Mike Clay

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2014 Pass/Run Rate Projections

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

17. Browns - 2014 Projection: 60% pass (2013: 70%)

Cleveland called pass 70 percent of the time last season, which made them the league’s pass-heaviest offense. They won’t be anywhere close to that figure in 2014. New coach Mike Pettine has a defensive background, which leaves Kyle Shanahan to call plays for the offense. Shanahan has spent the last six seasons coordinating NFL offenses, spending time in both Houston and Washington. He’s taken both pass-heavy (2009, 2010) and run-heavy (2012, 2013) approaches. It won’t be long until Johnny Manziel is under center in Cleveland, which means we can make comparisons to how Shanahan called plays with Robert Griffin III – also a skilled runner – in Washington. Shanahan called a run-heavy game each of the last two seasons, but the team’s pass/run rates were nine percentage points apart because the team went from leading 40 percent of the time in 2012 to a league-worst 11 percent in 2013. Especially with Josh Gordon suspended long-term, the Browns will look to lean on the run, but probable late-game deficits will mean a balanced pass/run rate by seasons end.

18. Titans - 2014 Projection: 60% pass (2013: 59%)

Following six years as the head coach in Arizona and one as the offensive coordinator in San Diego, Ken Whisenhunt has taken over as the head man in Tennessee.  Whisenhunt was notoriously pass-heavy while in control in Arizona. It made sense when Kurt Warner was under center in 2008 and 2009, but Whisenhunt continued to lean on the pass when Arizona was weak at the position.  Of course, it seems there was a major change to Whisenhunt’s philosophy in 2013. The Chargers leaned heavily on the run, finishing as the league’s No. 5 run-heaviest team. Whisenhunt has already stated that he will utilize a similar gameplan, including plenty of running, in Tennessee. The offense’s strength is its top-three wide receivers, however, so I don’t anticipate quite as much running as what we saw in San Diego. A combination of a run-balanced approach and plenty of second-half deficits will mean a fairly-balanced 2014 pass/run rate.

19. Panthers - 2014 Projection: 60% pass (2013: 56%)

As a team, Carolina progressively improved during the first three seasons of coach Ron Rivera’s tenure. As a result, the Panthers were expected to and did run the ball more often each season. But they aren’t quite as run-heavy as it may seem. If we combine the three seasons, Rivera’s Panthers have a pass/run rate only one percentage point below expected. What this really means is that, if Carolina struggles this season, we can safely expect Newton to throw the ball plenty.

20. Dolphins - 2014 Projection: 60% pass (2013: 67%)

Miami surprised the masses last season by calling pass on two-third of its offensive snaps, which made them the league’s No. 3 pass-heaviest offense. And it wasn’t a fluke. After operating a run-heavy offense during Joe Philbin’s first year as head coach, the Dolphins went pass-heavy in 2013. Miami also trailed a bit more often last year, which helped boost the pass rate even higher. With Bill Lazor now in as offensive coordinator, however, we can expect a return to a more run-balanced offense. Miami doesn’t figure to be particularly good this year, but a conceited effort to run under ex-Chip Kelly assistant Lazor will mean a big drop in Ryan Tannehill’s pass attempts.

21. Packers - 2014 Projection: 60% pass (2013: 60%)

The Packers 2014 pass/run rate might be the toughest to project in the league. Led by Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay was extremely pass-heavy from 2009 through 2012. The Packers started out pass heavy in 2013, as well, but switched to a run-heavy approach behind Eddie Lacy when Rodgers went down with a mid-season injury. When Rodgers returned, the run-first approach continued (albeit for two games). Reports suggest that Green Bay will continue leaning on the run, but it’s hard to imagine anything more than a balanced approach. The Packers figure to be a contender in 2014, which means a pass-balanced philosophy coupled with plenty of second-half leads. Expect Green Bay to be on the run-balanced side of the league.

22. Patriots - 2014 Projection: 59% pass (2013: 58%)

Coach Bill Belichick’s offenses have been fairly balanced throughout the years, but a main reason for that has been New England’s strong play. Some normalization for game flow shows that Belichick would throw it more if the Patriots weren’t leading as often as they have the last decade. With all their offensive woes, especially in the pass-catcher department, New England leaned harder on the run and still went 12-4 last year. With Rob Gronkowski expected back healthy, and Tom Brady’s stable of wide receivers improving, New England figures to return to a heavier reliance on its passing game in 2014.

23. Buccaneers - 2014 Projection: 59% pass (2013: 59%)

After a one-year absence, Lovie Smith is back at the controls of an NFL team. Smith has handed the keys to the offense to rookie coordinator Jeff Tedford. We obviously don’t have any Tedford numbers to reference, but Smith operated a fairly balanced offense in Chicago and the club has already stated an intention to run the ball. The Tampa Bay defense will keep them competitive in most games, so a scheme that leans on its backs will put the Buccaneers on the run-heavy side of the league.


24. Rams - 2014 Projection: 58% pass (2013: 58%)

Last season, the Rams came out the gate throwing the ball like crazy. They averaged only17.5 called runs per game over the first four weeks. Everything changed in Week 5, however, when they converted to one of the league’s run-heaviest teams. Coach Jeff Fisher has now operated either a run-heavy or run-balanced offense each of his last five seasons as an NFL head a coach. Brian Schottenheimer can say the same about his last five campaigns as an offensive coordinator. It’s very clear that this team will look to run the ball as much as possible in 2014, but it’s hard to expect them to be a major contender in the NFC West, which adds a bit to Sam Bradford’s plate in the second half of games.

25. Eagles - 2014 Projection: 56% pass (2013: 56%)

For the most part, Chip Kelly’s rookie-season play-calling was about as expected. He called pass 56 percent of the time, which was the league’s six-lowest mark. The Eagles went 10-6 and led on 44 percent of their snaps, so part of the run-heavy number was philosophy and some was game flow. The Eagles’ roster still has a few holes, but the Kelly offense will keep them ahead on the scoreboard or, at least, competitive in most games. Expect a run-first approach with a few extra rushing opportunities as a result of late-game leads.

26. Ravens - 2014 Projection: 56% pass (2013: 63%)

Much like the aforementioned Steelers, the Ravens are often categorized as having a run-first, beat-it-between-the-tackles offense. They’ve certainly gone that direction in the past, but they got away from it in 2013, ranking out as the No. 10 pass-heaviest offense in the league. Coach John Harbaugh has shown a willingness to operate a run-balanced attack, which probably explains a lot of why Gary Kubiak was hired to run his offense going forward. As the head coach in Houston the past eight seasons, Kubiak’s offenses were often among the league’s run-heaviest. That includes a run-first approach each of the past four seasons. The Ravens have a quality defense and its strength is certainly not the quarterback position. Utilizing plenty of ‘11’ personnel, Kubiak will look to hammer the ball home with Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, Justin Forsett, and Lorenzo Taliaferro.

27. 49ers - 2014 Projection: 56% pass (2013: 53%)

The 49ers have been amongst the league’s run-heavy teams each of the three years Jim Harbaugh has been in charge. The club’s offensive philosophy has revolved around the run, but only at a rate a few percentage points below league average. Domination on the scoreboard thanks to an elite defense has been the main factor in why the 49ers have run the ball so often. Had the 49ers gone 24-24 instead of 36-11-1 the past three years, we would’ve seen a pass/run rate closer to 59 percent, rather than the 54 percent mark they actually put up. Offseason reports, coupled with the aging of Frank Gore and acquisition of Stevie Johnson, suggest the 49ers will work the pass into the gameplan more often this season. Of course, the defense is still very good and the team has a nice stable of tailbacks. Expect slightly more passing in 2014.

28. Chargers - 2014 Projection: 56% pass (2013: 55%)

The Chargers heavy reliance on its running game last season was a bit surprising, but maybe it shouldn’t have been. We were tricked a bit by Whisenhunt’s pass-heavy philosophy, and overlooked head coach Mike McCoy’s resume. As the offensive coordinator in Denver, McCoy called a balanced game in both 2009 and 2010 before Tim Tebow forced an extremely run-heavy attack in 2011. Peyton Manning joined Denver in 2012, but McCoy still called a balanced game. Finally in charge in San Diego last season, the Chargers were among the run-heaviest teams in the league. Whisenhunt is gone and Frank Reich is in as the team’s offensive coordinator. We shouldn’t expect much of a philosophy change. McCoy’s resume is clear: he wants to run the ball. And the Chargers will be competitive enough to do so early and often.

29. Bills - 2014 Projection: 56% pass (2013: 54%)

In Doug Marrone’s first year as Buffalo’s head coach, we saw a clear inclination to lean heavily on the running game. The Bills ended up calling pass 54 percent of the time, which ranked them as the league’s No. 3 run-heaviest team. Of course, had they been more competitive, no team would’ve called run at a higher rate. Adjusted for game flow, the Bills called pass seven percentage points below expected.  With an underwhelming quarterback (EJ Manuel) and a strong one-two-three punch at tailback (C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Bryce Brown), the Bills will, once again, contend for the league lead in rushing attempts.

30. Seahawks - 2014 Projection: 55% pass (2013: 52%)

The Super Bowl champion Seahawks ran the ball slightly more in 2013 than they did in 2012. The key word there is “slightly”, as we barely saw movement in their pass/run rate despite holding a lead on 58 percent of their offensive snaps, compared to 41 percent in 2012. Seattle actually tweaked their 2013 philosophy to lean more on Russell Wilson’s arm in his second season. After calling pass at a rate six percentage points below expected in 2012, Seattle was at three percent in 2013. This is a club that wants to lean on the run, but not as much as the raw numbers indicate. Seattle figures to be among the league’s top teams again this season, but this is a clear indicator that Wilson will be trusted to throw it plenty in competitive games.

31. Jets - 2014 Projection: 55% pass (2013: 55%)

Easily the coach with the run-heaviest mentality in the league over the past decade, Rex Ryan, once again, had his club near the league lead in rush attempts last season. The Jets have now called pass at a rate at least six percentage points below expected in five of the past six seasons. The Jets called pass 55 percent of the time in 2013 despite leading on just under one quarter of their snaps. Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has a pass-heavy resume, but he adjusted to Ryan’s philosophy (not the other way around) in his first year as the team’s play-caller. New York improved its receiving corps during the offseason, but it also added Chris Johnson to the backfield and has a Riddler-sized question mark at the quarterback position. The Jets will undoubtedly rank amongst the league’s run-heaviest offenses.

32. Bengals - 2014 Projection: 55% pass (2013: 59%)

Marvin Lewis is set to return for his 12th season as Cincinnati’s coach, but the team made a drastic change at offensive coordinator during the offseason. Out is aforementioned Gruden and in is Hue Jackson. Jackson has a history of leaning heavily on his running game and has made it very clear that he will do so in 2014. As Oakland’s offensive coordinator in 2010, the Raiders called run at a rate four percentage points below expected. As Oakland’s head coach in 2011, the club was three points below expected. We expect a similar rate in Cincinnati this season. The Bengals’ defense is also very good, which, means the team will, once again, be in position to run the ball in the fourth quarter. This has all the makings for the Bengals to finish 2014 as the league’s run-heaviest offense. Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill should be adjusted in your rankings accordingly.

Mike Clay is a football writer for Rotoworld.com and the Founder/Managing Editor of Pro Football Focus Fantasy. He can be found on Twitter @MikeClayNFL.
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