Originally posted on Fantasy Sports Locker Room  |  Last updated 6/27/14

As much as we draft fantasy football players on their talent, the right context plays a significant role in their production as well. For example, if Jamaal Charles found himself in a 60/40 carry distribution, or was expected to be removed in goal-to-go situations we would view him much differently than we did last year. Beyond the obvious, play calling has a distribution. Similarly, if Charles worked with an 80/20 split on a team that was heavily tilted toward the pass, he may be less productive than that same 60/40 breakdown on a ground and pound offense. With that in mind, we’ll take a look around the league at all the faces in new places at head coach and offensive coordinator and what impact these 2014 NFL coaching changes is likely to have on a team’s offensive philosophy. There is a lot to cover – 13 of the leagues 32 teams will have a new coach leading the offense this season. For the purposes of this piece, we’ll be looking at high level player analysis only with a focus more on the overall scheme expected to be employed – you’re free to draw your own conclusions, or stay tuned as the offseason progresses for player specific elements. [NFC Coaching Changes Edition coming soon] Baltimore Ravens – Offensive Coordinator, Gary Kubiak (previously Houston Texans Head Coach) Count this as the first of several zone blocking references in this piece. Expect to see the principals transplanted from Houston to Baltimore under Gary Kubiak. It worked well with a rusher like Arian Foster, whose great vision allows him to hit the right holes and take advantage of a stretched defense. Whether that plays out effectively in Baltimore or not this season remains to be seen, but we’ll get to that. One hallmark of Kubiak’s career has been his ability to adjust to what defenses show him, and to create mismatches by moving players around the field. In 2012, Andre Johnson expressed as much via ESPN.com: He does a good job of game-planning against things they see on film, finding little mismatches here and there. For me, he’s helped my career out a lot. Just moving me around. Before he got here, I just pretty much stayed in one place; I was the split end, the X receiver. When he got here, they just started moving me around a lot trying to find ways to get me the ball. Treat that willingness to put his best player in advantageous situations as good news for leading receiver Torrey Smith. Asked to do a lot last year after the departure of Anquan Boldin, he welcomes veteran Steve Smith to Baltimore this year to bring his physical style to the offense and allow Torrey to do what he does best as a deep threat. Matt Schaub was not the most mobile QB and yet Kubiak did ask him to incorporate play action, roll outs and bootlegs and should be expected to do the same of the similarly statuesque Joe Flacco. While Flacco had a down year in 2013, he is well regarded as a deep ball thrower and should be able to connect on deep routes to both Smith’s if the run game opens up the play action. Of course, the rushers struggled in 2013 but Ray Rice (when he returns from an impending suspension) actually seems like a great fit for Kubiak’s zone blocking scheme, assuming he can return to usefulness in 2014. If he can’t, Bernard Pierce‘s run ‘em over style seems less well suited to the offense but if the blockers can open the holes he should be able to hit them as well. Reading Kubiak’s West Coast Offense as a run to set up the play action bomb style is incorrect though; while the deep shot will be taken when it is there the WCO principles should see Flacco asked to get the ball out quickly more often than not in an offense predicated on timing. It sounds like the Ravens think this is the right fit for him. Nevertheless, expect the junior Smith to be featured in different capacities, and to benefit from the a heavy skew in targets. Part of this has to do with personnel, as Kubiak’s offense enjoyed working with Andre Johnson and little else at receiver during his entire Houston tenure but in each of the seasons where Johnson put in a full year’s work he had a 46 reception edge or greater over the second leading receiver. Tight ends occasionally finished closer though, and their use is featured in Kubiak’s offense suggesting that the breakout season we projected for Dennis Pitta last year may be on tap with the TE returning to full health, though Owen Daniels has made the move to Baltimore alongside his former head coach and could take a number of Pitta’s targets given his familiarity with the system. In many ways, it is a simpler system than that employed by Jim Caldwell in 2013, which has Joe Flacco thinking that players will be playing faster, rather than assessing their reads and making adjustments. Cincinnati Bengals – Offensive Coordinator, Hue Jackson (previously Bengals Running Backs Coach) With five years of experience in Cincinnati, split by jobs in three cities and roles as Offensive Coordinator and Head Coach in between, Jackson elevates from Running Backs Coach to Offensive Coordinator with the departure of Jay Gruden. The book on Jackson is familiar to many: he’ll run lots, and do so effectively but with multiple backs benefiting as opposed to a one man show. That fits the personnel in Cincinnati, with electric RB Giovani Bernard ready to lead the charge and rookie Jeremy Hill looking like a strong candidate for 150+ carries of his own, assuming he overtakes BenJarvus Green-Ellis in training camp. Cincinnati already ran the ball 481 times last season, but most minds expect a heavier use of the ground game this season. Jackson’s history suggests as much is likely to be the case. In his tenure as Offensive Coordinator/Head Coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2010/11, the Raiders finished 4th and 7th in rush attempts, and 2nd and 7th in yards gained on the ground (finishing with the same league ranks in rushing touchdowns, too). Given the talent they have assembled, and Jackson’s history, its safe to assume that Cincinnati will run often and we should expect them to put up solid numbers on the ground. As for the distribution of carries, Darren McFadden‘s injury history makes it hard to glean anything significant from Jackson’s time in Oakland, but McFadden never averaged more than 17.1 attempts per game during those two seasons and Michael Bush finished with no fewer than 11.3 per contest so it wasn’t as if there was a heavily tilted distribution. Earlier in his career, Jackson’s offenses didn’t run a great deal but the shift observed in Oakland was both dramatic and successful. In terms of productivity for Andy Dalton and AJ Green, things could change. Cincinnati may pass the ball less overall, and Jackson tends to favor a more even distribution of targets among his receivers than an offense that has tilted heavily toward the talented Green during his NFL career. That’s good news for Marvin Jones, but not necessarily for other members of the passing offense. He’ll use the same verbage as Gruden, mind you, but his approach to the offense will be different in an effort to slow things down for Dalton and of the assembled talent at tailback. Bengals.com puts it simply: Gruden and Jackson have different personalities and philosophies, but both are bright and charismatic. Gruden, whose intensity is laid-back, relies a lot on the quarterback. Jackson, a big proponent of the run game, game, has a fiery style. Cleveland Browns – Head Coach, Mike Pettine (previously Buffalo Bills Defensive Coordinator); Offensive Coordinator, Kyle Shanahan (previously Washington Offensive Coordinator) Jared from stoarge wars New Browns’ Coach Mike Pettine brought in Kyle Shanahan to run Cleveland’s offense this year (Photo: Mark Duncan/Associated Press). Pettine is expected to have little role in the offensive machinations of the Browns (I’m sure he’ll have the playbook though, given how easy he says they are to get) leaving the duties to Kyle Shanahan who has previously held the title of Offensive Coordinator in Houston and Washington. The basics of a Shanahan led offense are well known – expect West Coast elements and a zone blocking scheme. Outside of last season’s debacle, he has shown an aptitude for getting the most out of his Quarterbacks, a fact that bodes well for Johnny Manziel’s year one utility (assuming he wins the job, which I’d expect him to for reasons that include the coaching change… Pettine and Shanahan had nothing to do with bringing in Brian Hoyer). Assuming it is Manziel who takes the helm for Cleveland, either to start the season or at some point during the 2014 campaign fantasy investors should be heartened by Shanahan’s results with Robert Griffin III in his first year. The two QBs play different styles, and Griffin was viewed as more of a pure passer when he entered the league but Shanahan was able to put RGIII in position to succeed with both his legs and his arm in 2012 (3200/20/5; 815/7), something he’ll endeavor to do with Manziel as well. In four of the younger-Shanahan’s six seasons as offensive coordinator, he has produced a top 10 overall offense, though the method of getting there has been varied. 2012 seems to be the aberration mind you, as five of his six seasons have seen his offense rank top 10 in pass attempts. With that said, the common theme with that 2012 season revolves around a rookie, mobile QB so lets not assume that the Browns are going to air it out this year. Given the personnel under centre and around the team, a heavy dose of Ben Tate et. al should be expected (that 2012 Washington team finished 30th in pass attempts and third in rushes). Speaking of Tate, while he dd not overlap with Shanahan in Houston he is familiar with the zone blocking scheme employed under both Shanahan and Gary Kubiak with the Texans so he should be able to acclimate easily. Again, that zone blocking worked well with Alfred Morris who many thought would not make an impact as an NFL regular after his late round selection in 2012 and could bode well for Tate’s first go as a feature back. While this piece assumes Manziel’s ascension to the starting job, it should be noted that Shanahan has had success with different styles of Quarterback, getting the most out of Matt Schaub during his time in Houston whose style is in stark contrast to that of Robert Griffin III. His ability to adjust an offense to his personnel is being touted as something for Browns fans to be thankful for. Houston Texans – Head Coach (and offensive play caller), Bill O’Brien (previously Penn State Head Coach) Bill O’Brien arrives in Houston where he’ll lead the team and hold play calling duties. From an NFL perspective, we haven’t seen O’Brien in a while as he has been in the college game the last two seasons after presiding over two strong offensive seasons in New England. His work with Brady went very well during his Patriots’ tenure, but of course he had the very established Brady directing his offense during that period. He did make something of his young QBs at Penn State as well though, and now finds himself trying to get the most out of Ryan Fitzpatrick while developing later-round pick Tom Savage. Look for Houston’s offense to be more pass oriented than that of Gary Kubiak and to install a new line scheme than the zone blocking principles employed during Houston’s second Head Coach in franchise history’s tenure. While Ben Tate has moved on, you shouldn’t expect a career high in carries from Arian Foster – rather, he could get some extra work in as part of the pass game. While O’Brien spent a number of years with New England he only worked as the team’s OC for one year, parlaying his success in the 2011 campaign into a head coaching job in the College ranks. During that season, New England’s offense went gangbusters, finishing second in the league in points and third in total yards. Of course, he inherited a pretty good situation there so it is hard to ascribe all the success directly to O’Brien. Looking at the player specific elements though, there are a few things worth noting. There has been a lot of talk in Houston this offseason about all the work Arian Foster will do as a receiver. Despite the team having the third most pass attempts league wide, O’Brien’s 2011 Patriots had very little receiving production from running backs – part of that is personnel driven as BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Stevan Ridley aren’t noted for their pass catching ability but BJGE, Ridley, Danny Woodhead and Kevin Faulk had just 37 receptions between them. It was a different story at the TE position though, as 2011 represented the two tight-end heyday of New England’s offense, seeing 2200 yards and 24 touchdowns combined from Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. With Owen Daniels departed, Garrett Graham and Ryan Griffin could enjoy more opportunities, though neither is on the athletic level of the 12 personnel set in New England that season. The selection of C.J. Fiedorowicz out of Iowa is another indication that Houston will be looking to employ multiple TE sets. O’Brien had this guy named Brady during his tenure in New England, and he was already well developed by the time he got involved, of course. Still, his work with (and what he learned from) Brady bodes well for the development of this year’s QB (early indications are that it will be Ryan Fitzpatrick to start the season). As does his work with Matt McGloin, who he inherited at Penn State. The system is said to be complex, giving the veteran (Harvard educated) Fitzpatrick a leg up in the early competition. Noting his complex system, O’Brien prefers a QB with a high football IQ (per SB Nation): With all the multiplicity of the defenses these days, defenses at every level you’re seeing even, odd, we call it diamond, bear defense. You’re seeing bear. You’re seeing overload blitz. You’re seeing up the middle blitz. You’re seeing man-free, blitz zero. You’re seeing blitz zone, from the field, from the boundary. With all that, in my opinion, your quarterback has to be intelligent. He has to have a great football IQ. And if he doesn’t, if he can’t learn it, then he should play another position. I’m not sure that Fitzpatrick has shown enough to suggest that he is the type of decision maker O’Brien needs, but again, he should be the one that wins the job given his experience. Beyond the pivot, O’Brien (and many of those from the Belichick coaching tree) demands multiplicity from his players – you’ll see tight ends, full backs – the use of the position in general should be expected this year in Houston – and even receivers used in different looks for Houston this year. This type of creativity bodes well for all parties, notably receiver Andre Johnson (assuming he eventually returns to the team) and Arian Foster. Whether he is actively used as a receiver or not, multiple looks, confusion on defense and greater offensive capacity in general all suggest a return to fantasy relevance is in store for the 27-year-old RB. Miami Dolphins – Offensive Coordinator, Bill Lazor (previously Philadelphia Eagles Quarterbacks Coach) Bill Lazor took a big leap after just one year in the NFL, moving from Philadelphia’s QB coach under Chip Kelly to Offensive Coordinator in Miami. Part of the reason for his step up? The upgrade in play he produced from Nick Foles while working with him as a position coach. The statement is clear: Joe Philbin and the Miami Dolphins are looking to get more out of Ryan Tannehill this season. Expect Lazor to continue to roll out the West Coast scheme used for the last two seasons under Mike Sherman, while implementing some of the elements he picked up working with Kelly. It would be foolish to assume that this will simply be a Chip Kelly attack with South Beach style though, given that the two only spent one season together. For Dolphins fans hoping for a replica of scheme and output, I’m sorry but I’m not the only one thinking this way. The truth is, we don’t know a lot about why Lazor will do in Miami given his limited NFL experience. A West Coast guy is a West Coast guy though, so again you’d think that the basic principals used under Sherman will remain in place. Ryan Tannehill didn’t throw all that well on the run last year, but much of that had to do with the fact that he was running from poor protection (a league high 58 sacks last season) than doing so as part of the scheme design. Under Lazor, you’ll see an offense that looks to stretch the field vertically and horizontally and with the sure handed Brian Hartline operating underneath and Mike Wallace working over the top the team is well equipped to do so if the line play improves – of course, with a number of new names on the roster and Maurkice Pouncey looking unlikely for the start of the season that is no lock. One thing that defined Lazor’s offense at the Univeristy of Virginia was balance in the run game. A quick glance at 2012 vs. 2013 (the year in which Lazor left to coach with Chip Kelly) shows a marked difference in running back usage. Of course with the College game in particular, much of that is based on the personnel involved but we should note that Kevin Parks and Perry Jones split carries fairly evenly at 160-137 under Lazor, while in 2013 one back dominated the workload (227 for Parks compared to 51 for Khalek Shepherd). This seems consistent with the expectation of split reps between Knowshon Moreno and Lamar Miller in 2014, and with the overall philosophy of his former Head Coach, Kelly, though that didn’t necessarily pan out in Philadelphia last year. In College, Lazor ran a pro-comparable system but has comfort in the spread. As for which style he’ll employ in Miami, Lazor et. al are being coy, telling us only it will be a ‘Dolphins-style’ offense. Thanks guys. Given the personnel expect to see spread elements, and lots of shotgun from Ryan Tannehill in an offense that puts more focus on getting the ball out of his hands and keeping the QB upright. San Diego Chargers – Offensive Coordinator, Frank Reich (previously Chargers Quarterbacks Coach) San Diego enjoyed an offensive rebirth in 2013, going from 31st in total yards and 20th in points to 5th and 12th in the league respectively. That fact earned coach Ken Whisenhunt a trip to Tennessee, as you’ll see below, and leaves the team looking to keep the magic rolling in 2014. As part of what seems to be an acknowledgement that it all worked well last year, the team has promoted from within with Frank Reich becoming the first of two Chargers’ position coaches to land a coordinator job. The good news for San Diego is that Reich seems like the man to give them what they want: more of the same (in terms of scheme, anyway). He arrived in San Diego via Arizona with Whisenhunt for the 2013 season having spent 2012 with the Cardinals as a Receivers coach. Head coach Mike McCoy remains in place as well, and will no doubt have a strong say in the team’s offensive approach. Reich himself told ESPN’s Eric D. Williams to expect little to change, with the caveat that the team will place more focus on controlling offensive tempo. That doesn’t necessarily mean a high-tempo offense all the time, but making the right play calls for the game situation: “I’m not trying to make it my offense,” Reich said. “I look at it as this is our offense. And what Mike really stresses as a head coach, and him being a very successful, longtime offensive coach, is figuring out what your players do best, and that’s our offense” So, he’ll put his skill position guys in the right spot to make plays, which is music to fantasy owners ears but also typical offseason conversational fare. You’ll see more detail of the offense in the next few paragraphs on changes in Tennesee, but here is what you need to know: Expect a continued focus on short and intermediate routes, rather than long passes. It worked well for Philip Rivers after years with Norv Turner’s system that runs quite contrary to that, and it has been a part of Whisenhunt’s philosophy for some time. With that comes a generally quick release from the QB, taking pressure off the offensive line. Players with run after the catch skills will continue to be emphasized, given (again) the short passing routes employed. That probably means good news for the emergence of Ladarius Green over Antonio Gates. Danny Woodhead will continue his role as an outlet valve in a further effort to increase pass accuracy and take pressure off the line. I’d expect Donald Brown‘s role to compare more to that of Woodhead than Ryan Mathews. Tennessee Titans – Head Coach, Ken Whisenhunt (previously San Diego Chargers Offensive Coordinator); Offensive Coordinator, Jason Michael (previously San Diego Chargers Tight Ends Coach) Ken Whisenhunt parlayed one successful season in San Diego to another Head Coaching gig. He’ll call the offense in Tennessee, too. (Photo: Getty Images). Here is what we know about Head Coach Ken Whistenhunt – he has been successful coordinating offenses with varied personnel and talent levels through the years. Most recently, he helped turn around the career of Philip Rivers with a system that incorporated short, high percentage passes (an approach that reinvigorated Kurt Warner as well) while also overseeing a career year from Ryan Mathews on the ground as well. Jake Locker hasn’t been the most accurate of QBs through his career, mind you, but the young quarterback should benefit from being placed in higher percentage situations as well, with catch and run monster Kendall Wright available to help in that area. Wright caught 70% of his targets last season, the 11th highest mark in the league. Justin Hunter, who will be expected to work the vertical routes when they are called, needs some work in this area. 106 receivers who played more than 25% of their team’s snaps last season caught more than Hunter’s 43.9%. Of course, everyone’s numbers will be up in this part of the field but we should note that Locker hit on 78.1% of his passes under ten yards last season so more passes in that range should equate to more completions. Indeed, the system falls apart if Locker can’t be more precise overall, and if rookie back Bishop Sankey doesn’t show skills as a receiver in his first season (you won’t see many contributions in that area from Shonn Greene, regardless of who starts the season as the lead back). With regard to Locker, we know that the former Arizona Head Coach has struggled when lacking a top flight QB (Roethlisberger, Warner and a revamped Rivers – check. The Max Hall trio after Warner’s retirement, well… not check). Most pundits suggest that he’ll get the most out of Locker’s potential, and perhaps he will but again the system won’t work if he isn’t efficient. We haven’t mentioned OC Jason Michael, as Whisenhunt has already pointed out that he’ll hold the play calling duties and we should expect Michael, who spent last season in San Diego with Whiz to hold a similar philosophy anyhow. Most of the analysis on Whisenhunt suggests that he is flexible enough to make use of the talent he has on board, rather than forcing square pegs into round holes. The receiving corps seems like a great fit, the backs are a wait and see as we’ve mentioned, but it makes sense to think that the offense will take advantage of Jake Locker’s mobility as well – not to the extreme, given the fact that he has a long injury rap sheet, but I’d expect some plays that look at getting him out of the pocket to create. Again, its important to note that coach Whiz has often had a strong QB to lead his offense but last year in San Diego was the first time since 2006 in Pittsburgh that his offense has had a top six rush attempt unit – it hadn’t ranked better than 24 since then, so, Sankey enthusiasts (myself included) shouldn’t assume a guaranteed heavy rushing workload. His pass attempts have varied, the passing offense has typically well outpaced the rushing offense. Last year, though, was a clear example of his ability to adjust play calling to the talent on hand and we should expect as much in Tennessee this year as well. With a strong offensive line and an unproven QB, another heavily focused ground attack could be in the offing.   That’s it for the AFC edition of 2014 NFL coaching changes, with an NFC preview on tap for next week. Questions, comments, concerns? Did you even read the full 4000 words to get this far? Let us know in the comments below and stay tuned for specific player/system analysis as we move into the season.   The post 2014 NFL Coaching Changes: How a new scheme impacts fantasy output (AFC Edition) appeared first on Fantasy Sports Locker Room.

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