" AFC East becoming fast, furious offensive division " ~ ~ ~
AFC East becoming fast, furious offensive division
Looking for fast football? Then the AFC East may be your cup of tea in 2014.
The Dolphins are making a lot of noise this season about pushing the pace for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that they have imported Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor as their new offensive coordinator. And given the fact that Lazor was with Chip Kelly and the record-setting Philadelphia offense in 2013, there are bound to be comparisons to what Kelly and Philly did.“€ťIt’€™s reminiscent of Chip Kelly’€™s offense in Philadelphia, with the tempo and style,”€ť said one Dolphins player who asked not to be named when he was quizzed about the look of Miami’€™s offense this spring. “There are some West Coast offense concepts. … Some shotgun, some under center. They’€™ve discussed having both no-huddle and huddle. It’€™s fast tempo.”
For what it’€™s worth, Miami has been a little quicker than the average NFL team over the last two years under Joe Philbin. Measured using situation-neutral offensive pace — a formula from the site Football Outsiders that eliminates things like two-minute drills and late-game clock-killing situations to get a truer idea of the offense’€™s intentions when it comes to offensive pace — the 2012 Dolphins were ninth overall at one play every 29.23 seconds, and last year, on average, they ran one play every 30.08 seconds, 14th quickest in the NFL.
But a Kelly-style overhaul would certainly take things to the next level, and could jump start a Miami offense that had been bogged down at times the last few seasons under former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman.
“€ťBill has done an excellent job,”€ť Philbin said of Lazor’€™s work in a radio interview in April. “We’€™re going to be stressing the tempo of our offense, the play speed.”
Of course, when it comes to the AFC East, fast football is certainly nothing new, and more often than not the uptempo approach starts with New England. While last year’€™s Patriots eased off the uptempo style that helped to define them offensively over the previous two seasons, New England still was faster than most of the rest of the league in 2013. Using situation-neutral offensive pace, the Patriots ran one play every 26.59 seconds last season, the third-highest rate in the NFL. Only Philadelphia (23.88) and Buffalo (24.92) were faster.
(Using another metric, the 2011 and 2012 Patriots operated in no-huddle on 25 percent of their snaps. Last year, by comparison, they were in the no-huddle on just 11 percent of their snaps.)
For comparison sake, the ‘€śslowest’€ť teams in the league last season were the Steelers and Rams, who averaged one play every 32.31 seconds. The Panthers were 30th at one play every 32 seconds, while the Chargers (31.96) and Raiders (31.94) rounded out the bottom five.
When people talk about the AFC East and fast football, they might be inclined to forget about the Bills. But under first-year head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, Buffalo went to another level in 2013. Its aforementioned rate of 24.92 was the third-fastest rate of any team since 1997, trailing only last year’€™s Eagles and the 2011 Patriots, who set the standard at 26.43 seconds. That represent a colossal shift in offensive philosophy — the previous year under Chan Gailey, the Bills’€™ situation-neutral pace ranked just 29th, with one play every 32.2 seconds.
Now that Gailey is gone in Buffalo — and if the Dolphins really decide to push the pace with a Kelly-style offensive look in 2014 — the slowest offensive team in the division likely will remain the Jets, but compared to the rest of the league, they were still relatively quicker than the average. In 2013, New York was 12th in the league in situation-neutral offensive pace, averaging one play every 29.38 seconds. Still, that represents a sizable jump in speed over the last few years for the Jets. In 2011, the Jets ran one play every 31.57 seconds, 26th in the NFL. In 2012, that jumped again to one play every 30.43 seconds, 15th in the league.
Of course, it’€™s debatable how effective the uptempo style will be — if you don’€™t have the personnel, it makes little sense to try to push the pace. (For all the talk of going fast last year, the Bills still ranked 22nd in points and 19th in total yards, and finished last in the AFC East with a 6-10 record. As a result, Buffalo tweaked some of the elements of its coaching staff on offense.) But it’€™s important to remember that Lazor played a sizable role in the growth and development of Nick Foles in Philly’€™s fast scheme last year, as Foles went from backup to Sports Illustrated cover boy and the Eagles went from worst (4-12 and last in the NFC East) to first (10-6 and a division title) under Kelly. Its clear Miami is hoping that Ryan Tannehill and the rest of the Dolphins offense can respond the same way in 2014.
-- There are 32 optimistic NFL teams in June but, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the New York Jets' offense.
The Jets now have two offensive players from teams that reached the Super Bowl in WR Eric Decker and OL Breno Giacomini. The team lost OL Austin Howard, but offseason acquisitions such as Chris Johnson and draft pick such as TE Jace Amaro give fans every reason to think this year’s offense is an upgrade over last year’s.
"We've got more a grasp on the offense," Chris Ivory said. "It's more natural now."
“Hopefully this is going to be one of the best offenses in the league -- explosive with those type of players," Giacomini said. “We just have to put in the time, explosive with those type of guys. We’ve got to go to work every day, you don’t just become good. The coaches have been doing a good job with us and the only ones who are going to stop us, is us.”
Even second-year quarterback Geno Smith noted there’s a huge difference between this year and last. "Night and day," Smith said of the offense.
WR David Nelson is one of the returning receivers who had a prominent role in the offense and has seen the progression.
“Geno already has a base in the offense,” Nelson said. “Last year he was swimming with all plays and all the defenses and all the offenses and he couldn’t really focus on his receivers and chemistry with receivers.”
Running back Chris Ivory echoed that.
“I think we’re ahead this year,” Ivory said. “We’re not trying to learn. We’ve got more a grasp on the offense. It’s more natural now.”
Any team with a rookie quarterback is going to struggle. Smith secured the starting job only when incumbent Mark Sanchez sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in a preseason game. The Jets jettisoned Sanchez this offseason.
But there's one thing Nelson wants to see the Jets keep from last season: momentum.
“I think a lot of [the optimism] is attributable to the way we finished the year last year, winning three out of the last four games -- being essentially one game away from the playoffs,” Nelson said.
The group looks a little different this year. Free agent Santonio Holmes was not re-signed. Slot receiver Jeremy Kerley is one of the few holdovers who played a significant role, while Steven Hill starts his third season with some serious question marks. The Jets also have to work in new pieces like free-agent signees Jacoby Ford and Decker and draft picks Jalen Saunders and Quincy Enunwa.
“We’ve got a young group in there, but we’ve got a lot of talent, a lot of raw talent," Decker said. "It’s about kind of finding your identity and for a lot of these guys, this is the time to do it. Through practice and through my experiences I hope to help.”
Nelson adds that those players have a real stake in the Jets' future.
“You see a bunch of young guys trying to establish a culture within that room and it’s really great to be a part of,” Nelson said.