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Yards per drive and addressing team needs: The NFC

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Usually the phrase "team need" is subjective. Not anymore. This article makes "needs" measurable, and thereby allows us to clearly decide if a team addressed or didn't address them this offseason.

Doug Pensinger

Before you get to the breakdown and analysis, here's the necessary background info:

After the end of the 2013 season, I sought to find the yards-per-drive figures for all NFL teams more specifically than what Football Outsiders provides. (They give offensive and defensive yards per-drive statistics, and they update those numbers on a weekly basis throughout the regular season, it's awesome). I went to's stat page and took the total number of yards gained or allowed via the run and pass for every team and divided those totals by the number of drives for every team — both on offense and defense — from FO's page.

I've found those per-drive statistics to be super useful and telling, but instead of simply having overall yards gained or allowed per drive, I wanted to calculate:

Yards gained or allowed per drive via the run and via the pass for all 32 teams. The result was this four-page Google Drive spreadsheet.









You’re certainly welcome — or maybe encouraged is the better word — to check out the spreadsheet, but I've organized the rankings for all four categories for each team below.

Sure, a handful of teams strengthened a strength, and that’s fine. But this project was meant to clearly and objectively identify the "needs" of all 32 NFL teams, look through their offseason additions, and come to a conclusion whether or not their "needs" were addressed.

Lastly, I understand that yards-per-drive aren't the be all end all when it comes to success or failure in professional football — scoring touchdowns is — but these figures almost always give a very good idea of how effective or ineffective a team is in the four main areas.



Chicago Bears

Run O: 15th | Pass O: 4th | Run D: 32nd | Pass D: 24th

To give Matt Forte a young running mate, the Bears drafted Arizona product Ka'Deem Carey in the fourth round.

Good idea.

You didn't need to be GM Phil Emery to recognize the abomination that was Chicago's run defense in 2013. Heck, my 92-year-old grandma knew the Bears couldn't stop anyone on the ground. True story: she still watches the NFL, and especially tunes into the night games - Chicago played five night games last year and allowed an average of 177.8  rushing yards in those outings.

Therefore, Emery shored up the defensive front seven.

Lamarr Houston, a run-stopping stud of DE was inked in free agency. Jared Allen, 32, but certainly no slouch, was also signed.

In the draft, DLs Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton were grabbed in Rounds 2 and 3 respectively, although I would have picked Sutton well before Ferguson.

Can't forget about DE Willie Young, another cost-effective signing by Emery.

That sound you may or may not be hearing is me applauding Emery's effort.

As if his job wasn't hard enough, the Bears GM needed to add some youth to the secondary. So he drafted super-talented CB Kyle Fuller in Round 1 to learn from Charles Tillman - who was re-signed - and Tim Jennings.

S Brock Vereen, a fourth-rounder, could be a fun player on the back end of Chicago's defensive backfield too.


Detroit Lions

Run O: 19th | Pass O: 6th  Run D: 7th | Pass D: 17th

The Lions run offense wasn't addressed, outside of third-round C Travis Swanson, the eventual Dominic Raiola replacement.

The Lions pass defense was addressed with super-skilled and finesse OLB Kyle Van Noy, fourth-round CB Nevin Lawson, journeyman S James Ihedigbo, and 34-year-old CB Rashean Mathis.

Instead of addressing specific needs, GM Martin Mayhew added even more weapons to a crazy-good aerial attack by signing WR Golden Tate in free agency and drafting TE Eric Ebron, a pass-catching specialist, in Round 1.

Okay then.


Minnesota Vikings

Run O: 11th  Pass O: 22nd |  Run D: 14th | Pass D: 29th

Christian Ponder or Teddy Bridgewater? Yeah, let's take the latter. How about Matt Cassel or Teddy Bridgewater? [waits for two seconds] Yeah, Bridgewater again. The Louisville QB may not have a cannon arm, but he was the most NFL-ready signal-caller in 2014 class, and he could shine immediately under the tutelage of Norv Turner.

Bridgewater alone should boost Minnesota's No.22-ranked passing offense.

The pass defense, well, only a trio of late-round picks, Antone Exum, Kendall James and Jabari Price were brought in. ( Exum has some real potential though. )

Maybe the duo of Round 1 pick OLB Anthony Barr and Round 3 choice, DE Scott Crichton, were selected to help the secondary via improved pass rush.


Green Bay Packers

Run O: 6th | Pass O: 7th |  Run D: 30th | Pass D: 26th

Basically, the Packers just need to stay healthy. Hey, Football Gods, mind giving them a relatively clean bill of health this year? Maybe?

Anyway, DL Khyri Thornton should make an impact early as could OLB Carl Bradford, an Arizona State product with some Clay Matthews to his game. Along with those two rookies, the elder but still athletically impressive Julius Pepper will likely improve the Packers run defense as well.

Re-signing unheralded CB Sam Shields was vintage Ted Thompson, and calling Ha Ha Clinton-Dix's name in the first round of the draft should shore up annoying issues at safety. Don't be surprised if sixth-rounder Demetri Goodson, a former point guard at Gonzaga, makes a few plays at cornerback too.



Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Run O: 21st | Pass O: 30th | Run D: 18th | Pass D: 20th

Jason Licht took the GM job in Tampa Bay and got right to work fixing the Buccaneers problems.

Super-productive WR Mike Evans was picked in Round 1, and 6'5" TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins was snagged a round later. Speed WR Robert Herron, a sixth-round selection, has a chance to make some plays down the field. ( Don't forget about former Stanford WR Chris Owusu. )

This was all after OT Anthony Collins was signed in free agency - a move that'll help the run and pass games.

Alterraun Verner, a young CB with lockdown potential, was also signed during free agency, and Collins teammate with the Bengals, DE Michael Johnson, was also brought in to improve the 18th ranked run defense.

The left guard spot is an issue following the retirement of Carl Nicks, but one of the two fifth-round rookie OLs, Kadeem Edwards or Kevin Pamphile, should be able to contribute in Year 1.

Oh, yeah...smooth runner Charles Sims was drafted in Round 3 to add another weapon to the backfield that already features Doug Martin, Bobby Rainey and Mike James.

What an action-packed, need-filling offseason for Licht. QB Josh McCown should be a sound mentor for Mike Glennon, too.


New Orleans Saints

Run O: 23rd | Pass O: 1st | Run D: 21st | Pass D: 5th

In 2013, the Saints were, as per usual, tremendous throwing the football, thanks to the complementary brilliance of QB Drew Brees and HC Sean Payton.

New Orleans knows its a pass-first and pass-your-defense-to-shreds team, but with the No. 23 run offense, there's obviously room for improvement. However, the only changes on the Saints offensive line or in their backfield came via the signing of C Jonathan Goodwin after Brian de la Puente signed with the Bears in free agency.

The run defense was rather unimpressive last year, and fourth-round LB Khairi Fortt should, eventually, strengthen that unit. We mustn't forget about OLB Ronald Powell, who was drafted in Round 5, either.

Brandin Cooks was selected in the first round to replace Darren Sproles, but in terms of the team's biggest weaknesses, Saints GM Mickey Loomis didn't do a fantastic job this offseason. Re-signing RT Zach Strief was smart though.


Carolina Panthers

Run O: 2nd | Pass O: 20th | Run D: 4th | Pass D: 14th

After Steve Smith was signed by the Ravens in free agency, the Panthers knew they had to bring in receiving talent for Cam Newton. While pass-catchers like Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, and Tiquan Underwood won't strike much fear into opponents, Carolina filled a need by selecting 6'5" high-pointer Kelvin Benjamin in Round 1.

While some believe the Florida State product was more of a second- or-third-round talent, after learning the intricacies of playing the wideout position, he could become a menace on the outside.

Heck,  he can be used as an major red-zone threat this season.

In the secondary, Antoine Cason was signed in free agency, and super-sticky CB Bene Benwikere was picked in Round 5.

Carolina didn't fill needs in a flashy way, but GM David Gettleman did admirable work this offseason; however, after stud LT Jordan Gross retired, another edge-protector wasn't acquired.


Atlanta Falcons

Run O: 29th | Pass O: 5th | Run D: 31st | Pass D: 28th

The 2013 campaign was a catastrophe for the Falcons, and much of that was due to Julio Jones' broken foot and nagging injuries for Roddy White. However, the team's offensive and defensive lines were porous, and the linebackers weren't impactful enough.

Starting on defense, stocky DLs Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson were major free-agent acquisitions, and the monstrous Ra'Shede Hageman was drafted to join them on the front. Rookie LBs Marquis Spurill, Prince Shembo, Yawin Smallwood and Tyler Starr should, together, increase the run-defense's effectiveness.

While that quartet should aid the pass defense by improving the pass rush, Atlanta picked pesky CB Ricardo Allen in Round 5 and S Dezmen Southward in Round 3 - the latter was too early for my liking - but at least the secondary was addressed.

Though LT Jake Matthews was the No. 6 overall selection in the draft to protect Matt Ryan, he'll help the run offense as well. So will fourth-round pick, RB Devonta Freeman.

All in all, the decision GM Thomas Dimitroff  made this offseason were commendable. And his hair is still awesome.



Dallas Cowboys

Run O: 24th | Pass O: 8th |  Run D: 27th | Pass D: 31st

As has been the case for most of the Tony Romo Era, in 2013, the Cowboys were a blast on offense and the defense was simply not good enough.

We know Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray are going to be stat-sheet stuffers, but Dallas needed to get more efficient on the ground.

Drafting dependable OG / OT Zach Martin in Round 1 was clever.

On defense - sorry Big D faithful - it could get very ugly this year. Yes, uglier than last season.

Sean Lee can't catch a break on the injury front, as he tore his ACL during a minicamp drill. Then, versatile OLB DeMarcus Lawrence, arguably the team's best pass-rusher after DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher bolted in free agency, broke his foot.

He'll be out 8-to-10 weeks.

The Cowboys made a reasonable attempt to improve the defense, but the salary cap and injury bug got the best of them.


New York Giants

Run O: 30th | Pass O: 23rd | Run D: 10th | Pass D: 8th

The Giants must run the football more effectively, and they should be able to finish better than 30th in rush yards per drive in 2014 with the newcomer RBs rookie Andre Williams and free-agent acquisition Rashad Jennings.

New York GM Jerry Reese knows the importance of a sturdy offensive line, and that's precisely the reason OG Geoff Schwartz was brought in from the Chiefs and agile C Weston Richburg was picked in Round 2.

Stealing John Jerry from the Dolphins after the bullying saga was another shrewd move by Reese, although the big OL will help in pass protection more than anything else. Also, JD Walton, another free-agent signee, will likely start the season at center.

Replacing the banged up Hakeem Nicks with Odell Beckham Jr. was a big win for the G-Men, and if Mario Manningham has anything left - he's only 28 - he could be a rather productive No. 3 / No. 4 WR.

DL Linval Joseph signed with the Vikings? Fine. Robert Ayers signed with NYG, and DT Jay Bromley was picked in Round 3.


Washington Redskins

Run O: 9th | Pass O: 17th | Run D: 16th | Pass D: 21st

The Redskins success begins and ends with Robert Griffin III. Weapons DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts and Ryan Grant to go along with Pierre Garcon and TE Jordan Reed will help the third-year QB to return to his rookie form.

RT Morgan Moses, Washington's third-round pick, should help to keep RG3's jersey cleaner than it was a year ago.

How much do CB Tracy Porter and S Ryan Clark have left in their respective tanks? If nothing else, they'll be fine mentors for rookie CB Bashaud Breeland.

Will that trio of new faces be enough to improve the Redskins secondary into the top half of the league?



Philadelphia Eagles

Run O: 1st | Pass O: 13th | Run D: 9th | Pass D: 30th

If the Eagles take a major step in pass coverage this season, they could contend for one of top spots in the NFC playoffs.

S Ed Reynolds, Philly's fifth-round pick, didn't do it for me, but at least he's a fresh body in the secondary. Round 4 selection CB Jaylen Watkins, however, has some serious skill and could fight for time as starter by midseason.

Then again, those two rookies probably won't be enough to push the Eagles into the Top 20 in terms of passing yards allowed per drive.

On offense,, with the return of Jeremy Maclin and rookie WRs Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff - can't forget Darren Sproles, either - the Eagles very well could be Oregon East under Chip Kelly in 2014.



Seattle Seahawks

Run O: 4th | Pass O: 21st | Run D: 11th | Pass D: 1st

Much of Seattle's pass offense problems stemmed from subpar protection up front. With franchise LT Russell Okung recovering from foot surgery, the Seahawks added OT Justin Britt in Round 2 - a bit early - and snagged veteran OT Eric Winston off the open market.

To infuse some skill-position talent to the aerial attack, speedster WR Paul Richardson, a DeSean Jackson clone, and Kevin Norwood, a staple of reliability at Alabama, were picked in Rounds 2 and 4 respectively.

This GM...this John Schneider guy, he's not an idiot.


San Francisco 49ers

Run O: 5th | Pass O: 29th |  Run D: 6th | Pass D: 10th

Not to be outdone by Schneider, his NFC West rival, 49ers GM Trent Baalke worked hard to bolster his team's largest soft spot - the passing offense.

QB Colin Kaepernick was signed to a gargantuan extension.

In March, impeccably reliable WR Anquan Boldin was re-signed. In May, established WR Stevie Johnson was traded for the morning of the second round of the draft. Don't sleep on fourth-round wideout Bruce Ellington. He could do some damage out of the slot this season.

With Michael Crabtree healthy, San Francisco now has a very respectable receiving corps for Kaep'.

The run defense could take a hit with a lengthy suspension coming for OLB Aldon Smith and ILB NaVorro Bowman out for a good chunk of the season with the knee-ligament tear he suffered in the NFC West title game in January.

But super-experienced collegiate stars, Chris Borland and Shayne Skov, have the ILB acumen to contribute for the 49ers in 2014 if need be.


St. Louis Rams

Run O: 17th | Pass O: 28th |  Run D: 13th | Pass D: 25th

Having Sam Bradford for a full, 16-game season would aid the Rams passing offense, and there's a chance - albeit a small one - that free-agent pickup Kenny Britt brings a traditional, chain-moving presence to the receiving corps.

The run offense will almost assuredly get better with incredibly powerful first-round pick Greg Robinson in at left guard next to Jake Long and with Auburn RB sensation Tre Mason spelling Zac Stacy.

Gone is Cortland Finnegan - honestly, that's addition by subtraction. GM Les Snead was smart to let him go. Rookie DBs Terrance Brooks and Mo Alexander are perfect complements. Both, especially Brooks, can produce in Year 1.


Arizona Cardinals

Run O: 25th | Pass O: 14th | Run D: 1st | Pass D: 9th

The only two things Cardinals GM John Keim - who's been a stud decision-maker thus far, by the way - did to improve his team's running game was sign monster LT Jared Veldheer in free agency and draft blocking TE extraordinaire Troy Niklas in Round 2.

Ehhh, not bad.

Finally getting 2013 Round 1 pick OG Jonathan Cooper and giving the ball to RB Andre Ellington more often will likely help the ground game though.

The pass offense will receive a boost from lightning quick slot WR John Brown and the similarly speedy Ted Ginn Jr.

Bulky DE Kareem Martin, Arizona's third-round pick, and fifth-round DL Ed Stinson will bring much-needed youth to the defensive front.

Can free-agent adds, LBs Larry Foote and Ernie Sims ,at least somewhat make up for the loss of authoritative ILB Daryl Washington?