Top 5 underrated NFL offseason moves
By: Eli Grabanski
Each offseason, NFL teams make moves to try and better their franchises. They may choose to shake up the front office, the coaching staff, the offense, or the defense in order to achieve this goal. While we all like to talk about the big moves that happen during the offseason, the more underrated moves can make all the difference for a franchise. Here are five of the more underrated moves that have happened during the NFL offseason so far.
- Steelers fire offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, promote Matt Canada
The Pittsburgh Steelers fired Randy Fichtner after three seasons as the team’s offensive coordinator and promoted quarterbacks coach Matt Canada to the position. Fichtner refused to run the ball in his career as the team’s offensive coordinator, with the team having 345 rushing attempts, 395 rushing attempts in 2019, and 373 rushing attempts in 2020. This will not be the case with Matt Canada as the offensive coordinator.
|Matt Canada College Offensive Coordinator/Head Coach Stats|
|Year||Games||Team Pass Att.||Team Pass Yds.||Team Pass TDs||Team Rush Att.||Team Rush Yds.||Team Rush TDs|
|2003 Northern Illinois||12||29.17||218.92||2.08||40.75*||189.83*||1.58|
|2011 Northern Illinois||14||29.00||241.86||2.07||41.21*||237.29*||2.43|
|2013 NC State||12||35.17||240.83||1.17||42.83*||167.42*||1.17|
|2014 NC State||13||29.23||204.00||1.85||38.23*||205.62*||2.00|
|2015 NC State||13||31.62||210.77||1.54||40.92*||203.54*||2.77|
|Canada’s Career Averages (College OC/HC)||175||29.74||214.29||1.58||38.69*||187.8*||1.89|
While it’s unrealistic to expect Canada to have the Steelers run the ball 38.69 times per game, the offense will undoubtedly become more balanced in 2021. The team will not be game planning to have 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger throw the ball 41 times per game again this year and instead focus on winning through their run game and elite defense in 2021.
2. Corey Linsley signs with the Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers offense had the quarterback last year with rookie sensation Justin Herbert. They had the weapons with running back Austin Ekeler, wide receiver Keenan Allen, wide receiver Mike Williams, and tight end Hunter Henry (who’s now a New England Patriot). But they didn’t have the offensive line, finishing as the worst offensive line in the league last year according to PFF. The Chargers decided to prioritize addressing the line this offseason and signed all-pro center Corey Linsley to a five-year, $62.5 million deal. Linsley posted an elite 89.9 PFF grade over the 734 snaps he played last year and should provide a big boost to the team.
3. Atlanta Falcons move on from Dan Quinn, bring in Arthur Smith and Dean Pees
Since 2015, Dan Quinn had been the Atlanta Falcons head coach. Five games into the 2020 season, the Falcons decided to fire Quinn and began to look for a new leader in the locker room. The Falcons found this new leader this past offseason in former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith and hired him to be the team’s new head coach. Smith has directed one of the best offenses in the league the past couple of years.
|Year||Games||Team Passing Att.||Team Passing Yds.||Team Passing TDs||Team Rush Att.||Team Rush Yds.||Team Rush TDs|
|2019 Tennessee Titans||16||28||247.25||1.81||27.81||138.94||1.31|
|2020 Tennessee Titans||16||30.31||239.13||2.06||32.56||168.13||1.63|
|Arthur Smith Career Averages (OC)||32||29.16||243.19||1.94||30.19||153.53||1.47|
Arthur Smith will make the Falcons a more balanced team between passing and running, and will utilize a ton of play-action to maximize the team’s efficiency. The Falcons offense will have the opportunity to go from a ‘very good’ offense to an ‘unstoppable’ offense in 2021 under Smith’s direction.
Besides Arthur Smith, the Falcons did a phenomenal job on filling out the rest of the team’s coaching staff. Perhaps the biggest member of the coaching staff that Smith hired was defensive coordinator Dean Pees.
|Year||Games||Points Allowed||Total Yds Given Up||Plays||Yards/Play||Turnovers Forced|
|2006 New England Patriots||16||14.81||294.38||59.38||4.96||2.19|
|2007 New England Patriots||16||17.13||288.31||58.31||4.94||1.94|
|2008 New England Patriots||16||19.31||309||57.5||5.37||1.38|
|2009 New England Patriots||16||17.81||320.19||58.81||5.44||1.75|
|2012 Baltimore Ravens||16||21.5||350.94||67.88||5.17||1.56|
|2013 Baltimore Ravens||16||22||335.5||64.5||5.20||1.5|
|2014 Baltimore Ravens||16||18.88||336.94||64.63||5.21||1.38|
|2015 Baltimore Ravens||16||25.06||337.38||62.5||5.40||0.88|
|2016 Baltimore Ravens||16||20.06||322.13||62.06||5.19||1.75|
|2017 Baltimore Ravens||16||18.94||325.06||65.31||4.98||2.13|
|2018 Tennessee Titans||16||18.94||333.38||62.56||5.33||1.06|
|2019 Tennessee Titans||16||20.69||359.5||66||5.45||1.44|
|Dean Pees’ Career Averages (DC)||192||19.59||326.06||62.45||5.22||1.58|
Dean Pees has been a great defensive coordinator at every stop he’s been at and should be able to get the most out of the Atlanta Falcons defense. The Falcons coaching staff hires give the team a legitimate chance to compete for a playoff spot in 2021.
4. Former Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay signs with Houston Texans
The Houston Texans are unlikely to be a great team in 2021, but they did make a strong under-the-radar move in signing Phillip Lindsay to a 1 year, $3,250,000 contract. Lindsay had a down year in Denver last season, putting up a stat line of 118 carries, 502 rushing yards, seven receptions, 28 receiving yards, and one touchdown and playing in just 11 games. But in the two seasons prior, Lindsay ran for 1000+ rushing yards, scored at least seven rushing touchdowns, and caught at least 35 passes.
|Year||Carries||Rushing Yards||Rushing Touchdowns||Receptions||Targets||Receiving Yards||Receiving Touchdowns|
|2018 Denver Broncos||192||1037||9||35||47||241||1|
|2019 Denver Broncos||224||1011||7||35||48||196||0|
|2020 Denver Broncos||118||502||1||7||14||28||0|
There’s a good chance that Lindsay bounces-back now that he’s healthy and becomes a great bargain for the Houston Texans. Keep an eye on him in Houston.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars sign former Detroit Lions WR Marvin Jones
The Jacksonville Jaguars wide receivers D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault have gotten a lot of hype for the 2021 season so far this offseason, while the new Jaguars wide receiver Marvin Jones hasn’t gotten nearly the same hype. Part of that may be because we largely know what the 31-year-old receiver is at this point of his career, but Jones has quite a bit going for him.
- Jones is already familiar with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s playbook after working together the past couple of seasons in Detroit.
- Marvin Jones led the Detroit Lions in red-zone targets last year with 21. In each of the last two seasons, he has scored 9 receiving touchdowns.
- Last year, Jones averaged 90.4 air yards per game which above-average for a wide receiver. He also averaged 1.54 air yards per snap and had 29.7% of the Lions’ air yards.
- During the 2020 season, Marvin Jones went eight of eleven on contested catches, a rate that ranked 5th in the NFL.
Based on this information Jones should have another solid year with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and provide Trevor Lawrence with a reliable receiving threat.
Follow Eli Grabanski on Twitter @3li_handles