NFL Snaps Gained and Lost in 2020

Earlier today former NFL executive and current ESPN analyst Mike Tannenbaum put out a list of the teams with the most returning snaps this year with the important thought of how this is extremely important this year compared to most because of the lack of normal OTAs and training camp work this season. Usually every year we do a few looks at this same data and while the numbers may differ slightly between outlets they should be relatively close. So first let’s look at the amount of offensive and defensive snaps returning this year per team, broken down by unit

TeamOffenseDefenseOverall
Bills96.5%80.6%88.6%
Steelers82.4%85.5%84.0%
Chiefs86.4%81.7%83.9%
Colts88.7%77.9%83.4%
Buccaneers71.5%91.4%81.3%
Dolphins79.2%82.8%81.0%
49ers74.3%88.4%81.0%
Texans84.1%78.2%81.0%
Saints81.0%79.8%80.4%
Raiders96.2%63.5%79.6%
Packers79.4%78.7%79.0%
Eagles87.2%69.1%78.9%
Cardinals77.5%79.9%78.7%
Jaguars87.1%68.4%77.9%
Ravens81.6%73.3%77.6%
Broncos75.6%78.8%77.3%
Chargers70.5%81.7%75.9%
Jets62.1%84.9%74.1%
Titans78.5%69.5%73.9%
Bears84.5%63.2%73.8%
Rams87.4%58.0%73.1%
Falcons76.9%68.3%72.9%
Vikings85.1%61.7%72.9%
Bengals75.4%67.6%71.6%
Football Team64.1%77.6%71.5%
Giants73.8%68.6%71.2%
Browns78.6%63.2%71.0%
Lions79.4%60.7%69.9%
Patriots65.5%74.2%69.5%
Seahawks65.8%71.3%68.5%
Cowboys71.5%61.0%66.3%
Panthers58.4%35.2%46.9%
NFL Avg78.3%72.6%75.5%

The numbers on offense I think are the most interesting because that is really the driver for success these days. At the top are the Bills and Raiders pretty much bringing everyone back this year. While you can argue how effective those two teams offenses are they should show great continuity. The Colts rank third but that is a bit misleading since their starting QB is heading to the bench and being replaced by Philip Rivers so that is a major new part. The Rams still rank very high which should be helpful as they try to retool the team, followed closely by the Eagles, Jaguars, and Chiefs. The Jaguars were pretty bad last year so in their case I’m not sure continuity will be a good thing but much will depend on their QB development.

The Panthers will have a totally different look as the only team with under 60% returning snaps on offense as they have basically blown up the team. With a new QB this could be a slow start. The Jets will be getting a major offensive facelift as well with a ton of new offensive linemen and wide receiver. They can not afford a slow start so they have to figure a way through this. Washington has just 64% returning while the Patriots and Seahawks are around 66%. The Seahawks are pretty much all offensive linemen and some may say that the team is better for that. Overall the league will bring back about 78% of their snaps per team.

On defense the Bucs are the one team bringing back over 90% of their defense. If a year together makes that group better and the Brady led offense is less mistake prone while still being productive they could be in very good shape. San Francisco will be returning most of their top rated defense as will the Steelers. The Steelers are the team overall that will show the most balance between offense and defense. The Jets defense played well last year and is relatively unchanged as is the Dolphins defense.

The Panthers are just a total gut job on defense returning under 40% of their snaps from last year. The Rams who will return a lot on offense are in a totally different phase with the defense with just 58% of a return. Detroit, Dallas, and Minnesota make up the bottom five though there are plenty of other teams close to them.

Breaking Down Veteran and Rookie Reliance

Here we can look at how many new snaps were brought in by team in free agency, trade, etc…and how much those snaps would have equated to based on last years team snaps. The second column looks at how much of a shortage of snaps there is between veteran player losses and experienced player additions and looks at how much reliance the team will likely require of rookies. Two things to note here. If the numbers are negative it means that a team has acquired more snaps than they needed based on last years totals. Those teams can slice and dice the roster as they see fit and change roles to fit snaps. The second note is that while I am labelling the 2nd number to be exclusive to rookies it could be overstating that if the team signed a veteran who was injured last year and is expecting a big uptick in snaps. First the offense.

TeamNew Experienced AdditionsNo Experience Reliance
Jets34.8%3.0%
Panthers34.3%7.3%
Football Team32.8%3.1%
Bears28.1%-12.6%
Seahawks25.6%8.5%
Raiders24.4%-20.6%
Dolphins22.0%-1.2%
Saints20.4%-1.4%
Browns20.1%1.4%
Bills19.2%-15.7%
Broncos18.6%5.9%
Texans16.5%-0.5%
Chargers16.2%13.3%
Cowboys15.3%13.2%
Cardinals15.3%7.3%
Falcons14.1%9.1%
Chiefs12.0%1.6%
Colts11.5%-0.2%
Lions11.2%9.4%
Buccaneers9.6%18.9%
Giants8.8%17.3%
Patriots8.0%26.5%
Ravens7.1%11.3%
Jaguars6.9%6.0%
Packers6.6%14.0%
Steelers5.9%11.7%
49ers4.5%21.2%
Vikings3.9%11.0%
Bengals2.6%22.0%
Eagles2.2%10.6%
Titans1.1%20.4%
Rams0.0%12.6%
NFL Average14.4%7.3%

The Jets, Panthers and Football Team are more or less going with a big veteran approach with a lot of signings to bridge the gap while they develop rookies. The Bears and Seahawks also both had major free agent changes to the team. The teams on the high end will expect fast results and if they don’t get them will likely be set up for a bad year or two. On the other end of the spectrum the Rams basically used no resources on free agent adds on offense nor did the Titans, Eagles, Bengals, Vikings, or 49ers.

The Patriots numbers are skewed by having some QBs with experience that were hurt last year but overall they are going to need rookie type players to do something this year on offense. The Bengals will hope to get AJ Green back on the year but still will need rookie help. The 49ers, Titans, Bucs, and Giants will be the ones that look more at rookies to potentially help this year. The Raiders, Bills, and Bears are the teams that added a lot in free agency and they are the ones that will have the least need to rely on rookie contributors. My thought is when you have a good deal of need to rely on rookies you could be a surprise offense if players develop quickly and exceed expectations or you could be completely on the other end of the spectrum and be terrible.

Here are how things shake out on defense

TeamNew Experienced AdditionsNo Experience Reliance
Raiders47.0%-10.5%
Lions36.7%2.6%
Bengals32.8%-0.4%
Jaguars31.0%0.6%
Cowboys29.3%9.7%
Bills29.0%-9.6%
Eagles27.7%3.2%
Dolphins27.2%-9.9%
Panthers25.0%39.9%
Giants25.0%6.4%
Browns24.5%12.3%
Chargers24.4%-6.1%
Colts23.0%-0.9%
Cardinals22.1%-2.0%
Bears18.2%18.6%
Broncos17.9%3.3%
Football Team16.7%5.7%
Titans16.3%14.3%
Falcons13.9%17.8%
Seahawks13.6%15.2%
Saints12.3%7.9%
Rams12.3%29.7%
Ravens12.2%14.5%
Jets10.7%4.4%
49ers10.6%1.0%
Patriots7.8%18.0%
Texans7.6%14.3%
Vikings4.8%33.5%
Steelers4.6%9.9%
Chiefs4.1%14.2%
Packers2.4%18.9%
Buccaneers0.0%8.6%
NFL Average18.5%8.9%

The team that stands out on defense as being all in and then some on veteran additions is the Raiders. They brought in players that could make up 47% of their snaps on defense last year, way more than they lost to free agency. Seeing how they are bringing back their offense and added so many experienced players to the defense this has to be an all of nothing kind of year with some big changes to the veterans on the roster if they don’t make the playoffs. The Lions continue rebuilding with more veteran players on defense adding in nearly 37% of last years defensive snaps. The Bengals going real young on offense went in the other direction on defense trying to use veterans to fill the gaps. The Jaguars added veterans as well which is a surprise as a team that bad should be turned over more IMO. The Bucs added no notable vets nor did the Packers, Chiefs, Steelers, and Vikings.

The Panthers are going need rookies to account for nearly 40% of their defensive snaps this year. That is a huge number. In general their whole defense is new faces but the roster turnover on this side is really something different. This has potential to be a mess with no practice time. I’ve talked all year about how Minnesota may have seen themselves getting a little long in the tooth and they will be looking to use their rookies to reset the clock on the team and the Rams are doing something similar as they build a defense in a whole new vision. Both may need to win shootout style games if the defenses don’t gel quickly. The Packers, Bears, and Patriots will also need potential contributions from younger players.

Questions about this article? Reach Jason Fitzgerald on Twitter at @Jason_OTC