It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Teams are in training camp practicing their attention to detail and perfecting their craft. Football is coming.
With plenty of offseason moves and plans finally being put into action, let’s take a look at five of the most interesting situations to watch for come this NFL season.
First, talking schematically, the NFL is going to witness two offenses that could not be more different from one another. These schemes could possibly alter the way offense is played in the NFL going forward — or at least see their ideologies adopted going forward. What the Baltimore Ravens and the Arizona Cardinals will try to do offensively this year will be unlike anything the NFL will have seen in recent years.
Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid system in Arizona is one of the most interesting fits in the league. The decision to draft Kyler Murray first overall in the 2019 NFL Draft only makes Arizona even spicier. The reason why this is such an interesting fit is that Arizona had one of the worst offenses in football last year. Kingsbury brings in a system that raises a lot of questions. Will Arizona throw the ball 60 times a game like Kingsbury’s Texas Tech teams? In a report it was stated that the Cardinals want to run close to 90 plays a game. That would be the most per game in NFL history.
Another question raised is what is the potential for David Johnson in this new offense? Texas Tech running backs caught 363 passes during Kingsbury’s time as head coach. That ranked 10th in the nation. In his past two fully healthy seasons, David Johnson has averaged 65 receptions (per Matthew Berry). Will those numbers sky rocket? Could David Johnson be in for a monster season? There are so many questions to what this system will bring to the Cardinals.
Moving on to Baltimore, they are going with a much different approach. Rather than going with a futuristic air raid approach, the Ravens will be turning back the clock with their rushing attack this year. According to the Ringer NFL Show Podcast, head coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens will be adopting blocking schemes for their rushing attack that go back to the 1950s. They want to completely change the way we as fans look at running backs and rushing attacks.
They are all in on Lamar Jackson and the versatility that he brings to the table with his legs. The Ravens led the NFL in rushing with 33.5 attempts per game. That mark is the highest since 2013. Cam Newton currently has the record for rushing attempts by a Quarterback with 150, it is safe to assume Jackson could break that this year. The strong free agent acquisition of Mark Ingram will lead the backfield in Baltimore this year. With the NFL becoming a more pass-happy league in recent years, the Ravens are strongly going against the grain on the gridiron.
Another fit that should be looked at closely is Bruce Arians’ fit with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, specifically with how he could help develop former first-overall pick Jameis Winston. Winston has shown flashes of why he should have been at least a first round pick.
Since the start of 2017, Winston has 11 games in which he has thrown for at least 300 yards. That ties for third in the NFL during that span behind Jared Goff (13) Matt Ryan (12) and Ben Roethlisberger (12). Ryan has started 32 games over that span, Goff and Roethlisberger have started 31. Winston has started only 22 games over that same span! Therefore, since 2017, Jameis Winston has thrown for at least 300 yards in half of his starts.
During his tenure as head coach for the Arizona Cardinals, Bruce Arians led a passing attack that ranked second in the NFL for air yards per pass. Last year, Jameis Winston led the NFL with 10.7 air yards per pass. There could be many parallels drawn between the success Carson Palmer and Arians had together and the potential that Winston and Arians have together.
Perhaps the most active team in free agency this offseason, the New York Jets have bolstered their roster from last season. Key additions Leveon Bell, C.J. Mosely and Jameson Crowder will look to help a young Sam Darnold take flight with the Jets. Bell comes into this season with fresh legs after sitting out the entirety of last season over a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers. C.J. Mosely will man the middle linebacker position after leading a Ravens defense last year that led the NFL in total defense.
Sam Darnold in year two has more pieces to the puzzle than he did in year one. The additions of more key weapons on both sides of the ball and new offensive-minded head coach Adam Gase sets the stage nicely for Sam Darnold to take massive strides forward in year two. The New York Jets are a team to keep an eye on for the wild card race in the AFC.
Last but not least, the buzz surrounding the Cleveland Browns this year is unlike any reports that have come out of Cleveland in recent memory — reports of positivity. Cleveland has truly turned the entire landscape of their franchise around. Countless first round busts and failures at quarterback, the horrors of a Hue Jackson offense, Browns fans deserve what they have coming for them this year.
An entire offseason getting comfortable with Freddie Kitchens’ offense — an offense that operated under historic levels of efficiency towards the end of last season — and the addition of Odell Beckham Jr. is enough to send shivers down the spines of defensive coordinators across the league.
Baker Mayfield is the face of Cleveland and the city could not ask for a better leader since Lebron James left. The charisma and the arm talent he possesses will give Browns fans a reason to smile for years to come. His beer chugging skills aren’t too bad either.
The Browns will seriously compete to win the AFC North this year. They are certainly worth keeping an eye on. The Baker is in the Kitchens in Cleveland and there is a lot to be excited about.
Potential is a word that can some up all of these situations. However, potential does not mean anything if there is no execution. All of these teams can make a run towards the postseason this year, or at least make vast improvements from last year. One thing is for sure, we will be keeping an eye out for how things will play out on the gridiron this year.