Football fireworks: Five NFL teams that could be more explosive in 2024

Football fireworks: Five NFL teams that could be more explosive in 2024


The NFL world is typically dormant around the Fourth of July, but all teams dream that they’ll be setting off their own fireworks soon enough.

Igniting an explosive offense in today’s landscape is plenty tough, with leaguewide scoring down (43.5 points per game in 2023) for a third consecutive year. Whether it’s protection problems, skill-position issues or simply inadequate quarterback play, not every team has the parts to reel off big gains on any given down. But the offseason brings renewed hope for almost every franchise, and several could be poised to be more dynamic.

Here are five NFL teams that could be more explosive in 2024:

Kansas City Chiefs

No one could blame Andy Reid if he insisted on adhering to the offensive approach that produced the NFL’s first back-to-back Super Bowl champions in 19 years. Standing pat isn’t Reid’s style, however, and the Chiefs coach is already pressing his star pupil to be more aggressive attacking downfield. 

“I think we’ve done a great job of mastering the intermediate and short stuff, but we want to get back to having that part of the offense as well,” Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes said in May. “Coach Reid is really pushing us to push it down the field. It’s hard to do against our defense, but we’re trying to make it happen.”

That should come as a welcome reversal for Mahomes, who has dialed back the deep shots since his 2018 MVP debut, with defenses loading up to deny him such looks. A lackluster receiving corps was partially responsible for Mahomes having the lowest average intended air yards of his career in 2023 (6.6). Marquise Brown and rookie first-round pick Xavier Worthy immediately change the complexion of that group with their speed, though each will need to prove trustworthy enough to Mahomes to be targeted frequently. 

One potential issue: Left tackle could be somewhat of a sore spot, with either rookie second-rounder Kingsley Suamataia or 2023 third-round pick Wanya Morris taking over for Donovan Smith. Still, with the rest of the line in good shape, the Chiefs could be more scintillating this season with Mahomes potentially able to utilize the entire field. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Despite having one of the NFL’s best deep passers in Trevor Lawrence, the Jaguars haven’t been able to string together a consistent downfield attack. Lawrence had the third-quickest time to throw (2.51 seconds) of any quarterback last season, according to Next Gen Stats, and frequently settled for underneath target Evan Engram, who led all tight ends with 143 targets but averaged just 8.4 yards per catch. 

“You have to be explosive in this league,” offensive coordinator Press Taylor said in May. “You know, it’s tough enough being consistently efficient. We want to be able to have that explosive element to us.”

Now, however, Jacksonville has the opportunity to open things up in the passing game. While losing leading option Calvin Ridley was a blow to the receiving corps, free-agent signing Gabe Davis (6-2, 225 pounds) and first-round pick Brian Thomas Jr. (6-3, 209 pounds) give Lawrence the big-bodied deep threats he lacked on the outside last season. Meanwhile, Engram and slot target Christian Kirk can continue to do much of the heavy lifting for the unit in the underneath and intermediate areas. 

Whether the Jaguars can fully harness Lawrence’s big-play prowess, however, might depend on whether the offensive line can afford the quarterback sufficient protection. The interior could be in for a boost with the signing of center Mitch Morse and re-signing of left guard Ezra Cleveland, who now will have a full offseason to grasp Taylor’s system after joining Jacksonville in a midseason trade.

Carolina Panthers

Carolina’s offense was in such dire straits last offseason that the deep passing game was almost shut down entirely. With receivers seldom gaining separation and Bryce Young taking a league-worst 62 sacks, there was simply no window open for taking shots downfield. In addition to tying for the worst scoring offense (13.9 points per game), Carolina also had the fewest pass plays of 20 or more yards (31). 

While the Panthers can’t depend on an abundance of big plays from the outset of Dave Canales’ first season as head coach, changes in scheme and personnel could provide a spark. At first blush, an attack likely to be centered on rookie running back Jonathon Brooks and the ground game might not seem like a group with much big-play potential. And while Canales has emphasized Young needing to get the ball out quickly, expect plenty of play-action shots to help the Panthers pick up yards in chunks. 

It’s all part of a holistic approach to ease the burden on the 2023 No. 1 pick. The first – and most expensive – steps of that process were reaching big-money deals with offensive guards Robert Hunt and Damien Lewis to safeguard Young from the interior pressure that repeatedly threw him off last season. Remaking the receiving corps was next, with Diontae Johnson arriving to help keep the chains moving and Xavier Legette providing the downfield threat after averaging 17.7 yards per catch in his breakout season at South Carolina. While cohesion could be hard to come by in the early going given all the changes, Carolina should still at least be able to keep defenses honest with the threat of long gains.

Indianapolis Colts 

When Indianapolis selected Anthony Richardson with the No. 4 pick in last year’s draft, many envisioned how the dual-threat quarterback would combine with Jonathan Taylor to fluster defenses. But after Taylor missed the first four games of the season due to an ankle injury, the rookie signal-caller enjoyed all of two snaps with the star running back before suffering a shoulder injury that would sideline him for the rest of the season.  Now, however, Indianapolis can go back to envisioning what can kind of havoc that backfield can unleash.

“Combining those guys in the backfield is going to be big for us,” Colts coach Shane Steichen said in January. “Obviously, we’ll get those reps in the spring and training camp and gel and create that chemistry with those two back there. We’ve got a chance obviously with both those guys in the backfield to be very explosive.”

Richardson’s rare combination of size (6-4, 244 pounds) and speed make him supremely difficult to bring down in the open field, so defenses will be hard-pressed to account for runs by both him and Taylor. What could put the attack over the top, however, is Richardson’s rare arm strength. With one of the NFL’s best offensive lines setting the tone, this unit could blow past the 45 pass plays of 20-plus yards it recorded last season, especially if Alec Pierce or rookie second-rounder Adonai Mitchell steps up as a deep threat.

New York Jets

Gang Green gets here essentially by default after things unraveled in the opener due to Aaron Rodgers‘ torn Achilles. Obviously, Rodgers’ potential return could dramatically transform an outfit that ranked 31st in yards per play (4.3) as it continued to be dogged by poor play behind center.

But while the Jets’ hopes will once again hinge on Rodgers, several offseason reinforcements provided reason for additional optimism. In 2023, the Jets had 13 different offensive line combinations – and nine players logging snaps at more than one position – as injuries ravaged their front. General manager Joe Douglas brought on three veteran starters – left tackle Tyron Smith, right tackle Morgan Moses and left guard John Simpson – before drafting first-round offensive tackle Olu Fashanu to further enhance depth. If the group stays healthy, this could be one of the league’s most improved position groups – and one capable of affording Rodgers a lot of leeway to take chances downfield. 

Full star turns could be awaiting others on the Jets’ offense. While Garrett Wilson has eclipsed 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, Rodgers could help the receiver put last season’s frustrations behind him. Breece Hall also could be in for a marquee role after pushing through last season’s recovery from a torn ACL to affirm his status as a bell-cow back.

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