
Here’s hoping Cam does find his groove again in the near future. If not, he’ll be one of the league’s biggest laughing stocks for years to come with his eccentric style and flair not matching the oatmeal-like performances he puts on come gameday.
27 Chicago Bears - Everyone But Jordan Howard
Jordan Howard was great this year for the Bears. Everyone else just plain sucked.
Jay Cutler, the big-armed, dreamy-eyed quarterback who winks at Chicago’s ownership in order to get his millions and keep his playing time, once again ruined the Bears' season. Boneheaded interceptions followed by a lack of leadership and consistency as a person and player buried Chicago back in Week 7 when the Cutler-Brian Hoyer-Matt Barkley carousel was in full swing.
Keep in mind Alshon Jeffrey hasn’t been as healthy or effective in games and second-year receiver and 2015 first round pick Kevin White hasn’t even caught an NFL touchdown pass and it’s looking to be another long-turnaround for the beleaguered Bears offense. Josh Bellamy and Cameron Meredith are nice substitutes and Zach Miller has regained his old form, but only because these guys are getting garbage time reps midway through the season.
Chicago needs to brainstorm an offensive solution before game attendance trickles down to zilch.
26 Cincinnati Bengals - Tyler Eifert
I know I know, Eifert’s saved your fantasy hide once or twice in the past and really does dazzle when he’s playing his best football. But the guy is also made out of toothpicks and can’t block a body pillow, so how good of an offensive weapon is he?
It’s true that he is one of the more efficient players on Cincinnati’s offense and is a major crutch for an underwhelming Andy Dalton. Even with that being a known fact, as the old adage goes “part of ability is availability,” and Eifert just isn’t around enough to make a true difference on his team or in the league. Add in that he has struggled to run block (a huge must in the rougher AFC North) and it drags his value down considerably.
Don’t get me wrong, Eifert is a playmaker. But his style is more suited for a dome team or a warm-weather, pass-happy squad. His mix of skills, size and fragility make him a fish out of water against his fiercest and most frequent competition.
25 Cleveland Browns - The Whole Darn Team
It’s no mystery to not just casual NFL fans, but casual sports fans in general that there seems to be a shroud of misery over the city of Cleveland. That dread has especially affected the Browns, who’ve been in a vicious cycle of hope and heartbreak since they were reinstated in the league in 1999.
Look at the quarterback situation. 26 guys have started a game as the signal-caller for the franchise since they came back onto the scene. Unsurprisingly, the team hasn’t finished outside of the bottom quarter of the league in offense since 2007, when they posted a surprising 10-6 record with Derek Anderson under center. Still, the Browns have continued to whiff on other offensive draft talents (cough Trent Richardson cough) and have failed to develop any cornerstones of the team outside of Joe Haden and Joe Thomas.
The lone brightside is their head coach, Hue Jackson. Jackson seems invested in turning around the team like no one else has, noted by his emotional postgame pressers after late-season losses. It’s that kind of commitment that will vault Cleveland back to some level of respectability, at least on the offensive side of the ball.
24 Dallas Cowboys - Terrance Williams
All the rage this season centered around the Cowboys’ rookie sensations in Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot. And for good reason, but they’ve also been propping up some deadweight talent the likes of Terrance Williams.
Williams isn’t all that bad, but he’s not resoundingly good either. Dallas fans will (rightly) point to his inability to get out of bounds in a Week 1 loss to New York Giants as a part of his failing. He’s short on in-game awareness, even with his four receiving touchdowns landing him as third best on the team. Despite that he’s losing out on snaps to upcomers like Brice Butler who has more downhill speed and Cole Beasley who’s more versatile all-around.
Prescott and Elliot will mold this offense to their liking in years to come, and Williams’ lack of football smarts and athletic gifts will send him elsewhere. Guess it was fun while it lasted, bud.
23 Denver Broncos - Their Quarterback
Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch? That was the question rattling around in John Elway’s mind throughout the Broncos 9-7 Super Bowl hangover season, and after Siemian dropped four of the last six games of the year it seems to be all the more clear for next season.
Or is it? Siemian had a TD-INT ratio of 18-10, which is alright, but not the ideal 2:1 ratio people look for. Lynch has the clear upside in physical capability and potential, but that’s also exactly what it is--potential. There’s really no solid answer on how he’ll play once he’s tasked with leading the hopes and dreams of a franchise. So do you go with the guy who can win, but not in any glorious fashion, or do start the unknown development process of a second-year quarterback.
It’s a tricky quarterback situation to assess because neither one of these guys have had extensive time in the league. Elway seems to lean more toward Lynch, who he was giddy about in the draft last year. But that could all change if Lynch crumples in the spotlight and fails to materialize as the “real deal.” It’s decision time for the Broncos, and it’s the hardest on they’ll make for some time.
22 Detroit Lions - Whoever’s Running The Ball
Quarterback Matthew Stafford had an unbelievable year in Detroit... until a bum middle finger tanked the hopes of the team. While that might speak more loudly to the defense and its failings, this being an offensive-focused list, we’ll aim our magnifying glass at the guys behind Stafford.
With the injury to Ameer Abdullah early in the year, Detroit lost the receiving back yang to Theo Riddick’s pure rushing yin, making it hard on Lions to go about developing their ground game the way they wanted. Don’t get me wrong, Riddick performed admirably for his talents, but he was no dominant back that can handle a game-to-game workload. Even when the “best white running back in the league” Zach Zenner took over late in the year for an injured Theo, his wow-factor was fleeting.
Detroit needs a stable run game to take this team to the next level. Without it, they’ll be tied to Stafford and his health for his entire career. And we all know how well that worked out for them.
21 Green Bay Packers - A Cold Aaron Rodgers
Believe it or not, there’s a difference between the Rodgers we see now and the one who played in the Packers’ first 10 games. This Rodgers is deadly accurate, virtually flawless and a one-man machine who’s led Green Bay to a top four finish. The other Rodgers is all those things, but also somewhat sour off the field and in the locker room, not the big, embracing leader a team wants out of their star gunslinger.
It’s true that A-Rod’s actual play hasn’t fluctuated much throughout the season, but his attitude sure has and the positive uptick has been a big reason for the Packers’ eight-game winning streak. Earlier in the year Rodgers was overly defensive about criticisms of his performance and came off as pretentious when teammates didn’t make their own jaw-dropping plays, either by rolling his eyes or throwing up his hands in disgust. But now he seems to remember that not everyone is as great as him and can capably adjust for the faults of others.
A sunnier approach to his team and teammates (and don’t get me wrong, winning helps) has made all the difference for Green Bay. Just don’t rub Rodgers the wrong way, unless you want to see cold, off-putting and grumpy Aaron come back to ruin the season.
20 Houston Texans - Brock Osweiler
Need I say more than Osweiler’s name here? The guy got benched during the Texans’ critical final couple games to preserve the team’s playoff stretch. He became the ultimate liability when the team needed him most. Talk about a bust at quarterback.
Though was this a huge surprise? Remember, Osweiler was signed to Houston without even being interviewed by head coach Bill O’Brien. What kind of operation are they running in Houston? (Hint: it’s a mediocre one, at best).
Osweiler was a bottom of the barrel passer in terms of yards per attempt, TD-INT ratio and in big-time moments. That’s three strikes and you’re out as an NFL quarterback, so Osweiler better start looking for another occupation because his days in the league are numbered in the single digits.
19 Indianapolis Colts - The Offensive Line
Possessing one of the top quarterbacks in the game is a gift that the Colts look to spoil. Andrew Luck, easily the best pure passer of his generation, is being harassed by a faulty offensive line that can’t keep him upright for a season. This ineptitude by his O-line is not only putting his career at risk (don’t forget that lacerated kidney last year) but also slowly cementing the window on Indianapolis’ postseason hopes.
Check this: of all the quarterbacks in the league, Luck has been hit the second-most amount of times at 128. That’s second behind the lowly Cleveland Browns, who as we already explored earlier in the list, just have something in the water that makes them a terrible franchise. Indianapolis’ line is a revolving door that can’t propel their team to the next level, and if they don’t do something about it soon, they’ll ruin whatever chance Luck has at propelling this team forward.
Ball’s in your court, Indy. Either keep rolling with what you’ve got or scrap the current O-line and bring in new guys. Regardless, time is running out on the right decision.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars - Blake Bortles
This one was about as obvious as Brock Osweiler. After a pretty good year in 2015 that saw him throw 35 touchdowns, Bortles fell off a cliff with only 23 this year and failed to lead his team to any significant wins or moments throughout the season.
It wasn’t supposed to go this route, of course. Bortles was in the critical third year of development that would show how all his behind the scenes studying, individual work and playbook absorption could be manifested on the field of play. Sadly, that wasn’t remotely the case. Bortles never corralled his team or steered them toward a winning record.
His season became discernible in the Week 1 loss at home against the Packers. A failed fourth-down attempt at midfield in a potential go-ahead moment for the team would have been defining for the Jaguars and Bortles. Instead, a bad throw led to one of 13 losses, and persistent doubts about his ability to play at the highest level.
17 Kansas City Chiefs - Alex Smith
Let’s keep up our quarterback critiques with another offensive player who’s dragged his squad down. Don’t get me wrong, Smith isn’t a total chump the way Bortles is and definitely not like Osweiler in any way, but he’s also not a playmaker. That knock is a very valid one on a ho-hum quarterback people love to defend.
Look at Smith’s style of play in KC. He doesn’t throw the ball deep enough, can be inaccurate when it matters most and seems to never play well in urgent situations. Take that Pittsburgh game this past weekend in the Divisional round. Down eight with nine minutes to play...put together a seven minute drive why don’t you! Just asinine.
Whether the pace of KC’s final drive was on Andy Reid or Alex himself, bottom line is Smith can’t deliver when his team needs him. He’s not a dynamic quarterback talent, and with a team stocked full of playmakers on both sides of the ball, it’s time to leave Smith’s regular self out of the mix.
16 Los Angeles Rams - Tavon Austin
In reality this label could be slapped on any offensive player that was drafted in the Jeff Fisher era of the Rams. However, we’ll keep it concise and just say that Austin himself is the most disappointing player on the roster.
A 2016 season that saw him catch only three touchdowns (plus another rushing touchdown) landed Austin as the least favorite target of whichever quarterback was guiding the Rams. Part of it is, like I said, Fisher never implemented a good offensive system in LA; hence why youngest head coach ever Sean McVay was hired a week ago. But the other part of this assumption was that Austin, who’s clearly a natural talent, would just find his way in the league and carve out a role one way or another.
That never happened, and now Tavon is looking to lose ground in the rotation to guys like Kenny Britt, Lance Kendricks and Brian Quick. It’s a hard fall from grace for Austin, and if not utilized soon, could find himself looking for another job soon enough.
15 Miami Dolphins - Kenny Stills
Let’s go back to Week 1: it’s an opening week road game against the perennially great Seattle Seahawks. The Dolphins have managed to sidestep any embarrassing blunders and dialed up their long ball at the perfect time. Seattle’s in disarray and blows the coverage, meaning all the receiver of pass is catch it and stroll into the endzone to cause a huge Week 1 upset.
But that receiver, who was Stills, dropped the ball and played a big part in an ugly 12-7 loss opening day. Stills does just that with regularity: he’ll dazzle with speed and ability, weaving his way into an opening and making himself available, only to drop the ball (literally) when his number is called. It’s not a great reputation for wide receiver, especially when the chief requirement of the job is keep the ball in your mitts.
Stills is like Clifford Franklin from the 2000 movie The Replacements: all speed, no hands. Sad to say, but his physical ability will keep him alive in the league. Just depends on when you’ll be lucky enough to see him catch a big one.
14 Minnesota Vikings - Cordarrelle Patterson
Once upon a time Patterson was regarded as the next wave of receiving talents with his dual-threat ability as a speedster and return man. But that was then--in the now, Patterson flamed out as a potential game-changing pass-catcher, instead just relegated to an effective, albeit limited role in return duties.
It was a weird downward spiral for him. The surprise emergence of Stefon Diggs and the reliability of Kyle Rudolph superseded what Patterson had to offer as a straight-line receiver. Even when Sam Bradford came in and took over quarterback duties with Minnesota, which should’ve favored the passing game since incumbent Teddy Bridgewater was a limited thrower, Patterson only recorded two touchdowns on offense.
The Vikings will continue to keep Patterson around since he is an strong return man--he recorded a kick and punt return touchdown this year--but his place on the offense is quickly evaporating, if not completely gone.
13 New England Patriots - Guys Not In The Game
If there’s one thing to know about the Patriots, it’s this: if you can contribute, you’re most likely going to find your way onto the field. Tom Brady has made a career out of throwing to no-name receivers and making them household names (Deion Branch, Troy Brown and Julian Edelman to name a few).
That being said, the only players that aren’t total drags for the Patriots are the guys they’re smart enough to keep on the bench. Seriously. New England finds a way to wring out production from anyone with a name on the back of their jersey, so they rarely, if ever, have a weak spot on the offensive side of the ball.
Of course, it helps to have Brady chucking the ball your way. Still, New England’s immensely efficient when it comes to offensive talent and seem to always find themselves with a baller right on cue.
12 New Orleans - Tim Hightower
Hightower is a sturdy, serviceable running back who’s bounced around from team to team and managed to make a career for himself being that “other guy” in a backfield rotation. Now, he plays second fiddle to lead back Mark Ingram and can be inserted into the lineup at will.
But being serviceable, on this kind of high-flying offense, just means you’re OK as a player. And being just OK on this regularly prolific offense, you’re the worst player on the team, relatively speaking. Ingram is league’s above him in terms of talent while receivers Michael Thomas, Brandin Cooks and Coby Fleener all round out a strong receiving corps.
In short, Hightower is put in the game from time to time to give Ingram a breather, pass block and, when his number is called, make positive gains. He does that, and does the bare minimum, which compared to everyone else around him, is definitely the lowest rung on the totem pole.
11 New York Giants - Eli Manning
Oh Eli, what kind of player are you? On the one hand he’s making the most astounding and memorable Super Bowls passes in history, like the Tyree helmet catch or the sideline toss to Mario Manningham.
On the other, you’re throwing boneheaded interceptions into double, triple, and worst of all, single coverage that make no sense at all. For all his greatness Super Bowl accolades, Manning was the biggest detractor of an otherwise stellar Giants passing attack that boasted a revamped Victor Cruz, youthful Sterling Shepard and the illustrious Odell Beckham Jr.
Manning, being the FrankenManning he can be at the worst times, was what wasted a surprisingly competitive New York team’s chance at another Super Bowl run. But alas, that’s just the Manning way.
10 New York Jets - Quarterback Carousel
It’s well known that being an NFL coach without a quarterback is a hard and lonely existence in the league. A season after Ryan Fitzpatrick’s once-in-a-lifetime year, the Jets are quickly finding out that without a reasonable man under center, it’s not fun to exist in the NFL.
After going 10-6 last year New York took a nose dive into 5-11 record and are now heading into the most uncertain offseason in recent memory. They have good foundational pieces in place with head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan, and a slightly weaker, but still potent defense. Yet a strong quarterback eludes the team’s ranks and puts them at jeopardy of another lost season if their search isn’t fruitful soon.
It doesn’t help that the Jets receivers led the league with 30 dropped passes, but whether they find “the guy” or not, the Jets need at least someone decent to play the position. Otherwise both Maccagnan and Bowles will be skating on thin ice heading into 2018.
9 Oakland Raiders - Clive Walford
The Raiders have been historically bad at covering tight ends in the past couple of years, so it makes sense that they aren’t the best at developing the position either. That being said, in an offense that was soaring until Derek Carr’s broken leg sent it crashing down to Earth, Walford rarely made his presence felt in any meaningful situations.
It’s not hard to imagine since Carr has so many other viable targets in Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and emerging Seth Roberts and Andre Holmes. But still, wouldn’t you think that with those guys gaining so much notoriety that Carr would have to look Walford’s way once in a while?
Apparently not. To make matters worse there are murmurs that Walford doesn’t exactly have the toughness--in taking hits and dishing out blocks--that the Raiders prefer, putting him on a short leash come next season.
8 Philadelphia Eagles - Every Wide Receiver
A lot has been made about the Eagles and their receivers inability to catch the football, especially throughout 2016. They were often the scapegoats for rookie quarterback Carson Wentz’s failings and were seen as constant drags on his development.
It’s true that the receivers did have their fair share of drops (10th in the league) but more so they had trouble getting open than just catching the ball. Wentz was constantly delivering passes in contested spaces and having to buy extra time for his guys to get into a receivable position.
It’s a hard life to balance the expectations of a quarterback, as a rookie while also compensating for poor receiving talent. Wentz did alright in the position, but now he should demand more either from the same cast, or from the front office to give him more.
7 Pittsburgh Steelers - Anyone Outside Of The Big 3
Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are a force to be reckoned with while on the field together. The rest of the “weapons” on the Steelers offense... not so much.
Sure, Jesse James has a cool name, Eli Rogers and Sammie Coates have some skill as a receiving options and DeAngelo Williams can do a respectable--but nowhere near perfect--impersonation of Bell. But the fact of the matter is that this team is really nothing without their star players.
Bell and Brown accounted for 19 touchdowns, while the other 11 players who scored touchdowns contributed 24. If it seems a bit lopsided in terms of significance it’s because it is. This team is nothing without their Big 3, but hey at least they know it.
6 San Diego (Los Angeles?) Chargers - Hunter Henry
A reputable rookie receiving tight end in the season’s early going, Henry became a fantasy fly-trap as the year wore on in that he was a touchdown-or-bust option. His overall snap count dwindled beneath that of future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates and made him just a mirage in a league full of finicky tight ends.
Don’t get me wrong, Henry had some skills in the redzone. His big body allowed him to gain separation. But if his number wasn’t called he wasn’t exactly a great supporting player, either by helping get the run game going or running smart routes to open up fellow receivers. It’s rookie mistakes, sure, but they’re also mistakes and that’s not to be taken lightly in a league with a razor-thin margin for error.
With Philip Rivers apparently trying to bolt (ha!) town for San Francisco, it puts the Chargers in a precarious position for the future. That makes Henry all the more likely to lose his way on a roster without much going for it at the skill positions.
5 San Francisco 49ers - Entire Offensive Coaching Staff
Even though they ranked ahead of a few teams in terms of points and yards (but not that many…) the 49ers were an overall anemic offense. When you have an “offensive guru” in Chip Kelly who’s calling the shots, it’s a total disgrace the team didn’t get off the ground in any form or fashion this season.
Blame it on a porous offensive line. Blame it on Colin Kaepernick’s protest. Blame it on a dearth of talent roster wide. The reality is that even with smart minds running the show, this team can’t muster together anything resembling a real football team. Actually, outside of the four years Jim Harbaugh was in town, this franchise hasn’t been remotely competent since the Steve Young days.
Maybe we should pointing the finger at principal owner Jed York for the franchise’s woes, just like that reporter did at the end-of-season press conference. Regardless, this team never had anything going on offense all year long and that’s a huge failure seeing that the entire coaching staff was brought on to do just that.
4 Seattle Seahawks - The Offensive Line
It’s been well-known over the past couple years that Russell Wilson is an elite scrambler/play-extender. But it’s a little known fact that Wilson wouldn’t have to freelance so much in and out of the pocket if he had better protection.
Seattle’s O-line has been the downfall of team. It’s what pushed Marshawn Lynch into retirement, and now it’s what left Russell Wilson fighting a leg injury throughout the middle portion of the season and derailed the team’s playoff hopes. The units spotty protection was always a compensated part of the team’s dynamic, but their failings this year might make it the final straw.
That’s especially true now that offensive line coach Tom Cable is in talks with joining the 49ers as a head coach. Cable’s magic as a coach covered up the line’s lack of experience and depth, but with him gone, it could be the death knell on Seattle’s Super Bowl window.
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Adam Humphries
Jameis Winston, Doug Martin (when he’s healthy), Mike Evans and Cameron Brate have all become bonafide X-factors in Tampa’s offense under first year head coach Dirk Koetter. With that in mind, it’s easy to forget about the lesser known characters, especially little Adam Humphries.
Humphries made some tough, much-needed catches for the Bucs throughout their solid 9-7 campaign in 2016. Though he’s ultimately confined to the role of the “dreaded possession” receiver, and with that label it means he’s also going to be a disposable piece of the puzzle if something better comes along.
Tough break for Humphries, who’s a solid receiver and true professional. But still, that’s just the nature of the game. He’s serving the need now, but once the Buccaneers find a number two receiver who can elevate Winston and Evans, this team will pounce without hesitation.
2 Tennessee Titans - Weak Receiving Talent
There really isn’t much bad about Titans offense. They move the ball surprisingly well on the ground with a strong backfield tandem in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, and Delanie Walker has shown he’s the truth as a receiving tight end.
Though the team is thin at receiving talent, and if they want Marcus Mariota to take the much-awaited big jump in his critical third year under center, then they need to supply Mariota with real pass-catchers. Don’t get me wrong, Rishard Matthews, Tajae Sharpe and Kendall Wright are solid options. But they don’t do justice to the ceiling Mariota has as a passer and also don’t add any unique dimension to the passing attack other league-average receivers can’t bring.
A strong push in the draft or free agency will give the Titans the weapons they need. If not, then they’ll have to get on their knees and pray that Matthews, Sharpe and Britt grow bigger hands and get faster feet to make the franchise’s advancement at all possible.
1 Washington Redskins - Kirk Cousins
Cousins had another solid outing in his big, franchise-tagged “prove it” year for the Redskins. Though even with that being the case, Cousins has also shown a propensity to shrink in the biggest game’s and the biggest moments.
Take the Monday night home game against the Carolina Panthers. D.C. needed a win to control their playoff destiny, but instead they crapped the bed mainly because Cousins couldn’t manage to throw catchable passes or hit guys for the big play. Need another example? How about the final two drives of the regular season for Washington against the New York Giants, when a touchdown would’ve surely put them into the postseason. Again, instead of Kirk shining when prompted, he went three and out and later threw a head-scratching interception right into a Giants defenders hands.
Kirk isn’t the absolute worst player on offense, but when he’s tasked with being his best, he goes missing. That characteristic might not make him the statistical worst, though it sure does make him feel like the worst player for the Redskins.
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