The following is excerpted from the team chapters of the always-excellent Football Outsiders Almanac. Buy it here as a PDF, or here in print.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: On offense, the free-agent departure of wideout Torrey Smith was mitigated by the first-round selection of Breshad Perriman from Central Florida. But the receiver corps remains comprised of the aged Steve Smith and a bunch of unproven kids, including second-rounder Maxx (Double-X) Williams, a tight end from Minnesota. The youngsters need to come through, because Joe Flacco’s contract strikes again next year, when his cap hit nearly doubles to a terrifying $28.5 million. Regardless of how well general manager Ozzie Newsome restructures (or tears up and redoes) the deal, he will have to employ more of his magic to keep the offense humming and financially viable at the same time. (Robert Weintraub)

Cincinnati Bengals: There is a definite “last hurrah” sensation drifting out of Cincinnati this offseason. “It’s now or never,” running back Jeremy Hill said in the spring. (And he’s only been around for a single season! Backs apparently have become so fungible, they view the league through an accelerated lens.) 2015 sets up not only as a “prove it” campaign for the Bengals to show the NFL world they can finally win in January, but also as a showdown for roster spots going forward. The Bengals are unlikely to keep both Reggie Nelson and George Iloka at safety, for example. They certainly won’t be retaining both starting tackles, Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith. Will either stay in stripes? Which promising but flawed receiver drafted in 2012 stays, Marvin Jones or Mohamed Sanu? If both Leon Hall and Adam Jones get offers to take their veteran corner smarts elsewhere, do the Bengals keep either? (Robert Weintraub)

Cleveland Browns: If the Browns had limped to three or four wins during Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer’s first season, expectations for this year would likely be lower than they are. After winning seven games last season, winning fewer this season will be more easily framed as a step backwards. Jimmy Haslam’s willingness to move on from Rob Chudzinski after one season looms as a warning to his current head coach. To keep the status quo, the Browns will likely need to replicate much of what they did last season. In 2014, the team relied on their defense to carry the offense. That unit was good overall, but had both major strengths and major weaknesses. The Browns ranked 11th by DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), but second against the pass and 31st against the run. (Cian Fahey)


Pittsburgh Steelers: This offense as a whole is set up to sustain its success even as Ben Roethlisberger enters his mid-thirties. Save for tight end Heath Miller, every offensive piece around Roethlisberger is still at least relatively young. Seven of the 11 projected starters for next season are no older than 26 years of age. Antonio Brown, right in his prime at 26, was the top-ranked wide receiver by DYAR (Defensive Yards Above Replacement) last year, with a significant margin over the second-ranked Jordy Nelson. It wasn’t a one-off either, as he had ranked fifth overall during the previous season. The two most important pieces past Brown are Martavis Bryant (24 years old) and Le’Veon Bell (23). As a rookie, Bryant had the highest DYAR of any receiver who caught between 10 and 49 passes last season, while Bell was one of the top runners by any measure and a major star as a receiver. Bell ranked first in DYAR for receiving amongst running backs while more than doubling the success of second-place Ahmad Bradshaw. (Cian Fahey)

AFC East

Buffalo Bills: With secret studs Nigel Bradham and Corey Graham joining Stephon Gilmore and the front four, head coach Rex Ryan actually has more to work with than he did when the Jets hired him in 2009. There, he took a defense that ranked 14th in defensive DVOA in 2008 and brought them to the top spot in his first year. In Buffalo, Ryan starts with a defense that ranked fourth and second the last two years, and features a contract-motivated Marcell Dareus along with a still-improving Gilmore. Ryan’s coaching ability will likely counteract the regression towards the mean we would usually expect from the league’s No. 2 defense. The Bills are poised to challenge Seattle for the title of the NFL’s best defense this year. (Andrew Healy)


Miami Dolphins: Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon will draw most of the headlines, and rightfully so. Suh was signed to be a defensive difference-maker, and his 36 sacks are the most in the NFL for a defensive tackle since he entered the league in 2010. If he is able to collapse the pocket with the Dolphins like he did in Detroit, the domino effect will open up one-on-ones for the fearsome edge rushers Wake and Vernon. As for the Ringo figure of this foursome, the departures of Randy Starks and Jared Odrick mean Earl Mitchell will occasionally see time next to Suh at the defensive tackle spot, while Suh’s old Detroit teammate C.J. Mosley (who signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins in the offseason) will provide depth. (Christopher Price)

New England Patriots: Given his inexperience and uneven record, Malcolm Butler’s potential starting spot comes primarily by process of elimination. The Patriots waited until the seventh round to select a cornerback. The other four corners on the roster who have NFL experience all have significant concerns. Logan Ryan, who is the current best bet to start on the outside with Butler, performed essentially at a replacement level in 2014, as did Robert McClain. Bradley Fletcher should have been wearing a Washington Generals jersey when he went up against the Dez Bryants and Jordy Nelsons of the NFL (although his overall performance, 36th out of 77 qualifying corners in adjusted success rate, was better than his laughingstock reputation would suggest). With Fletcher having struggled at OTAs and recently signed Tarell Brown the only other corner with NFL experience, seventh-round pick Darryl Roberts—who impressed at workouts in some action running with the starters—may not only make the team but see significant playing time. That Butler, with his one NFL start, is perhaps the surest thing says everything about the Patriots’ uncertainty at corner. (Andrew Healy)


New York Jets: The Jets’ offensive line is not the strength it was a few years ago, but New York was successful at the most important parts of ground-and-pound. The Jets were 20th in adjusted line yards but ranked fifth converting 75 percent of their “power” runs. Good blocking helped the offense play well overall in short-yardage situations, ranking ninth in DVOA on second-and-short and 11th on third-and-short. The backfield will look a bit different this year: Chris Johnson is gone, but in his place, the Jets added Stevan Ridley and Zac Stacy this offseason. Ridley, who signed a one-year “show-me” deal after a season-ending knee injury in October, is one of the more intriguing prospects in the AFC East. He was the most consistent of the Patriots’ running backs over the last four years, despite occasional fumble-related benchings, and if his ACL recovery doesn’t take too long, he could represent one of the great value signings of the offseason for any team. He’ll battle for playing time with Chris Ivory and Stacy; the former of whom was the best and most consistent part of the New York ground game last year. (Christopher Price)

AFC West

Denver Broncos: C.J. Anderson should be next in the long line of running backs that Gary Kubiak’s offense has turned into statistical studs: Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Clinton Portis, Reuben Droughns, Tatum Bell, Steve Slaton, Arian Foster, and Justin Forsett. Maybe backup Montee Ball will even start to shine. And just like Peyton Manning, Kubiak has not needed much first-round talent on his offensive line to make his offense work. In Denver, center Tom Nalen was a seventh-round pick and tackle Matt Lepsis (133 starts) was undrafted. Sixth-round pick Chris Myers followed Kubiak from Denver to Houston and became a two-time Pro Bowl center. The line’s in great hands with Kubiak and Manning running the offense. (Scott Kacsmar)


Kansas City Chiefs: Third down is where Alex Smith’s conservatism may hurt his teams the most. Since 2011, Smith has taken the most third-down sacks (69) and has the worst sack rate (13.4 percent) among quarterbacks with at least 200 third-down passes. And when he’s not pulling the trigger, he’s firing too short. In 2014, Smith’s average third-down pass was thrown 2.3 yards short of the first-down marker, the shortest average in the league when compared to the needed yards for a first down. Aaron Rodgers had the longest average pass at 4.0 yards beyond the first-down marker. More than any quarterback in the league, Smith relies on his receivers to break tackles and gain yards after the catch to convert on third down. This metric is called Air Minus Need Differential (AMND). The average starting quarterback has an AMND of plus-1.4 since 2011. Smith’s minus-1.7 AMND is the lowest since 2011 among players with at least 300 attempts. It’s as if Smith is playing a different sport than his peers. (Scott Kacsmar)

Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack is already the best pass-rusher on a defense that only had 22 sacks last year. Oakland finished 19th in pressure rate, but ranked an ineffective 30th in DVOA when generating pressure. One reason is the lack of finishing plays. The Raiders tied for a league-low with five long sacks (plays that took more than 3.1 seconds). Too often Oakland was just a hair too late getting to the quarterback to really cause a bad play. Mack’s season was a great example of this. He had 30.5 quarterback hurries, but only 4.0 sacks. We have charted 23 players since 2012 with at least 30 quarterback hurries in a season. Nineteen of those players had double-digit sacks; Mack is the only one with fewer than seven. Head coach Jack Del Rio likely sees Mack as the Von Miller of his 4-3 defense at strong side linebacker, though Mack also has the strength to line up at defensive end when Oakland brings in extra defensive backs. Mack has already mastered stuffing the run—his 17 run defeats ranked third in the league—but to take his game to the next level, he’ll have to finish more sacks. (Scott Kacsmar)

San Diego Chargers: Rookie running back Melvin Gordon plays like a young Chris Johnson with less top-end speed, but more power. Gordon had a very prolific finish to his college career. Last season he rushed for 2,587 yards, second in FBS history to only Barry Sanders (2,628 yards in 1988). Gordon rushed for 408 yards against Nebraska, setting a single-game NCAA record that lasted a week. He should improve the dismal yards after contact numbers for the Chargers, but Gordon isn’t another Marshawn Lynch. Gordon is very elusive and dynamic in the open field, though there are concerns about his ability to play on every down given his pass protection and limited receiving numbers (just 22 catches) in college. Philip Rivers has always loved to have a receiving back, and he has played with some of the best ever in LaDainian Tomlinson, Darren Sproles, and Danny Woodhead. That makes Woodhead’s return good news for the Chargers. In 2013, Rivers completed 76-of-87 passes to the checkdown demigod and he was surely missed last season. Still, it’s not great for creating mismatches if defenses know Gordon has to come off for Woodhead in passing situations. That’s why if you draft a running back this high, you hope that he truly is an every-down workhorse, and Gordon will have high expectations right away. (Scott Kacsmar)


AFC South

Houston Texans: Bill O’Brien is creating a lot of value for his team. Trying to figure out what percentage of the groceries he gets to shop for as compared to what general manager Rick Smith does is like trying to decipher the rules for when the NRG Stadium roof is open. But while we cannot be sure of precisely where the bad seed lies, the harsh truth is that the Texans are failing because their recent drafts have been abysmal, free agency has often yielded small-stakes duds, and O’Brien hasn’t had a real quarterback to work with yet. (Rivers McCown)

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts are not getting the 32-year-old Frank Gore at an ideal time in his career, but this could be an ideal situation for him. In each of the last three years in San Francisco, Gore had the highest percentage of runs against eight or more defenders in the box. That’s not going to happen in Indianapolis when the safety has to worry about defending the deep pass. Running backs for the Colts have seen loaded boxes roughly half as often as Gore, who still had success anyway. With a better distribution of carries against unloaded boxes, Gore should locate some of the favorable lanes that Trent Richardson struggled to find. (Scott Kacsmar)


Jacksonville Jaguars: No matter what you think about the rest of Jacksonville’s squad, it’s almost impossible to figure out where the franchise goes from here without a real verdict on Blake Bortles that we won’t have until we’re at least halfway through the 2015 season. Unless you want to go back 25 years, there is very little track record of quarterbacks who start their careers with two straight below-replacement seasons but then turn things around and become legit NFL starters. This is a huge year for the bet that the Jaguars made on Bortles. Early indications that he still wasn’t comfortable with his throwing motion in training camp are, to put it mildly, concerning. (Rivers McCown)

Tennessee Titans: If the second year is when a team undergoing to a scheme change starts to gel (itself a proposition probably more repeated in the telling than actually true), then Dick LeBeau’s arrival and insertion may push that gelling back another year. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s 3-4 had significant one-gap elements and was in some ways not much of a change from some of the Gregg Williams-inspired elements of 2013’s 4-3 scheme. LeBeau’s 3-4 is of a different stripe, placing more emphasis on two-gapping and relying on the outside linebackers for a pass rush the way the Titans of yore relied on 4-3 defensive ends for a pass rush. There’s also a lot less emphasis on Horton’s preferred press-man technique in the secondary. LeBeau and Horton’s long association means the changes might not be quite as dramatic as this makes it seem, but another transition it will be. (Tom Gower)


NFC North

Chicago Bears: The defense’s most interesting arrival is Pernell McPhee, a versatile 6-foot-3, 280-pounder who broke out with 7.5 sacks last year as a part-time player in Baltimore. The Bears also signed Sam Acho away from Arizona, giving them another edge rusher with 3-4 experience. They join Jared Allen, Willie Young, and Lamarr Houston to give Chicago a deep collection of pass-rushers. Then the Bears bolstered their defensive line by using a second-round selection on Eddie Goldman of Florida State. If you liked him going into the draft, you thought he was a natural nose tackle with the versatility to play other than straight up. If you did not, you saw a player whose performance did not consistently match up to his strength and who did all his work at, rather than on the other side of, the line of scrimmage. Goldman has a good chance to start, as does Jarvis Jenkins, who brings 3-4 experience from Washington. (Tom Gower)


Detroit Lions: Joique Bell is still around, but it appears Detroit is ready to scale back some of his workload. His best season was 2012, when he finished with a 12.6 percent DVOA that would have ranked seventh among running backs had he accrued over 100 carries. Perhaps the point is that he didn’t reach that threshold. The first two days of the Lions draft clearly targeted ground-game upgrades. Detroit traded in its old Reggie Bush model for the shiny Ameer Abdullah update, while also concocting a trade with Denver that netted them interior linemen Laken Tomlinson and Manny Ramirez. The Lions ditched durable but mediocre starters Dominic Raiola and Rob Sims this offseason, the two players who led the team in blown blocks last year. Between Tomlinson, Ramirez, Larry Warford, and Travis Swanson, the Lions now have a deep interior rotation, especially if Tomlinson and/or Swanson prove capable of handling a full-time starting job on their first try. The Lions ranked just 26th in both second-level yards and open-field yards after placing ninth and 17th, respectively, in each category in 2013. Part of that probably stemmed from both Bell and Bush playing through various injuries last season, but the line also didn’t generate a whole lot of interior push. With more talent inside, Detroit should get a better read on what kind of backs Bell and Abdullah really are. (Sterling Xie)

Green Bay Packers: Either Damarious Randall or Quentin Rollins (or both) will need to be reliable contributors for the Packers to reach their ultimate goal. At the season’s outset, former nickelback Casey Hayward will likely be Williams’s replacement as a starter. But it’s likely that the increasing prevalence of three- and four-receiver sets in the NFL will force the Packers to play a lot of sub packages. What will those packages look like? Will the inexperience of Randall and Rollins force Hayward to stay outside with backup safety Micah Hyde as the slot corner in a nickel package? Who are the nickel linebackers? Can Sam Barrington or fourth-round Michigan rookie Jake Ryan be reliable enough in sub packages to let Clay Matthews continue to play primarily as an edge rusher, or will the Packers need him more elsewhere? Just who are the Packers’ 11 best defensive players, anyway? More importantly, who will they be when Green Bay’s real season begins, in early January? (Tom Gower)

Minnesota Vikings: We cannot dismiss Teddy Bridgewater’s improvement with his greatest weakness, his deep-ball accuracy. Over his first seven starts, Bridgewater compiled 77 DYAR on passes we charted as deep, with three touchdowns to two interceptions. Conversely, during the last five starts, Bridgewater garnered 235 DYAR on deep passes and tossed three touchdowns with no picks. There’s danger of reading too much into this, as we’re focusing on a small sample within a small sample. The good stretch came over a grand total of 18 passes. And though two of his five opponents were top-10 pass defenses by DVOA (Detroit and Carolina), his touchdowns conveniently came against the other teams, one each against the Jets, Dolphins, and Bears. However, apart from his apparently Lilliputian hand size, Bridgewater’s deep ball was the most popular criticism during his pre-draft browbeating. It’s only fair to point out that progress, while also recognizing that he did not suddenly morph into John Elway. Moreover, Bridgewater’s deep-ball success coincided with Charles Johnson stealing a starting spot from Cordarrelle Patterson, who caught just three of his 10 deep targets. With speed merchant Mike Wallace arriving via offseason trade, one could reasonably argue that the combination of Bridgewater’s development and receiver upgrades should help him sustain something close to the strong deep-ball form he exhibited at the end of 2014. (Sterling Xie)


NFC West

Arizona Cardinals: With so many question marks on the field, we’ll have to look to the sidelines for Arizona’s best hope in 2015. Remember who was in charge of that 2012 Colts team that went 11-5 despite finishing 25th in DVOA? In two seasons as Arizona’s head coach and one as the interim boss in Indianapolis, Bruce Arians—let’s not sugarcoat this—has absolutely kicked our ass. His teams have won 11, 10, and 11 games (including two wins when Chuck Pagano was still on the sidelines for the Colts) when we gave them mean projections of 6.4, 6.4, and 7.3. And while most teams that win a bunch of close games in one season tend to lose those close games the following year, Arians may be the rare coach who bucks that trend. His 2013 Cardinals went 5-3 in close games, while the 2012 Colts went 8-0 after he took over for Pagano. Prior to his time in Indianapolis, Arians ran the offense for five years in Pittsburgh, and those Steelers teams went 24-18 in one-score games. (Since he left, Pittsburgh’s close-game record has slipped to 13-14.) That’s eight full NFL seasons for Arians as an offensive coordinator or head coach (or, sometimes, both), and those teams have won nearly twice as many close games as they have lost, going 43-23 in such contests. It’s easy to write off six close games in 2014 as a fluke of small sample size, but the 66 games under Arians’s belt seem a lot more concrete. (Vincent Verhei)

St. Louis Rams: The Rams are going all-in as a running-and-defense team as the rest of the league is going pass-wacky like never before. Granted, the Seahawks have shown that you can still build a champion around great defense and a brilliant running game, but even they recognized this offseason that a stud receiver like Jimmy Graham would make their offense better. There’s no Jimmy Graham in St. Louis; there isn’t even a Doug Baldwin. The Rams’ fate in 2015 will hinge almost entirely on Todd Gurley’s impact as a rookie, and their front seven destroying other teams’ game plans. Can a roster built this way be successful in this era, or is this a dated strategy? (Vincent Verhei)


San Francisco 49ers: This team now has an owner who can’t be trusted, a GM who can’t draft good players, a head coach with almost no experience, and coordinators who have never successfully coordinated anything on either side of the ball. Maybe that’s why many of their good players are deciding to retire rather than show up for work. Granted, Justin Smith is 36 this year, and Patrick Willis was forced out by bad feet. But Chris Borland and Anthony Davis are in their mid-20s, and both walked away from the game, citing health concerns over long-term concussion damage. To be fair, Jake Locker and Jason Worilds also shockingly retired this offseason, and neither of them played in San Francisco. Still, you’ve got to think the toxic environment around the team played a part in some of these decisions. And on top of the retirements, the 49ers lost four other defensive players who started at least 10 games last year. It’s the second straight offseason they turned over two of their top three cornerbacks. (Vincent Verhei)

Seattle Seahawks: The only question concerning Jimmy Graham’s impact on the Seahawks is how many opportunities he’ll get in the passing game. Since Russell Wilson was drafted in 2012, the Seahawks have the most runs and the fewest passes of any team in the league. It’s almost certain, though, that they’ll be more balanced in 2015. The Graham acquisition cost Seattle not just a top blocker in Max Unger, but also a draft pick which they could have used to replace him. The offensive line hasn’t really been a strength in Seattle, and now it’s clearly their biggest weakness. There’s also the question of how many more violent collisions Marshawn Lynch can endure—he’ll be 29 this year, and he has a league-high 1,383 carries since he was traded to Seattle in 2010. What happens if he breaks down this year? Christine Michael and Robert Turbin have flashed potential, but they still have fewer than 300 NFL carries between them, and it’s impossible to accurately predict how either would fare with a full-time workload. And then there’s Graham himself. Seattle didn’t pay the cost to get him just so he could set the edge on zone reads. They won’t be passing as frequently as Graham’s old team did, but this offense figures to revolve around Russell Wilson more in 2015 than ever before. (Vincent Verhei)


NFC South

Atlanta Falcons: New offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who is used to creating running games around bad quarterbacks after the degradation of Robert Griffin and his bit part in a Brian Hoyer/Johnny Manziel joint last year, is doing his part to praise Matt Ryan. He’s already called him a good fit for the outside-zone, run-action plays that have been staples of Shanahan’s playbook. After working with Hoyer and Manziel last year, Ryan probably looks like Peyton Manning to Shanahan. Shanahan couldn’t build much of a running game for the Browns offense, but a couple of nice mid-round running back prospects in Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman should have more room to work with in Atlanta than Isaiah Crowell and company had in Cleveland. (Rivers McCown)


Carolina Panthers: General manager Dave Gettleman has put together a roster that is unlike any other. The Panthers believe in their low-cost systems, especially specific positions like tackle and cornerback, and emphasize mismatches over the middle of the field. They have a quarterback who can effectively run the ball. It’s not exactly a grand experiment, but they’ve created enough unique ways of winning one-on-one battles that this roster stands out in today’s NFL. (Rivers McCown)

New Orleans Saints: The best way for the Saints to take the pressure off of Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston is by replacing what Kenny Stills and Jimmy Graham offered to the offense. A cast of receivers will be vying for Stills’s spot during training camp and the preseason, but Graham has an obvious heir. Josh Hill is a third-year player who measures 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, just slightly smaller than Graham’s size of 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds. Despite his impressive size, Hill is comfortable in space. He can stretch the field down the seam or catch the ball in space before turning to run with it downfield. His athleticism proved to be very valuable in a limited sample last season. Eight of Hill’s 14 receptions last year came after play-action, and those eight receptions accounted for four of his five touchdowns. The Saints asked him to leak out the backside of hard play fakes so he was uncovered and immediately in space. They also had him running deep crosses or seam routes that made the best use of his linear athleticism. To fully replace Graham, Hill will need to prove that he can consistently make receptions on these types of plays, and also prove himself at the catch point. Graham was able to use his size against smaller players by fending off defenders with his strength before attacking the ball in the air. Hill has the size, but not every big player understands how to use his size like Graham. (Cian Fahey)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Betting on No. 1 overall quarterbacks to fail is usually a losing proposition; eight of the 12 chosen in the past two decades made at least one Pro Bowl. Nevertheless, there is enough smoke in Jameis Winston’s stats to be concerned. An appropriately cautious reading of the numbers would put Winston at the low end of the first-overall quarterback range, far below the Peyton tier and even somewhat below the Eli tier. Winston is worthy of optimism, just less than most No. 1 picks. (Andrew Healy)


NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: La’el Collins essentially gives the Cowboys a fourth first-round lineman in five years, this one at the cost of just $1.6 million over three years and one late-night phone courtship. Collins fits the Cowboys offensive line so well that it’s scary. The Cowboys need competition at left guard, where Ronald Leary is the line’s weak link, and the team also needs an eventual upgrade over re-signed right tackle Doug Free. Collins, whose scouting report downside was an inability to play left tackle, can start his career at guard, then slide out to replace Free. (Mike Tanier)

New York Giants: If Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara, and Trumaine McBride stay healthy, the Giants can get by on defense with inexperienced safeties. If Jon Beason has one of his healthy leap years at middle linebacker, the Giants will be in good shape there, too. Of course, it’s assumed that projections for all teams come with the “if everyone stays mostly healthy” qualifier. For the Giants, we’re forced to go hoarse repeating it, all the while wondering if there’s even a remote chance that it will happen. (Mike Tanier)


Philadelphia Eagles: It’s best to look at this offseason as neither an act of pure genius or sheer madness, but as a combination of the two. Chip Kelly was an inexperienced trader and general manager with a skeletal staff whose duties were still being redefined when free agency began. The LeSean McCoy trade caught even Rex Ryan by surprise, the Frank Gore signing was botched, and flying both DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews into Philly at the same time was a lapse of professionalism that might have ended badly. Some of the organizational and procedural niceties slipped past the Eagles as Kelly tried to do more in one offseason than any general manager has ever done, despite a complete lack of experience: remember that Kelly was never even an NFL assistant before 2013, so some of the basics of scheduling meetings and framing transaction announcements were new to him. Kelly had a plan at every position, but the running back plan clearly got a little bungled. (Mike Tanier)

Washington Redskins: Everyone is now relying on everyone else in the Redskins organization, not to compete for a wild card, but to just claw out of the latest sinkhole. Robert Griffin III needs Jay Gruden to help him stabilize his mechanics, draw up some viable game plans, and ditch the public frenemy routine. Gruden needs Griffin to make gains he has spent two seasons failing to make. Gruden and Griffin need Bill Callahan to upgrade the line, and Callahan needs Brandon Scherff to mature as quickly as Cowboys rookies did. Gruden needs Joe Barry to coach up the defense; Barry needs Scot McCloughan’s low-cost veterans to buy in. Everyone needs McCloughan to be as clever a talent evaluator as advertised and—let’s be blunt about a guy who wasn’t exactly toeing the 12-stepper line in that ESPN The Magazine article—to stay on the wagon. McCloughan needs his coach and quarterback to be better versions of themselves or else no one will care who he discovered in the sixth round. And all these people need Dan Snyder to stay the heck out of the way. (Mike Tanier)


Excerpted from the Football Outsiders Almanac, which can be purchased here as a PDF, or here in print. The almanac was written by Aaron Schatz, Vincent Verhei, Cian Fahey, Tom Gower, Andrew Healy, Scott Kacsmar, Rivers McCown, Chad Peltier, Christopher Price, Mike Tanier, Robert Weintraub, Sterling Xie, Bill Connelly, and Brian Fremeau.

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