NFL Analysis


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NFL's Biggest Roster Questions Entering 2024 Season

New York Jets edge Bryce Huff
New York Jets linebacker Bryce Huff (47) sacks Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) in the second half at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 24, 2023. (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)

The 2024 NFL Draft is in the books and the biggest free agents have signed, so we have a good idea of what NFL rosters will look like for the coming season. While many teams acquired players to strengthen weaknesses, they couldn't all fill every hole or fix every problem.

As we head into the offseason’s next stage, let’s examine the units with the biggest holes or questions for the 2024 season.

All data is per TruMedia unless noted otherwise.

Jacksonville Jaguars’ Secondary

As a whole, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense was fine in 2023. The unit didn’t take the leap forward some hoped for, but the Jaguars ranked 11th in EPA per play and success rate. Surprisingly, Jacksonville was seventh in EPA per dropback, but the team ranked 28th in success rate against the pass. 

The Jaguars heavily relied on big plays to make that kind of impact but were inconsistent from down to down. Many of those big plays were caused by the impact of the pass rush. With pressure, the Jaguars were sixth in EPA per play and fourth in success rate. On plays without pressure, Jacksonville dropped to 17th in EPA per play and 28th in success rate. 

Without pressure, the secondary was under a lot of stress and could not hold up. It’s unclear if the secondary is any better heading into the 2024 season. There will be a better system with defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen in place, but that could be putting a lot of faith in the scheme to get the most out of the personnel.

Tyson Campbell played at a Pro Bowl and borderline All-Pro level in 2022 but was up and down in 11 games last season, when he ranked 131st among cornerbacks in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap. Darious Williams played well on the outside, but he was released earlier this offseason. His replacement is Ronald Darby, a 30-year-old veteran who is one of the best examples of the variance of coverage success from season to season.

Darnell Savage is one of Jacksonville’s big free agent signings and is expected to play more in the slot. He only played in the slot for about 18 percent of his snaps in the past three seasons, with a high of 27 percent in 2022. From the slot in 2022, he was 21st in yards allowed per coverage snap in the slot among 29 safeties with at least 100 coverage snaps in the slot.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) leads the offense against the Baltimore Ravens in the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. (Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports.)

Miami Dolphins’ Offensive Line

The Miami Dolphins had to fill several holes this offseason without much cap space. Given the circumstances, the Dolphins did well, for the most part. 

Veteran additions such as Kendall Fuller, Jordyn Brooks, Jordan Poyer, Jonnu Smith and Odell Beckham Jr. will provide short-term answers at some spots.

However, the offensive line was not a top priority.

The Dolphins lost Robert Hunt to a massive deal with the Carolina Panthers, and Connor Williams remains a free agent. The Dolphins signed Aaron Brewer to take over at center and used a second-round pick on Patrick Paul to take over at tackle eventually.

Part of Miami’s offense scheme is used to cover up deficiencies on the offensive line. With the quickest time to throw in the league, the Dolphins don’t often get the chance to give up pressure — Tua Tagovailoa was the league’s least-pressured quarterback last season. 

But things come undone when the offense has to rely on longer-developing plays.

Per ESPN’s pass block win rate, which measures plays up to 2.5 seconds after the snap (but does not count passes thrown before 2.5 seconds), Miami ranked 31st in 2023. That disconnect has contributed to the offense's struggles in the season’s latter stages and against better competition when there is a more significant need for a more traditional straight-dropback passing game. 

Injuries have also been an issue for this line.

Austin Jackson was the only Dolphins lineman to play more than 800 snaps last season, with Liam Eichenberg, who bounced between both guard spots and eventually settled at center, as the only other player with more than 600.

While the Dolphins have added depth at receiver and running back to ensure those positions do not deplete due to injury, that is not the case with the offensive line. So the scheme could be asked to do more of the heavy lifting this season. 

Los Angeles Chargers’ Wide Receivers

Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are gone. Enter… Ladd McConkey and D.J. Chark. 

The Los Angeles Chargers’ passing game will be a work in progress in the first year under Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman. That won’t make life easy on Justin Herbert.

It’s not surprising the Chargers looked to the offensive line with the fifth overall pick and passed over Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze. Part of making Herbert’s life easier is keeping him upright and protecting him from the big hits he’s taken in his career — behind an offensive line that has not always held up. Los Angeles' first-round pick, Joe Alt, should be able to provide that, even while switching to the right side.

But the receiving options are still underwhelming when Herbert is standing in the pocket.

Quentin Johnston was a disappointing first-round pick last season. He ran a route on 68.1 percent of the Chargers’ dropbacks but earned just a 10.1 percent target share with a sub-1.0 yards per route run figure.

McConkey was a second-round pick and could be this team’s leading target by default. He’s just 6-foot and 186 pounds, which could place him in the slot more often than not, but his quick twitch and short-area quickness should get him open off the line. That could make him a consistent first read for Herbert.

Behind those two are passable deep threats in Chark and Josh Palmer, but neither option will have a high-volume impact. With the Panthers, Chark had usage similar to Johnston's last season. Chark was on the field for 70.9 percent of the Panthers’ dropbacks and had a 12.4 percent target share without much competition for quality targets.

This Los Angeles group lacks a true No. 1 receiver. Even relying on the group’s depth would need the best-case scenario outcomes for the players involved. It will be a tricky situation to navigate. There can be some flashes throughout the season, but getting reliable down-to-down play could be asking too much of this group and Herbert.

Atlanta Falcons linebacker Arnold Ebiketie (17) had a high pressure rate in limited playing time during the 2023 season. (Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports.)

Atlanta Falcons’ Defensive Line

It was widely believed that the Atlanta Falcons would use the eighth overall pick on a defender. Of course, that was not the case. 

Atlanta added linemen throughout the draft, including Ruke Orhorhoro in the second round, Bralen Trice in the third and Brandon Dorlus in the fourth. But that doesn’t completely fix a defensive front whose leading pressure creator last season was Calais Campbell.

Atlanta was 25th in pressure rate last season, and a consistent pass rush has escaped the Falcons for years. In the past three seasons, this team ranked 32nd in pressure and sack rate.

Arnold Ebiketie and Lorenzo Carter are penciled in as the two starting edge rushers on this defense. Both are athletic players who have not completely translated that into effective pass-rush skills. Ebiketie, a second-round pick in 2022, had a high-pressure rate last season but was mostly just on the field in passing situations.

In Year 3, he’ll have to play a more well-rounded game to stay on the field. He played just 33.7 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in 2023 despite appearing in all 17 games.

Trice, out of Washington, is similar, with more pass-rush than edge-setting skills. However, Trice’s pass rush comes more from technique and hand usage, which could allow him to make an immediate impact without relying on athleticism.

Something needs to be figured out on the edge to help the line's interior featuring Grady Jarrett and David Onyemata. Jarrett suffered a torn ACL in November.

Even before the injury, he did not have the same pass-rush impact (just an 8.7 percent pressure rate), while opposing offensive lines could focus on him without much of a threat elsewhere.

All of this will be challenging for new coach Raheem Morris to scheme around. However, he led a Rams defense last season that got impressive production from rookies Kobie Turner and Byron Young.