Chet Gresham

Offseason Low Down

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OC History: AFC North

Sunday, August 17, 2014

For this set of articles I’ll be looking at NFL teams, their offensive coordinators and how their coordinating has or might impact their team’s offense and in turn our fantasy expectations. I’ll be using the offensive coordinator info compiled by Mr. Jeff Brubach, which tries to look at the last three seasons of a coordinator’s offensive output.


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Pittsburgh Steelers




This will be Todd Haley’s third year as offensive coordinator for the Steelers. In the past he’s been able to get quite a bit out of his offenses. With the Cardinals in 2007-08 he helped them to a top-5 passing offense and then in 2010 with Kansas City they had the #1 rushing offense. Unfortunately for the Steelers, they haven’t quite meshed into a top offense under Haley. But there was some room for optimism in the second half of last season as Ben Roethlisberger put up top-5 fantasy numbers and finished with 28 touchdown passes, his second most ever. Of course it was the first time he finished with 16 games played since 2008.


Over the last two seasons Haley has passed 58% and 60% of the time. That 60% ranked 8th overall last year and helped Antonio Brown to 110 receptions, 1,499 yards and 8 touchdowns. If Roethlisberger and Haley can keep that second half going into this season there is a chance they could put together some big numbers in this offense.


Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown of course stand to benefit from the pass happy attack, but there is room for more in this offense. Last season the #2 and #3 receivers had decent numbers with Emmanuel Sanders putting up a 67/740/6 line and Jerricho Cotchery going 46/602/10.  And now both of those players are on other teams this season. That opens the door for Markus Wheaton and Lance Moore and 2,841 top 3 wide receiver yards and 24 touchdowns is nothing to sneeze at.


Tight end Heath Miller started the season trying to get back up to speed after an injury and Cotchery ended up stealing his touchdowns and he finished with just one all season. But the year before he had eight touchdowns. It seems like we’ll see the touchdowns of Lance Moore and Miller taking away from each other. But if this offense really steps up and Roethlisberger can push into the 30+ touchdown range, there will be enough touchdowns to go around.


The rushing game hasn’t been very good with Haley at the helm. In 2012, injuries and mediocre talent kept the production down, but last season Le’Veon Bell stepped up as the bell cow back and had decent overall production, but averaged just 3.5 yards per carry. This year Bell will get a full season after missing the first three games last year. He does have Dri Archer and LeGarrette Blount as completion for passing targets and early down/goal line work now, so there could be a bit more spreading of the wealth this year. After giving Thomas Jones 245 carries at 3.7 yards per carry and Jamaal Charles 230 at 6.4 yards per carry in 2010, anything is conceivable.


The Steelers defense isn’t their strength anymore so the offense will need to step up like they did in the second half last year and it’s very possible they can produce 2-3 usable fantasy receivers and a top-10 fantasy quarterback.


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Baltimore Ravens




The new offensive coordinator for the Ravens is Gary Kubiak.  In the 11 seasons that Kubiak was the Broncos offensive coordinator they were only out of the top-5 in total yards twice and that was due to a great running game and Kubiak’s zone blocking scheme. He then took that offense to Houston where it languished his first two season, but slowly came around, but in the passing game, which put the Texans 3rd and 4th in total yards in 2008-09, but then he found his running back in Arian Foster in 2010 and he got his running game back. It really took Foster’s injury last season to sink that offense. Overall Kubiak's offenses have ranked 8th or better in total yards in 15 of his 19 seasons. I’m guessing not too many coaches can say that.


So Kubiak will throw the ball when push comes to shove, but he would much rather run it and the Ravens have had success doing so in the past.  Last season that success diminished a bunch as Ray Rice an averaged a horrid 3.1 yards per carry (his previous worst was 4.0) and Bernard Pierce an even worse 2.9 yards per carry. So calling Kubiak in for some help sounds like a great decision.


Joe Flacco had his worst season ever last year as he threw for 19 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. Much of this can be attributed to the complete lack of a running game and Kubiak should be able to help in that department. But when the running game is working for Kubiak’s teams, the quarterback can be good, but not fantasy great. Only once has a Kubiak-led offense been in the top-5 in pass attempts and only cracked the top-10 five times. But he has helped his quarterbacks have good efficiency in yards per pass attempt. That should set Joe Flacco up for some big gainers with Torrey Smith at the very least.


Joe Flacco has never been a top-10 fantasy quarterback and has usually finished in the middle of the pack and without a high volume passing attack it will be difficult for him to buck that trend.  He should get back on the right side of the touchdown to interception ratio and his efficiency will most likely improve, but don’t expect him to put up big numbers if Kubiak’s offense is running the way they hope.


But there is still good news for Ravens pass-catchers. Kubiak has helped Andre Johnson and his tight ends to some nice numbers in his time with Houston. I don’t have to tell you how good Johnson has been in his career, but he owes a lot of it to the number of targets he saw in that offense (and because he’s a beast). He had 160+ targets in five of his last eight seasons while Torrey Smith had his career high last year with 136. Smith should have more upside under Kubiak than he has in the past.


Over the last four seasons the Texans ranked 2nd, 2nd, 7th and 8th in passing targets to their tight ends, this sets up well for Dennis Pitta, especially with Owen Daniels looking like he may have lost more than a step at age 32. I’d be afraid to draft any receiver other than Smith or Pitta in this offense, but you can feel pretty safe about going after them.


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Chet Gresham writes Target Watch and The Morning After for and is the founder of The Fake Football. Chet can be found on Twitter .
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