Browns, Steelers offenses should improve

June, 20, 2012
6/20/12
4:00
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Two AFC North offenses are projected to make the biggest improvement in the NFL Insider, according to ESPN Insider KC Joyner. One will surprise you, but the other will not.

The Cleveland Browns, who ranked 29th in the NFL on offense, top Joyner's list of most-improved offenses. The key addition was running back Trent Richardson, the third overall pick in the draft.

You'll need a subscription to read the entire Insider piece, but here's a portion of what Joyner had to say about the Browns' offense:
In the ground game, Cleveland's run blockers finished 14th in the good blocking percentage stat (good blocking being roughly defined as when the offense doesn't allow the defense to do anything to disrupt a rushing play), but former starting running back Peyton Hillis didn't take full advantage of the solid blocking, ranking dead last in the league with a 5.7-yard mark in the good blocking yards per attempt (GBYPA) metric. Richardson posted a 9.7 GBYPA against Alabama's toughest opponents last year, and with Cleveland's solid blocking should be able to rack up a 7.8 GBYPA in the pros (which is league average in this metric). That would add 2.1 yards per rush on approximately 125 good blocking plays, or 263 additional ground yards.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were tied for second with the Indianapolis Colts in Joyner's rankings, even though the Steelers' offense finished 12th in the NFL last season. What elevates the Steelers is the drafting of guard David DeCastro and tackle Mike Adams with their first two picks.

This is Joyner's explanation on why Pittsburgh should improve:
Pittsburgh passers threw a total of just 65 stretch vertical passes (those thrown 20-plus yards downfield), a total that ranked 18th in the NFL. If the additions of DeCastro and Adams can shore up the pass blocking, Ben Roethlisberger should be able to improve his stretch vertical attempts (passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield) total to the 80-90 range. If the Steelers gain 15 yards per attempt on those aerials, it would equal between 1,200-1,350 stretch vertical passing yards, a big leap from last year's 787 yards on deeper throws.

The offense definitely has to play catch-up with the defense in this division. Last season, all four defenses in the AFC North ranked in the top 10. Only one offense in the division -- the Steelers -- ranked higher than 15th in the league.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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