2022 NFL coaching changes: New York Giants

Can Brian Daboll get the most out of Daniel Jones in 2022?

A total reset is in the works for the New York Giants after a three consecutive two-season stints by different head coaches failed to win more than six games in five of those years.

Not only did the Giants wipe the slate clean at head coach, but general manager Dave Gettleman retired after four losing seasons. He was likely going to be forced out either way, and a retirement was probably a nice way of handling the inevitable. In 2022, his replacement, Joe Schoen, wasted little time in hiring the newest head coach, former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

He named Andy Reid’s quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Mike Kafka to serve as the offensive coordinator in New York. It remains unclear who will call the plays, but Daboll’s experience gives him the upper hand for now. Either way, his stamp on the system will be readily apparent.

Daboll, now 46, broke into the NFL coaching ranks as a 25-year-old defensive assistant in 2000 with the New England Patriots. By 2002, he moved to the other side of the ball to coach wide receivers, a position Daboll would hold for five seasons.

The next two years found him coaching New York Jets quarterbacks before parlaying it into his first offensive coordinator job by following Eric Mangini to the Cleveland Browns. Two more years into the future saw Daboll become the OC in Miami in 2011, followed by another single-year stint as the Kansas City Chiefs’ play-caller under Romeo Crennel.

The Pats welcomed him back for the next five seasons, including four years as the tight ends coach. The 2017 season saw Daboll call plays for the Alabama Crimson Tide (yet another Bill Belichick connection), and in 2018, Buffalo hired Daboll as its OC.

Phew. Still with us?

Clearly, Daboll has considerable experience and plenty of NFL stops under his belt. He has never been a head coach, but no one should discredit his time spent learning under Belichick and even Sean McDermott.

Coaching tendencies

Daboll is known for his flexibility and penchant for simplifying the offense to get the most out of his personnel. During his four years as the OC in Western New York, he commanded two very different offenses that directly correlated with the maturation of his quarterback.

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Quarterback Josh Allen was raw coming out of college and needed to have the game artificially slowed for him early on, which Daboll did a fine job of through pre-snap motion, a reliance on the ground game, and an emphasis on underneath routes that are more likely to create separation, such as crossing and mesh routes.

In two short years, Allen was transformed into an elite quarterback whose coach put him in the best situations to maximize his traits. Highly athletic for a big-bodied quarterback, the Wyoming product was given more freedom as he matured, but Allen also earned it by cutting down his mistakes and doing a better job of protecting the ball. From his rookie campaign to sophomore season, Allen effectively cut his interception rate in half and improved it even further in his breakout 2020 showing.

The biggest area of improvement was completion percentage, which, as mentioned, was assisted by Daboll’s play designs. It also didn’t hurt having Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley enter the fold as typically sure-handed receivers. But credit goes to Daboll’s mesh concepts in the passing game and Allen’s improved understanding of where to go with the ball.

In the fourth year, Daboll’s Bills were the most prolific offense in the NFL. So what does that mean for the Giants? In his first press conference, he made it clear the offense won’t resemble what we saw last year in Buffalo. Why? The personnel in New York requires a different approach.

When Daboll left Buffalo, it led to the Bills promoting QBs coach Ken Dorsey to OC, and Daboll’s offense was outlined in our analysis of that situation:

A quick look at Daboll’s system should help give us some idea of what to expect from an overarching view. In the past two years, which are a better representation of his four seasons in Buffalo thanks to Allen having mastered the offense, the Bills ranked 11th in passing attempts in 2020 and fifth in ’21. As a result, we’re looking at the third-most yards and TD passes two years ago and the ninth-highest yardage output to go along with the seventh-most aerial strikes in 2021.

The rushing attack produced the sixth-most yards and ranked No. 7 in scores in a year ago. In 2020, Buffalo’s ground game was less prominently featured, generating the 20th-most yards on the 17th-most attempts. Fourteen teams produced more touchdowns from the backfield. But, even with all of the passing success, Daboll’s offense at its core loves to run the ball. … In the two years before Allen ascended to an elite level, the Bills ran the sixth-most times in consecutive seasons, and in Daboll’s nine seasons as an OC, his teams ranked sixth or better in attempts six times. The rankings of pass-to-run ratios the past three years in Buffalo: 10th (2021), 12th (2020) and 26th (2019).

A look at Allen’s first two years are more indicative of what we should expect as Daboll tries to extract the most from quarterback Daniel Jones. The comparison is similar in some ways and not so much in others. Jones is athletic enough to do many of the advantageous movements that put Allen in better situations to find success, like designed rollouts, moving the pocket itself, and using his legs to keep defenses honest. How many times have we seen Buffalo call plays specifically to set up a slick run by Allen in a crucial moment?

In the open field, Jones is more than capable of doing damage with adequate straight-line speed when he’s not tripping over his own two feet. Allen, though, is a bully and a hyper-athletic one at that, able to leap opponents when he isn’t plowing through them. That won’t be Jones’ style, which is perfectly fine.

While Devin Singletary came on strong to close out the 2021 season, he’s an inferior talent when compared to Saquon Barkley. Now, with that established, a player is only as useful as his availability. Following several serious injuries, Barkley’s durability concerns are front and center.

So long as he can remain healthy, the Giants can implement a successful ground game to alleviate some pressure from Jones. That will be the key to turning things around in a hurry.

Table: Brian Daboll team ranks as OC

Year Tm Role Overall Offense Rushing Off Passing Off
WL% T/G Pts± Yds± Yds Pts GvA Att Yds TD Y/A FL Att Yds TD Int
2009 CLE OC 25 29 27 32 32 29 22 6 8 20 15 26 30 32 31 20
2010 CLE OC 27 15 23 28 29 31 17 22 20 12 21 17 28 29 30 19
2011 MIA OC 23 24 14 22 22 20 18 6 11 19 15 24 28 23 18 8
2012 KAN OC 31 31 32 27 24 32 30 5 5 25 6 29 29 32 32 31
2018 BUF OC 22 23 28 18 30 30 30 6 9 11 21 15 28 31 32 31
2019 BUF OC 8 10 10 9 24 23 11 6 8 18 14 5 24 26 24 15
2020 BUF OC 2 10 5 8 2 2 20 17 20 15 20 24 11 3 3 9
2021 BUF OC 7 7 1 1 5 3 13 13 6 7 6 4 5 9 7 25
Average rank 18 19 18 18 21 21 20 10 11 16 15 18 23 23 22 20

Stats from ProFootballReference.com

It’s not necessarily fair to hold some of the negative marks against Daboll from his time with notoriously weak franchises, such as the Jets and Browns. Some takeaways parallel what we see here, though. Suspect QB play tends to lead to more running plays, provided the defense permits commitment to the ground attack. Last year’s Giants defense ranked in the bottom half of the league in yards and points allowed. Don “Wink” Martindale is the new defensive coordinator in New York, and his experience earns this group the benefit of the doubt for seeing modest improvement.

Personnel changes

This roster is nearly $4 million over the salary cap, although that will change at any moment as free agency is upon us. The deadline is 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday to get under the cap.

Revamping the offensive line is the top priority, and it will receive the majority of this team’s attention through free agency as well as the draft.

The Giants released tight end Kyle Rudolph and have Evan Engram facing free agency, also expected to depart. Both the third- and fourth-string tight ends also are free agents, so the position will look much different in ’22. Otherwise, the core skill position players are set to return.

Don’t expect New York to make many splashes, especially on offense, in free agency.

Fantasy football takeaway

Jones is far from a finished product and gets a chance to resurrect his career under a proven play-caller who has found success getting the most out of a talented but underperforming QB in recent seasons. The fourth-year passer has the tools in the passing game to outperform the fantasy community’s widely shared negative view of his outlook. But, as mentioned, it all starts with fixing the offensive line. If that doesn’t happen, all bets are off. Any quarterback would struggle in that situation. The Bills did a fine job of building one of the league’s best lines during Schoen’s time in the personnel department, so there’s hope it will translate to the G-Men. For now, Jones is a deep-league flier as a QB2 or matchup play in a rotation with a more established starter.

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Barkely, as discussed, has the chops to be an elite back in fantasy once again, but he must remain healthy. No sprains or strains, and definitely no tears or breaks. Much like with Jones’ outlook, the offensive line being successfully rebuilt is paramount. Barkley can do damage in space, so it’s maybe not quite as imperative as it is for Jones, but this is so interconnected that it might as well be uniformly applied. Best-case scenario, we’re looking at a top-five PPR back. The worst-case scenario is another catastrophic injury, and somewhere in between looks like the uninspiring version of Barkley we’ve seen over the last two injury-ravaged seasons. He’ll be someone’s RB1 in 2022 drafts, and time will tell if we’re more bullish than bearish about his stock entering the heart of draft season.

Wide receiver is a strength of this team with Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton rounding out the presumed top foursome. All but Shepard can stretch the field and score from anywhere. Toney is the one to invest in as a breakout candidate as he should be heavily featured to take advantage of his gamebreaking traits. Golladay and Jones never were on the same page in 2021, which rightfully creates concern about their chemistry for the upcoming season. He’ll be a risky WR3 target in fantasy, and the same goes for Toney.

The Giants should see Shepard play a prominent role after taking a paycut to remain with the team. The primary reason is Daboll’s use of short-area passing to ease his quarterback’s job. Durability is a consistent issue for him, but if he manages to play a full schedule, fantasy owners could be gifted with a sly PPR gamble. Slayton will be a draft-day afterthought in fantasy, but he could emerge as a viable waiver claim if one of the top three guys gets hurt.

Tight end is wide open, but given the Giants’ lack of financial freedom, expect a draft pick to be invested fairly early and offset by a low-end veteran signing. Regardless of how it shakes out, there’s not a great degree of fantasy appeal from the position’s likely role in the offense.

There will be bumps and bruises along the way, but Daboll’s hiring is the most optimistic coaching move this team has made since the retirement of Tom Coughlin.

2022 NFL coaching changes: Chicago Bears

Bears turn to Luke Getsy to run the offense.

After four seasons of head coach Matt Nagy, the Bears finally turned the page after a 6-11 season. The Bears squeaked into the playoffs as a wildcard with an 8-8 record in 2020, and he was given one more year to turn their franchise around, but it only got worse.

The Bears tabbed Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus as the new head coach and he selected the Green Bay Packer’ ‘quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy as the new offensive coordinator. Eberflus’ resume is entirely on the defensive side of the ball and he served as either a linebacker coach or a defensive coordinator for the Browns, Cowboys and Colts over the last twelve years. He coached at Toledo and Missouri before coming to the NFL. This is his first stop as a head coach.

Eberflus hasn’t had any real experience with the offense, but he’s bringing a new team outlook and overall system for the entire roster. He has very high standards and isn’t reticent to release any player he feels is not giving maximum commitment regardless of their name or past success. He’s done as much on all of his defenses and is now applying that to everyone. But he has also been willing to adjust the system to the players at hand and adjust it to fit the players strengths. While Matt Nagy was often accused of misusing players, Eberflus’s philosophy is to maximize the players contribution to both the defense and now offense.

Luke Getsy brings a background of being either a quarterback or receivers coach, or an offensive coordinator. He spent his initial years at six different colleges and ran the offenses for West Virginia Wesleyan (2009), Indiana (2011-2012), and Mississippi State (2018).  Otherwise, he’s remained in Green Bay since 2014 and served as a wide receiver or quarterback coach. The last two years he served as the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Coaching tendencies

This will be the first time in the NFL that Luke Getsy has taken complete control of an offense. While that brings mostly unknowns to the scheme, he has spoken much like Eberflus in wanting to design the offense around the talent there – that’s already a departure from the Nagy era.  His initial task to to build the offense around Justin Fields and tailor everything around what he can do. One of the bigger criticisms of Nagy was that he tried to force Fields into adjusting into a pocket-passer and didn’t use his mobility as an asset.

He’s spoken to having an attacking offense and is described as an expert of fundamentals and techniques. This will be his first time calling plays, so his tendencies have yet to be known. But he’s been successful in relating to players and getting the most out of them. He’s been the quarterbacks coach for Aaron Rodgers for the last three years, so he’s dealt with temperamental players that excel on the field.

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Getsy was a former college quarterback and his hire was partially about getting Justin Fields into the best situation for success. Getsy is so respected that he interviewed for the Broncos head coach opening and held the interest of several teams to become their offensive coordinator. There is an expectation that he could become a head coach in the next few years.

Getsy also has extensive experience with wide receivers, and that bodes well for the Chicago passing attack. Getsy is only 37 years old and this is his first time directing an entire offense. That leaves mostly speculation as to what his preferences will be with personnel and play calling.

Personnel changes

The Bears still do not own a first-round pick since they dealt that away last year to obtain Justin Fields. But the Bears picked up a second-round pick this year in the trade of Khalil Mack to the Chargers. That’s still deep enough that it won’t likely net any instant stars, but two picks in the first 48 overall should net help that applies to 2021.

Justin Fields stands to benefit from playing under OC Luke Getsy. There’s no question that he starts, but optimism that he’ll be better used and more successful under Getsy.

David Montgomery remains the primary back and he enters the final season of his rookie contract. That’s always motivating and the Bears recently released Tarik Cohen, so Montgomery will remain the clear No. 1 back with a chance at a heavy workload. Getsy comes from the Packers, where they prefer a split backfield but he had nothing to do with the rushing game there.  There isn’t anyone on the Bears’ current roster that appears to be any threat to cut into Montgomery’s workload.

The Bears need to  acquire help in the passing game. Allen Robinson is a free agent and the rest of the roster – Darnell Mooney, Marquise Goodwin, Damiere Byrd, and Jakeem Grant – could use more depth. Mooney broke out in his second season with 1,055 yards last year but is only 5-11 and 179 pounds. He may have maxed out at 81 catches and benefitted from Robinson drawing most of the coverage. If Robinson leaves, the Bears’ passing offense needs upgrading.

Cole Kmet impressed in his second season, but the usage of the tight end isn’t certain with the new offense.

Fantasy football takeaway

The change in coaching alters the scheme and how they will use players. That isn’t certain with both Eberflus and Getsy as first timers in their new roles. It’s reasonable to expect an improvement from Justin Fields who was central in bringing in Getsy and will be the primary focus in developing the new scheme.

Fields should see improvement from his rookie season that saw him finally see use as a runner. His success will be the measuring stick for the new offense.

David Montgomery’s outlook should be roughly the same. He was used more last year, but some of that stemmed from the absence of Tarik Cohen. But they just released Cohen, so Montgomery should remain in line for a similar workhorse role.

The receivers are still a guess. Allen Robinson is expected to leave via free agency and that will leave a gaping hole in the passing game. Diminutive Darnell Mooney broke out last year, and would become the clear No. 1 wideout but may have trouble holding unto his 81-1055-4 stat line from last year when he becomes the main focus of the secondary. Barring the addition of a productive veteran or a promising rookie wideout, Mooney may be the only fantasy-relevant receiver.

Cole Kmet’s value remains unknown, and he’ll once again merit a spot as a fantasy backup until his role is proven to become bigger in the new offense.

2022 NFL coaching changes: Denver Broncos

Denver finally has its franchise QB to pair with a new head coach.

The Denver Broncos parted ways with head coach Vic Fangio after three straight losing years that resulted in two last-place results in the AFC West. The defensive-minded coach was forced to navigate the NFL without a capable quarterback. That’s always a recipe for defeat over the course of a season.

Fast forward two months and his replacement, former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, was gifted quarterback Russell Wilson in a trade that gives Denver its first championship-caliber leader since Peyton Manning’s retirement following the 2016 season. Somewhere out there a person is screaming “Joe Flacco!” at a screen, but let’s be real about that 2-6 record of his….

Hackett comes in as the “in name only” OC of the Packers as head coach Matt LaFleur called plays during their time together, but that’s not to say Hackett wasn’t intimately involved in all other aspects of game-planning, passing-game coordination, and play design.

In his prior stops, Hackett’s resume shows a professional coaching start in 2006 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under Jon Gruden. He was hired in Buffalo by Dick Jauron to once again be an offensive quality control coach. Two seasons later, Hackett went into the collegiate ranks at Syracuse, only to return to the Buffalo Bills in 2013 under Doug Marrone. In 2015, Hackett would find himself in Jacksonville, along with Marrone, serving as quarterbacks coach for two years before being promoted to OC until he joined the Packers in ’19.

Hackett, 42, hired Justin Outten as the offensive coordinator in Denver, and the head coach announced he will call the plays instead of leaving it up to the former Green Bay TEs coach. Los Angeles Rams secondary coach and passing game coordinator Ejiro Evero was brought in to call the plays on the other side of the ball.

Coaching tendencies

Hackett has produced several strong rushing attacks in his time as an OC. In Buffalo, with what can only be described as schlock at quarterback, his 2013 backfield, led by C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, produced the second-most ground yards on the greatest volume of attempts. His 2017 Jaguars offense, featuring Leonard Fournette, generated the league’s top rushing offense.

A successful running game is a staple of the West Coast offense employed by Hackett. In Green Bay, the Packers ranked 15th, 8th, and 18th in rushing yards over the last three years, respectively. During his time as an offensive coordinator, regardless of whether he called the plays, only one time a team ranked greater than 13th in passing attempts. And that’s with Aaron Rodgers commanding the show for three of the eight years. The last two years, though, saw the Pack produce top-10 results for aerial yardage and the first- and fourth-ranked passing TD offenses.

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West Coast systems vary a fair amount based on the degree of nuance in pre-snap theatrics to confuse defenses, the volume of plays dedicated to play-action passing, and how much modern trickery is incorporated. Where the system as changed the most through the years is how it utilizes the tight end position (traditional Y vs flexed into the slot more frequently) and whether it uses a traditional fullback (extremely rare today). Hackett will use more of the flex the TE without a classic fullback style.

Expect a mostly balanced attack that grinds when it needs to and airs it out when warranted, but the addition of Wilson’s NFL-best deep ball being coupled with his mobility will likely have Hackett doing his best job of replicating LaFleur’s system. Look for Denver to set up the play-action passing with a heavy dose of the ground game to create a quick-strike offense through the air.

The Broncos will be something in between the conventional WCO (Gruden) and the more imaginative version (Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan). After all, LaFleur came from the McVay tree. Denver, however, has the personnel across the board to dramatically adjust its game plan from week to week and even quarter to quarter. That alone makes this offense extremely dangerous.

Personnel changes

Denver sits 12th in salary cap space and still might not be done bolstering the offense with running back and the offensive line moves worth keeping an eye on.

Veteran Melvin Gordon could return, and if he doesn’t, the Broncos are a contender for reuniting Fournette with Hackett. Offensive right tackle must be addressed with starter Bobby Massie entering his age-33 season and scheduled for free agency.

On defense, it’s probably not fair to say the Broncos will undergo a complete overhaul, but it will come awfully close to being one. Linebackers Josey Jewell, Alexander Johnson and Kenny Young are all free agents. Defensive backs Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan, Kareem Jackson, Nate Hairston and Michael Ford also are available to test the market. The defensive line also will get some love in the draft and free agency.

Fantasy football takeaway

Note: This section is a rehash of the Wilson trade analysis from Tuesday.

Provided he picks up the system quickly — and there’s no reason to believe he won’t after having played in similar offenses already — Wilson is a surefire QB1. The depth of Denver’s receiving talent, even with all of their question marks, offers him mostly a push with Seattle’s targets as a whole.

Sure, individually, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are more talented than Sutton and Jeudy, but we’re not talking such a wide gap that it even really matters. If Sutton nears his past success and Jeudy performs up to his talent level, defenses will need to pick their poison in coverage. And that’s not to mention the blazing speed of Hamler out of the slot, provided his knee reconstruction is a success, or Tim Patrick‘s underappreciated game. Finally, dealing Fant shows the confidence Denver has in tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. He has all of the hallmarks of a genuine aerial threat.

Russ will be cooking up a fantasy feast in the Mile High City.

The backfield belongs to Javonte Williams and someone yet to be named. Melvin Gordon is a free agent, but both sides have expressed a desire for him to return. If not, finding a tandem back to pair with the 2021 rookie Williams is not going to be a problem. The North Carolina product is quality RB2 should Gordon return or someone similar be added, but it it looks like he’s in line to receive the vast majority of touches, only a handful of backs will outperform Williams in 2022. Adding a legit QB in Wilson entrenches this as one of the most promising running games in the NFL.

Of the aforementioned receivers, Sutton has proven himself the most, but a major injury in 2020 and an erratic ’21 campaign will have gamers questioning if he’s capable of repeating his WR2 fantasy success from his season a year prior to the ACL tear. Giving Sutton the benefit of the doubt, he’s a No. 2 receiver in PPR leagues and offers the most upside for a touchdown any given week.

Jeudy is an extremely gifted route-runner, and this offense requires such from the position if he’s to excel. While Sutton probably can offer slightly more on-field diversity with his route tree and size in the red zone, Jeudy should lead the team in targets and receptions if he plays every game. As in Seattle, for as explosive as Metcalf has been, the Wilson-Lockett connection was the engine in that passing game. Safely, Jeudy is a No. 2 receiver in all scoring systems. He comes with tremendous upside and won’t be a cheap investment in fantasy as drafters chase his WR1 potential. Few wideouts in the league offer this kind of upside, so recognize there’s definitely more reward potential than not, but you’ll have to pay a king’s ransom to find out.

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Hamler, as mentioned, is returning from an ACL tear of his own and probably won’t he 100 percent until later in the year. He’s dynamic from the slot and has world-class speed, so his game is all about making the most of limited opportunities. There will be fantasy utility for him in traditional setups, yet gamers are looking at a more profitable DFS scenario here. Knowing when to start him in weekly lineups will be a nightmare as long as the two guys ahead of him are alive and well.

Patrick is a capable veteran who has emerged in recent seasons. He’s going to be a chain-mover who offers sneaky downfield skills, and his 6-foot-4 frame will come in handy around the end zone. He isn’t really draftable but deserves DFS consideration with the right matchups.

Albert O. flashed a few times in 2021 as he, too, worked through the aftermath of knee reconstruction following a torn ACL suffered the previous season. Finally fully recovered, the athletic, 6-foot-6, 258-pounder should be unleashed in a major way. That said, most of his fantasy contributions figure to come in the red zone. He has a little bit of Dawson Knox going on here — big TD numbers, modest, if not even low, volume stats. There’s nothing wrong with volatility as long as owners are aware of it ahead of time. Okwuegbunam is a low-tier No. 1 but ideally a rotational tight end for those willing to play the matchups from week to week.

Finally, Denver’s defense should be consistently more effective in fantasy as it won’t be gassed as much. Wilson can sustain drives and puts his defense in a position to rest up between series.

2022 NFL coaching changes: New Orleans Saints

Continuity in mind, Dennis Allen returns to the sidelines in his second stint as a head coach.

Sean Payton recently stepped down after 16 years as the head coach of the New Orleans Saints, paving the way for his longtime defensive coordinator to be promoted as the successor. Dennis Allen earned his second opportunity to call the shots coming eight years after he lasted served as the head coach of the then-Oakland Raiders.

Allen, 49, entered the NFL coaching ranks in 2002 under Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Reeves. He has since coached exclusively on the defensive side of the ball, although it is unclear if Allen will continue to call plays as the head man. Saints defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen and secondary coach Kris Richard have been promoted to operate as co-defensive coordinators for the Saints, also keeping their respective roles.

His offensive coordinator will be Pete Carmichael, a retaining a position he has held for 13 straight seasons with the Saints.

No Payton, no worries? Not quite, but it isn’t all gloom and doom. Having three seasons as a head coach under Allen’s belt will help ease the transition, and the “Carmichael continuity” factor should not be underestimated.

Coaching tendencies

There’s not really too much that will change in terms of the system itself, but the newest aspect will be Carmichael as the full-time play-caller. He handled those chores at times in 2011, 2012 and 2016 to varying degrees.

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A great deal of how Carmichael opts to call plays in 2022 comes down to the players at his disposal. Look at how Payton shifted to lean more on Alvin Kamara in 2021 without Drew Brees under center as an example of adaptation. It’s a prime example of how this could work under Carmichael, too, because figuring out the identity of his eventual starting quarterback is the No. 1 task at hand.

Should the Saints settle on the gadgety-gimmick named Taysom Hill, we can expect to see a system that is tailored to his strengths (more running, less passing, forced decisions). However, if Jameis Winston returns in free agency, Carmichael has much more latitude with what he can do to open up the playbook in what would be the quarterback’s second year in the system.

Personnel changes

The Saints have the least cap space in the NFL at this time, and only three rosters are older, on average. There are several ways to restructure and gain serious financial freedom, so it may seem damning to be $48 million over the cap. It’s not the best spot to be in for a team that claims to be retooling and not tearing it down to rebuild from the ground up.

Achieving cap space can be done by restructuring or terminating burdensome deals belonging to CB Marshon Lattimore, DE Cameron Jordan, RB Alvin Kamara, QB Taysom Hill, CB Bradley Roby, DT David Onyemata, DE Marcus Davenport, RB Mark Ingram, LB Demario Davis, PK Wil Lutz and FS Malcolm Jenkins.

Aside from quarterback desperately needing to be resolved, a second running back is a must as Ingram just isn’t getting the job done at his age, and Kamara could be suspended multiple games for his alleged role in a felony battery.

Depth at wide receiver is paramount, and tight end could be addressed as the two promising youngsters on roster struggled to get it going in 2021. Wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith is an impending free agent, and it’s doubtful he returns.

Starting left tackle Terron Armstead figures to walk, too. On defense, free safety Marcus Williams avoided the franchise tag for what would have been the second straight season, and he will hit the open market. Linebacker Kwon Alexander and cornerback P.J. Williams also are set to hit free agency.

Fantasy football takeaway

This area will remain unsettled until we have an answer at quarterback and know more about Kamara’s legal situation. His utility directly relies on the QB under center, and the same can be said for Thomas at wideout.

At this point, there’s no single player who has a 100 percent defined role also presents a clear-cut fantasy valuation. There are more than enough “ifs” and “buts” to be thrown around, so we’ll spare you for now … check back after the upcoming draft for an in-depth update.

2022 NFL coaching changes: Minnesota Vikings

Despite new coaches all around, Minnesota benefits from system and personnel continuity.

The Mike Zimmer era came to an end after eight mostly pedestrian years that resulted in a 2-3 postseason record with the pinnacle of success being a losing appearance in the 2017 conference title round.

Along with Zimmer’s dismissal, long-time executive Rick Spielman also was shown the door. He served as vice president of player personnel from 2006-11 and general manager the past 10 seasons.

An executive with the Cleveland Browns, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was hired to become Spielman’s replacement, and his first order of business was to find Zimmer’s successor. A little more than two weeks later, Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell was tabbed as the next head coach of the Vikings in mid-February. Veteran defensive coordinator Ed Donatell has been hired to command the other side of the ball.

O’Connell brought Rams tight ends coach and passing game coordinator Wes Phillips with him to the Twin Cities as the Vikes’ OC, but the new head coach confirmed he will indeed call the plays. It is expected Phillips will help with game planning and play design.

Prior to his coaching days, O’Connell was a quarterback for San Diego State and a third-round selection by the New England Patriots in the 2008 NFL Draft. His playing career sent him to multiple teams around the NFL, ending with just six career passes thrown and none after undergoing shoulder reconstruction prior to the start of his third season.

Coaching tendencies

In 2015, Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine hired O’Connell to teach the quarterback position. A year later the San Francisco 49ers would employ him as an offensive assistant. O’Connell found his way to Washington’s staff as QBs coach under Jay Gruden, a position he’d hold for two seasons before becoming the offensive coordinator in 2019. A year later, he was the Rams’ 34-year-old OC.

O’Connell began his coaching career in a West Coast offense and stayed there throughout his seven seasons. While the McVay version is more modified than the John DeFilippo version O’Connell first learned under in Cleveland, McVay came up under the Gruden brothers’ system that was more traditional. Considering the wrinkles McVay has put into his offense, it’s unclear just how much of O’Connell’s personal influence we’ll see in his system. Either way, the base offense is an NFL staple, so don’t count on seeing something revolutionary. McVay introduced an increase in play-action passing, motions, jet sweeps, reverses, and general trickery, but the core elements remained the same.

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Much has been made of his lack of play-calling experience, but the same was said about Matt LaFleur when Tennessee hired him to be its OC after not having called plays under McVay. The same can be said for Zac Taylor when Cincinnati hired him as head coach. O’Connell briefly called plays for Washington in 2019 after Gruden’s dismissal following an 0-5 start.

Largely, not a great deal will change for the Vikings. They’ve run a WCO for years now, and the biggest modifications likely will be verbiage of play-calling and its tempo. The crux of the McVay version is a heavy reliance on play-action passing and throwing to the slot position, but it all stems from a capable running game. There also will be some of the McVay creative influence involved that is tough to forecast, but we saw Robert Woods go from being an unheralded possession guy to a dangerous weapon rushing and receiving. O’Connell’s role as passing game coordinator in the development of Cooper Kupp also cannot be overstated.

Personnel changes

Only four teams have less salary cap space at the time of writing, and it will require Minnesota to make some decisions to get under the limit in order to even sign its rookie class. Some of the freedom will come via restructuring, but the team is hamstrung by Kirk Cousins‘ obscene $45 million cap hit, which is 21.4 percent of the overall cap. He’s in the final year of his deal and is expected to be the starter, but whether Cousins is extended is of great concern. Doing so will free up serious cap space.

Other contractual situations to monitor include: Danielle Hunter, Adam Thielen, Harrison Smith, and Eric Kendricks, among a few others.

In terms of impending free agents, the offense is not facing the loss of any key component. Tight end Tyler Conklin was thrust into the starting lineup this past season and fared well enough to deserve a mention, but he’s expendable and won’t be an expensive player to re-sign, if desired.

Defense could add some fresh faces as veterans Anthony Barr, Patrick Peterson, Sheldon Richardson, Xavier Woods, Mackensie Alexander and Everson Griffen all are poised to hit the market if Minnesota cannot reach agreements with them prior to March 14.

Fantasy football takeaway

Provided Cousins has the tandem of Thielen and Justin Jefferson, he should pick up where he left off in fantasy as this defense has holes to fill and will force the offense into frequent passing situations. In 2021, the 33-year-old accounted for as many touchdown passes as his years on this planet, and Cousins topped 350 fantasy points for the third time in four seasons with Minnesota. He finished QB9 in ’21, and is a low-end starter over the course of the upcoming year, but better profiles as a top backup meant to deploy according to matchup worthiness.

Dalvin Cook is coming off a down year by his lofty standards, finishing with an average of 16 PPR points per game over 13 contests. The biggest letdown of his season came in the TD column, finishing with 11 fewer than the prior year and down seven from 2019’s 13 trips to paydirt. The system is ideal for Cook, and as long as he can avoid the injury bug, expect another stellar season from a proven playmaker still in his prime.

Alexander Mattison remains a must-handcuff for Cook owners but also has stash value independent of drafting him due to the Florida Stater’s injury history.

Jefferson is a WR1 lock and arguably has a chance to outperform everyone at his position. At a minimum, expect top-five results. He won’t escape too many first rounds in fantasy drafts.

Thielen is coming off a down year and remains overly reliant on finding the end zone. Entering his age-32 season, injuries and slowing down are notable worries but shouldn’t deter gamers from drafting him as a low-end WR2.

No. 3 receiver K.J. Osborn flashed several times in 2021 and also vanished in several contests, which is understandable with all of the talent in this offense. He’s no more than a late-round flier in deeper settings, but if something were to happen to Thielen again, the young receiver is a must-own waiver target.

Tight end remains unsettled. Just know that the system uses it when needed as a receiver (see guys like Tyler Higbee/Gerald Everett under McVay), but no one is likely to have a TE1 season as long as Jefferson, Thielen and Cook are healthy for the majority of games. In a nutshell, there is utility to be found, but knowing exactly when to play the guy will be difficult.

Despite new coaches all around, Minnesota benefits from system and personnel continuity.

2022 NFL coaching changes: Houston Texans

Mike McDaniel leaves the 49ers offense to become the new head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

Last season, the Texans hired the Ravens pass game coordinator David Culley to become the new head coach, and he retained Tim Kelly as their offensive coordinator for the previous two seasons. The lack of talent further lessened with the Deshaun Watson situation, meant that the bar was low after head coach Bill O’Brien was fired during the 2020 season from a team that would end 4-12 with little more than Watson for an offensive weapon.

Most expected Culler to struggle with a weak roster and missing draft picks that could help with much-needed upgrades. Culler would end with a 4-13 record, and he never had Watson to use, unlike O’Brien the previous season.

But Culler never saw a second season. After discussions with general manager Nick Caserio and other Texans’ front office personnel, the team opted to part ways. There were conflicts in how to rebuild the No. 32 offense and issues regarding in-game management and player discipline. It was chalked up to philosophical differences.

After interviewing several candidates, the Texans opted to just promote Lovie Smith from defensive coordinator to head coach. He’s relying on offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton to make the Texans competitive again after serving as the Texans’ quarterback coach. So much the same coaches remain from  last year, they’ve just swapped positions. For a team that seems stripped of talent and chock full of previous dysfunction, it’s a bit of a surprise that instead of  sweeping out the current coaching regime, they opted to just scrape off the top layer of coaches and promote others up.

Lovie Smith has long been involved on the defensive side of the ball. He became a head coach for the Chicago Bears (2004-2012), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014-2015), and then for Illinois (2016-2020). Last year, he  joined the Texans as the associate head coach and defensive coordinator. He’ll rely heavily on Hamilton to take care of the offense.

Hamilton’s coaching resume stretches back to 1997 and contains a total of 15 career moves between college and the pros, mostly as a quarterback or wide receiver coach. He was the offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts (2013-2015), and a head coach in the XFL. He served as the Bears QB coach under Smith in 2007 to 2009 and this reunites the pair.

Coaching tendencies

There’s not a lot to go on as to any change in the direction of the offense. Hamilton was considered a key piece by Smith when he assembled his staff, in part because of the relationship he had already forged with rookie quarterback Davis Mills. He’s already spoken to his expectations for the offense with Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins and Brevin Jordan.

Hamilton’s only stint as an NFL offensive coordinator was in 2013-2015 during the middle of Andrew Luck’s career and was there in 2014 when Luck threw for a personal best 4,761 yards and 40 touchdowns.

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Hamilton had elements of the West Coast offense, with a scheme that spreads the passing among the wideouts, tight end and running backs. All three years in Indy saw a committee backfield that mixed Trent Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Donald Brown, and Frank Gore without any providing more than marginal fantasy points. No back had more than 157 carries in his first two seasons, though Gore ran 260 times for 967 yards in 2015 with a paltry 3.7-yard average.

Despite playing with Andrew Luck, the only notable receivers were a young T.Y. Hilton and a fading Reggie Wayne. Hamilton generates excitement that he can help rebuild the offense as he did with the Colts when he took an offense that was only average and saw them rank  as high as No. 3 in offensive yardage.

Hamilton did rely more heavily on Frank Gore for the one season, so there’s no guarantee that the Texans extend their mind-numbing committee approach with aging and mediocre runners like last year.

Personnel changes

The Texans own the 1.03 pick in the draft, along with the 2.05 and two picks in the third round. The problem is that there are needs at almost every position and the expectation is that the first one goes to defense. What they do in free agency will be just as important as how they spend their picks, but this is a team with few difference makers and nearly no depth anywhere.

Deshaun Watson is still expected  to be traded, and the bevy of picks that likely nets are much needed. Davis Mills and Tyrod Taylor will battle for the starting spot only because Lovie Smith said no one walks into a starting role, but all expectations are that Mills spends his second season as a full-time starter.

The Texans’ backfield ranked dead-last in rushing yards (1,193 ) and rushing touchdowns (5) and used seven different running backs along the way. Rex Burkhead was the most productive with only 122 runs for 427 yards. David Johnson and Royce Freeman are free agents. Only Rex Burkhead is signed for this year.  The Texans will be acquiring either free agents or rookies or both.

Brandin Cooks was the lone bright spot among the 2021 receivers and he’s signed through this season. Beyond him, there was little last year. The rookie Nico Collins was next best with 33 catches but only one score. Like the backfield, the Texans opted for quantity over quality again. The entire set of wideouts is forgettable after Cooks and maybe Collins.

The rookie tight end Brevin Jordan sparked optimism in the second half of the 2021 season but still only ended with only 20 catches. But the Texans were happy enough that this won’t be considered a need.

Fantasy football takeaway

The Texans ranked at the bottom of virtually all fantasy metrics last year. The offensive line rates as one of the worst for the last several seasons. The trade for left tackle Larry Tunsil stripped the franchise of two No. 1 picks at the time but only meant that there was one good blocker amid all the others. At least they have a first-round pick this year.

There are still holes from when Bill O’Brien wrecked the roster and David Culley inherited the problems plus lost Deshaun Watson.  The  probable fantasy upgrade will be with  running backs, but limit expectations until their offensive line finally shows improvement.

Davis Mills could be a surprise this year. New OC Pep Hamilton was the QB coach last year and the rookie threw four 300-yard games over twelve starts and totaled eight touchdowns over the final four games. And he did that with little more than Brandin Cooks for a weapon.

Barring a surprise drafting of an early wideout, Cooks holds almost all the fantasy outlook for the receivers. There are so many needs it all depends on how the Texans approach the draft and free agency. Sadly, it is not considered a strong year for rookie running backs anyway, and Hamilton is okay with a committee of mediocre rushers if he can ignite the passing instead.

2022 NFL coaching changes: Buffalo Bills

Will Buffalo’s offense miss a beat with a new coordinator in Ken Dorsey?

Long-time NFL offensive coordinator Brian Daboll finally earned his shot at being a head coach when the New York Giants came calling, paving the way for the Buffalo Bills to look internally for his replacement. Quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey was promoted to the OC job, which will be his first experience as a pro play-caller.

Despite being a noob in this area, the former NFL QB has been in the league as a coach for eight seasons as a quarterbacks coach. Dorsey also served as a pro scout for the Carolina Panthers and an assistant athletic director for Florida International University. Joe Brady will replace him as the positional coach.

Dorsey has been instrumental in quarterback Josh Allen‘s development, and while the new OC came up under Mike Shula’s tutelage in Carolina, don’t expect this offense to stray a great deal from what has worked so well the last two years in Buffalo.

Dorsey helped put his stamp on 2021’s most prolific offense as he tacked on “passing game coordinator” to his duties. The key for Buffalo will be trying to keep continuity in place through the coaching change.

Coaching tendencies

It’s always tough to say with ironclad confidence just how much variance we’ll see out of Dorsey in relation to Daboll, but the degree of change shouldn’t be overly noticeable. What’s more difficult to predict is his in-game play-calling habits. Some coaches are great at scheming and drawing up plays but ultimately struggle to actually call the right plays in the heat of the moment. That’s not to say he will have a rough go of it, but it’s plenty fair to posit how long it will take to become a well-oiled offense.

A quick look at Daboll’s system should help give us some idea of what to expect from an overarching view. In the past two years, which are a better representation of his four seasons in Buffalo thanks to Allen having mastered the offense, the Bills ranked 11th in passing attempts in 2020 and fifth in ’21. As a result, we’re looking at the third-most yards and TD passes two years ago and the ninth-highest yardage output to go along with the seventh-most aerial strikes in 2021.

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The rushing attack produced the sixth-most yards and ranked No. 7 in scores in a year ago. In 2020, Buffalo’s ground game was less prominently featured, generating the 20th-most yards on the 17th-most attempts. Fourteen teams produced more touchdowns from the backfield. But, even with all of the passing success, Daboll’s offense at its core loves to run the ball. The same can be said for Shula, Dorsey’s mentor. In the two years before Allen ascended to an elite level, the Bills ran the sixth-most times in consecutive seasons, and in Daboll’s nine seasons as an OC, his teams ranked sixth or better in attempts six times. The rankings of pass-to-run ratios the past three years in Buffalo: 10th (2021), 12th (2020) and 26th (2019).

The 40-year-old Dorsey is rooted in a run-based system. Some of it has been out of necessity, because NFL-caliber QBs aren’t exactly easy to come by, but Shula did have Cam Newton in his prime.

Below is a breakdown of Shula’s seasons as an NFL offensive coordinator. Take it with a grain of salt, since Dorsey is his own man and has a Ferrari at quarterback with a run-of-the-mill coupe in the backfield. Similarities in having mobile quarterbacks with defensive-minded bosses can be found.

Play-calling tendencies also greatly rely on the efficacy of a defense, and that shouldn’t be an issue in Buffalo.

Category TB (1996-99) CAR (2013-16 NYG (2018-19) Total
Yards 27 18 19 22
Points 25 13 14 18
TO margin 19 13 15 17
Rushing attempts 7 5 12 10
Rushing yards 13 7 11 12
YPC 18 14 12 14
Rushing TD 18 10 13 15
Passing attempts 28 25 20 23
Passing yards 29 24 21 24
Passing TD 19 14 14 16

What should be gleaned from this table? Dorsey, even with his background as a quarterback and QBs coach, cut his teeth in a run-heavy system during modern-era football and also went on to see the same situation play out in Buffalo as the team’s quarterback became more capable. Remaining balanced is in his coaching DNA, and if he gets away from it, don’t count on him lasting long in Western New York.

Personnel changes

The Bills currently sit nearly $3 million in the hole, but there won’t be much trouble restructuring a few deals to get under the salary cap and still have room to sign rookies.

As for free agents, veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders is set to become available, but there’s no urgency to re-sign him ahead of his age-35 season. Backup quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, RB Matt Breida, special teamer Taiwan Jones also are scheduled to hit the market. Left guard Ike Boettger will join them, and given Jon Feliciano‘s durability issues, re-signing the veteran reserve or adding more depth will be key to maintaining the positional strength.

Seven defenders are schedule for free agency, and six of them are along the defensive line. Buffalo should restock depth up front, but they could make a serious bid to renew Harrison Phillips if the money lines up. Expect cornerback Levi Wallace to be a coin flip for returning as his contract demands may exceed what the Bills can devote. All told, this team should return nearly intact on both sides of the ball with a hint of cap creativity.

Fantasy football takeaway

Allen should reprise his role as one of the three-best fantasy quarterbacks. His legs really make a difference, and that says something when talking about a guy who as at least 36 TD passes in consecutive seasons.

The backfield will be interesting to watch with a free-agent market that has some intriguing options to pair with 2021 breakthrough-lite Devin Singletary. After back-to-back years of mediocrity, he strung together seven straight games with 14.9-plus PPR points to close out the season. The Florida Atlantic product scored nine of his 11 TDs in that time (includes postseason). Singletary has season-long RB2 potential but likely shakes out as a third back in most formats.

Zack Moss was in and out of the gameday lineup as a healthy scratch, so his 2022 outlook is thick as mud for the time being. Moss is purely a flier for now.

Stefon Diggs figures to be a top-flight PPR receiver once again, and he’s safely placed among the five most important players at his position. Gabriel Davis is the real wild card among the fantasy prospects. He exploded in the AFC Divisional Round to the tune of four TDs but scored five times in the prior six contests after a forgettable opening three months to the campaign. If Buffalo doesn’t address this position with a clear-cut favorite, Davis will be a popular breakout candidate for more than a third of the season at a time. Cole Beasley‘s contract is in its final year, and he’s a favorite of Allen, so it will be a surprise if he’s not extended or restructured with a dummy year rather than being released.

Tight end Dawson Knox was one of fantasy’s most pleasant breakthroughs in 2021, and barring an injury derailing him, there’s no reason to expect a serious step backward. That said, he’s touchdown-dependent by nature, and the idea of him taking yet another step forward warrants healthy skepticism if one expects the first three receivers will excel. Either way, he’s still usually capped at being the third target-getter over the long run of 2022.

Expect little to change on the surface, and Dorsey’s comfort with Allen is the driving force behind it.

2022 NFL coaching changes: Miami Dolphins

Mike McDaniel leaves the 49ers offense to become the new head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

The Brian Flores era lasted three seasons in Miami, not counting ongoing litigation. His teams finished 5-11, 10-6, and 9-8 while just missing the playoffs the last two seasons. In 2021, the Fins were 1-7 before finishing 8-1. Notably, the Dolphins lost to the Jaguars to end their 20-game losing streak, but back-to-back winning seasons were believed to keep Flores on the job, particularly considering the quality of the roster and impact of injuries that indicated that Flores had done an admirable job with what he had to work with at the time.

But Flores was released with the official statement of “…I determined that key dynamics of our football organization weren’t functioning at a level I wanted it to be…”

That was speculated to mean that Flores and general manager Chris Grier had a power struggle and that Grier won. Regardless, the Dolphins moved on to new head coach Mike McDaniel who acted as a position coach for the offense in stints with the Washington Redskins (2013), Cleveland Browns (2014), Atlanta Falcons (2015-2016), and then was the run game coordinator for the 49ers (2017-2020) and then the offensive coordinator last season.

McDaniel played under head coach Kyle Shanahan whose lengthy NFL resume was entirely on the offensive side of the ball, and he’s always had a heavy hand in the play calling for the 49ers. McDaniel tagged along at every stop for Shanahan since 2006, and the new head coach will call plays for the Dolphins after working under Shanahan who he described as “one of the best aspects the San Francisco 49ers have going is we have one of the best play-callers to have done it,” about his old boss.

McDaniel will throw some nuances onto the offense, along with Frank Smith, but this will be a 49ers scheme that employs a complicated and diverse offense.

Coaching tendencies

McDaniel will call plays. He did not do that for the 49ers, but the influence is clear. The offense seeks to optimize all players, and to rely on a committee backfield, a strong tight end, and a diverse passing scheme that spreads the ball among all receivers. It is interesting that the only season as the offensive coordinator in San Francisco is the one that  developed Deebo Samuel into a hybrid weapon that no longer neatly fits any offensive position.

Last year, the 49ers’ offense ranked right around average in all the fantasy positions.  They ended No. 12 in pass yards (4,413), No. 14 in passing touchdowns (25), and No. 14 in overall quarterback fantasy points. And that was up from the previous three seasons where the position only  ended around No. 20 in fantasy points each year.

The 49ers had long relied on a committee approach with running backs but last year – the only one with McDaniel as offensive coordinator – surprised when they relied heavily on just one running back. Elijah Mitchell had injury issues, but when he was healthy, he became a workhorse and logged over 20 carries in each of his last five games played.

The stats fell for tight ends last year when George Kittle struggled with injuries. He had been Top-5 when healthy over the previous three years. Kittle was often  the primary receiver in past seasons.

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The scheme spreads the passes around to the wideouts, tight end, and running backs. That’s left wide receivers to rarely offer more than average stats and fantasy points. Deebo Samuel became mostly a running back in the second half of last year, but the 49ers ranked no better than average considering the receptions by the position.

Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel combined for ten games with six or more receptions. And that was influenced by the down year by George Kittle. The changes to the 49ers offense last year was finally relying on a workhorse back and the creative use of Samuel. How much of that was a function of McDaniel and not just Shanahan responding to situations will be seen this year in Miami.

Personnel changes

The Dolphins rated average in passing and receiving last year but were one of the worse teams rushing the ball. That’s a function of the offensive line and the lack of quality in running back. Overall, no team threw more passes (174) and completions (122) to their tight end. At 1,271 yards for the position, the Fins were No. 3. Mike Gesicki caught 73 passes but the others combined for 59 receptions. While they only rated around average in wideout categories, the great chunks came from Jalen Waddle.

The Dolphins’ hire of McDaniel was made partly with Tua Tagovailoa in mind. He enters his third NFL season and this is his first as the unquestioned starter. He dealt with Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2020 and then played last season with the specter of Deshaun Watson being acquired. The commitment is there for Tagovailoa who should benefit.

The offensive line needs improvement and was one of the worst units in 2021. They allowed the most quarterback pressures (235) and the Fins rushed for the second-fewest yards per carry (3.5). They brought in Boston College’s Matt Applebaum as the offensive line coach to implement a zone-blocking scheme that will benefit the run game in particular, but the Fins have to refresh at least some of the linemen if appreciable improvement is to happen.

The backfield ended with Myles Gaskin and Duke Johnson as the most productive, but it was a glaring weakness and further impaired by the poor blocking. This is an area that the Fins can upgrade easily and see at least some improvement. McDaniel was there for the 49ers’ first workhorse back in Elijah Mitchell but the Dolphins have no one remotely capable of that level of production, let alone the blocking that the 49ers enjoy.

Mike Gesicki is a free agent but could be a franchise tag. It would make sense and he would be a nice fit for the scheme that will rely on a tight end more than most.

Jaylen Waddle was a great pick last year, even though he cost the Fins a first-round pick to acquire. DeVante Parker is signed through 2023 and  returns but Will Fuller is a free agent after being a colossal bust in his only season with the team.

Fantasy football takeaway

This is a new offense and benefits won’t happen overnight, particularly if McDaniel mirrors the complex scheme of the 49ers. But Tua Tagovailoa gets a bump with the commitment they have in him. He gets a confidence boost and hopefully an upgrade to their offensive line that did him no favors for the last two years.

The area to watch is the backfield and how the new regime handles acquiring new running backs. This could remain a committee approach and certainly doesn’t merit any change with the below-average set of rushers currently on the team. The benefits of changes to the offensive line and backfield won’t be completely apparent until 2023, but it would be encouraging and worth noting if they elect to bring in a capable veteran or use an earlier draft pick on a running back. Myles Gaskin never proved to be worthy of a primary role, and it would be a shock if they didn’t make significant moves for the position.

Mike Gesicki won’t want to be a franchise tag, but that’s likely the best outcome in fantasy terms. Tua Tagovailoa relied on his tight ends last year more than any other team, so Gesicki remains a lock for a Top-10 fantasy season and potentially a career-best.

The outlook for DeVante Parker and Jaylen Waddle remains unchanged. Waddle’s 104 catches as a rookie cement him as a fantasy starter and Parker hangs on as the No. 2 that offers only marginal fantasy value, and that’s only if he can remain healthy after missing six games in 2021.

Like most teams turning the soil on coaching, there are reasons for optimism in the first year of HC Mike McDaniel and OC Frank Smith. But it is unlikely any of the fantasy prospects will see any significant leap in fantasy points.

2022 NFL coaching changes: Carolina Panthers

Can a once laughingstock reshape the Carolina offense in 2022?

Once tabbed as a budding offensive mastermind, former New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo’s star burned out nearly as fast as his meteoric ascent.

In 2022, after spending the past two years as in Jacksonville and Dallas, respectively, McAdoo was hired by the Carolina Panthers to serve as offensive coordinator. He will replace Joe Brady and his interim replacement, Jeff Nixon, after Brady was surprisingly fired during the season.

A brief history trip to refresh how we ended up here … McAdoo was a promising OC under Tom Coughlin and ultimately replaced him as head coach in 2016. The first-year leader would see his team finish 11-5 and get bumped by the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card Round. His sophomore season really couldn’t have gone any worse. The Giants would start 0-5 in a chaos-marred campaign that culminated with McAdoo’s dismissal after a 2-12 record following a game in which he snapped Eli Manning’s 210-game consecutive-start streak by a benching in favor of Geno Smith.

It was so bad that McAdoo didn’t coach at all in 2018 or ’19. He reemerged in Jacksonville as a quarterbacks coach in 2020 and spent the 2021 season as an offensive consultant in Dallas under his former coach Mike McCarthy.

Coaching tendencies

McAdoo’s system is a West Coast offense at its core, and his teeth were cut in that same offensive design while coaching on Jim Haslett’s staff in 2004. That year, the offensive coordinator was none other than McCarthy, whom he followed to San Francisco and again to Green Bay.

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His positional coaching has primarily involved tight ends and quarterbacks, which cannot be overlooked as aspects that helped Matt Rhule hire McAdoo. Not only are those two exceedingly important positions in a West Coast system, getting this quarterback situation righted in a hurry is paramount if Rhule wants to coach the Panthers beyond 2022.

Staples of McAdoo’s system include passing to running backs, involving tight ends who can challenge down the field, and racking up yards after the catch from the wideouts.

We all know Christian McCaffrey is among the best pass-catching backs in the league. Tight end/H-back Tommy Tremble offers plenty to work with as receiving outlet, and D.J. Moore’s ability after the catch is arguably his strongest trait. Veteran tight end Ian Thomas renewed with Carolina, securing a position of uncertainty within this offense.

The most dangerous of West Coast offenses have incorporated a reliable vertical threat and a dynamic chain-mover — both can be found Carolina wideouts Robby Anderson and Terrace Marshall Jr., respectively. Not too many teams are three deep with such clear distribution of attributes.

In 2014, calling plays for the Giants, McAdoo’s offense finished 18th in pass-run ratio, throwing 57.5 percent of the time. The following season, the result was 11th with 60.7 percent of the snaps being passing attempts. Expect a balanced approach in an ideal situation.

Personnel changes

The Panthers enter the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine week sitting 16th in salary cap space, or $10.1 million under the limit. Restructuring a few contracts should permit some wiggle room in free agency, but we’re looking at a team that feels it’s closer to a retooling than full rebuild. Following several quality draft additions in the last few years, this is the fourth-youngest roster in the NFL, and a huge portion of Carolina’s success will be tied to how much McAdoo can coax out of them.

Rumblings have suggested McCaffrey could be traded. Until something happens, presume there won’t be any serious offseason moves from this backfield.

The offensive line will need to be addressed. Center Matt Paradis and a pair of guards, John Miller and Trenton Scott, are set to become free agents. QB Cam Newton is unrestricted but could return to compete for a starting job. He’s not a great system fit, though. The defense is in a much different situation with several key players, especially in the secondary, scheduled to hit free agency.

Fantasy football takeaway

It all comes down to Sam Darnold at quarterback. He’s in the fifth year of his rookie deal, which guarantees him more than $18 million — actually a bargain if he can be coached into a starting-caliber passer. To date, we’ve seen hardly anything from him to be confident in suggesting Darnold will take a significant step forward. This is a poor rookie QB class, and the free-agent market won’t be much better. Could Carolina swing a deal for someone currently under contract, such as Jimmy Garoppolo, and upgrade the position? Perhaps. It will be tough based on the salary cap situation, so safe money says the Panthers open with Darnold as the Week 1 starter. His fantasy worth is basically locked in undraftable territory.

McCaffrey has become a major injury liability, which dramatically alters his fantasy football value. Will his stock tumble out of Round 1? Probably not. The veteran is a difference-maker when healthy, so gamer will have to take a leap of faith when investing. If he’s on the field, CMC is an RB1.

Moore stands to be the most impactful receiver of the lot. While a notable second-year leap from Marshall may be in store, it would likely require an injury of lengthy duration to Moore before that were to happen to the extent of being a breakout. Anderson is a capable deep threat and has offered little more, outside of one year in his career. Moore is a fringe WR1 or ideal No. 2 in PPR, whereas the other two are late-round roster-fillers in conventional formats.

At tight end, Thomas returning on a new deal likely entrenches him as the starter. He has yet to live up to the hype surrounding his physical traits. Tremble should be granted every opportunity to show during the offseason program he can be the guy, but it’s probable the veteran Thomas will stand in the way of an expanded role. Neither is more than a flier candidate.

Overall, the addition of McAdoo may not be the splash move fantasy footballers had hoped for at OC. He is, however, a veteran coach from a proven system who has at least shown capable of commanding a quality offense. Some coaches are just terrible at being “the guy” but thrive as a coordinator, and that’s shaping up to be McAdoo’s character arc.

2022 NFL coaching changes: Las Vegas Raiders

Can Josh McDaniels import the Patriot Way to the Raiders’ offense?

Well. That was quite the year.

The Raiders reached the NFL playoffs as the No. 8 seed against all odds. The Jon Gruden situation became the talk of the league after private emails were found to contain troubling language and content, and led to his release. That alone would have been enough to send any NFL team reeling but it was followed by the tragedy surrounding Henry Ruggs 156 mph drunken crash that took the life of an innocent woman.

Mix in losing the highest-paid No. 2 back of Kenyan Drake and Darren Waller switching from elite, unstoppable tight end to mostly injured and all but forgotten. The Raiders were playing uphill after the initial month of the season. They now turn to Josh McDaniels as the new head coach, luring him from his nine-year stretch as the Patriots offensive coordinator. He, in turn, tabbed the New England  Wide Receiver Coach of Mick Lombardi to become the offensive coordinator. Make no mistake – this is McDaniel’s offense, and he brings one of the lengthiest resumes in the NFL as an offensive coordinator.

McDaniels was a position coach with the Patriots from 2001 to 2005 and then spent three years as their offensive coordinator. He left to become the head coach at the Broncos for two years but then was fired and became the Rams offensive coordinator for 2011 before jumping back to the Patriots, where he’s directed the offensive for the last ten years. That’s a total of 14 years as an offensive coordinator – he’ll have a controlling hand in the offense.

The move to Las Vegas comes as a minor surprise. The assumption was that when McDaniels accepted the head coach job at the Colts in 2018 and then withdrew the acceptance, that it was about him remaining in New England to eventually replace Bill Belichick as the head coach. This is the first time that the Patriots haven’t had Tom Brady or Josh McDaniels in 22 years.

Coaching tendencies

McDaniels served as the offensive coordinator for three Super Bowl championships. But he was a previous head coach for the Broncos and that didn’t even last two full years before he was fired. He arrived in 2009 and went 8-8 with quarterback Kyle Orton, running backs Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter, and wideout Brandon Marshall as the lone offensive star.

In 2010, Marshall left and McDaniels was dismissed after the Broncos fell to 3-9, on the way to a 4-12 finish. He later said that while he knew football, he wasn’t as versed in people and controlling an organization. The Broncos opened 6-0 in 2009 but ended 2-8. That poor showing continued in 2010 and  McDaniels was involved in another “spygate” situation when the Broncos were caught filming a 49ers practice in London. McDaniels and the Broncos were both fined $50,000 and he was fired a month later.

He knows offense. While his tenure at the Patriots relied onTom Brady for all but two seasons, he adapted to both a running quarterback in 2020 and then a rookie pocket passer last season. McDaniels rarely used any elite receivers other than Rob Gronkowski (2012-2018) and Randy Moss (2007-2008). Even with Brady, his offenses usually ended up around No. 10 to No. 15 in passing yards in most years. That fell apart in 2020 when Cam Newton and company only threw for 3043 yards (No. 31) but the rookie Mac Jones brought them back up to No. 14 with 4,028 pass yards.

McDaniels has long relied on a sound-rushing offense. In almost every year, the Pats would turn in Top-5 stats in rushing attempts, yards, and touchdowns. But invariably, it came from a committee approach. McDaniels carried that over to the Broncos with Moreno and Buckhalter. They did ride the hot hand in many cases, but the Patriots offense is complicated and involves all of the offense without relying on a single player other than the quarterback.

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Last season was a case in point. Damien Williams (202-929-15) was the primary, but Brandon Bolden and Rhamondre Stevenson were both constantly involved even after James White was lost. Even though the quarterback was a rookie, Mac Jones spread the ball around to his wideouts with Jakobi Meyers as the primary with 83 catches for 866 yards but Kendrick Bourne also caught 55 passes for 800 yards and five scores. Hunter Henry also was second only to Meyers with 75 targets, and he led the team with nine touchdowns.

McDaniels prefers an accurate, smart quarterback, a committee backfield with a pass-catching third-down back, reliance on a tight end at least for red-zone receptions if not more, and a diverse set of receivers mixed and matched according to game situation. He’s been very consistent and it continues to work because it is so diverse and complicated – so many players are involved and it adjusts to the situation so it is harder to prepare to defend.

This will be the Patriots/McDaniels scheme. New England wide receivers coach Mick Lombardi follows him to become the new offensive coordinator. Carmen Bricillo also transfers over to remain an offensive line coach.

This effective and well-tested scheme now is applied to a passing attack that bounced around between No. 13 and No. 24 in quarterback fantasy points for all four years of Jon Gruden’s tenure. The Raiders were Top-5 in 2019 and 2020 in rushing attempts before plummeting last year and were usually Top-10 throwing to running backs, including No. 1 just last year with 118 completions to the position.

McDaniels arrives to a roster that has a strong tight end and a similar set of average wideouts.

Personnel changes

McDaniels did a great job last year adjusting the passing scheme to a rookie pocket passer, and he inherits a capable Derek Carr who comes off a career-best 4,804 passing yards with 23 touchdowns. Carr was on fire to start 2021 before Gruden left and Ruggs literally crashed. He’s in the final year of his current contract so how well he meshes with the new offensive scheme will be critical to him being extended or allowed to hit free agency in 2023.

Josh Jacobs is also in the final year of his rookie contract, and he fits nicely into the primary ball carrier role that always exists in McDaniel’s scheme though he’s less likely to crack the Top-10 for fantasy running backs in a committee backfield that will likely use someone else for the bulk of receptions. Kenyan Drake was signed to a shockingly lucrative contract last year as the No. 2 back, but he was lost to injury in Week 12 and had only a marginal impact. He’s expected to either restructure his deal or be released as his salary jumps from $3 million to $8.25 million this year which would make him among the top ten highest-paid backs in the league. He could fit in as the No. 2 back and the scheme certainly calls for one (or two).

There is also speculation that James White could show up, especially if Drake is released.

Darren Waller fits into the scheme well, though he comes off a surprisingly down year. He was the No. 2 fantasy tight end for 2019 and 2020. His stock remains high in the new offense.

The expectation is that the Raiders use one of their early picks on a speedy wideout to replace Henry Ruggs, and that could end up as their current No. 22 pick in the first round. Hunter Renfrow evolved into the primary receiver last year and his slot role is very popular in McDaniels’ offense, so he should remain a strong fantasy play. None of the rest of the wideouts broke 50 catches or 600 yards, so there could be other movements in the draft or free agency to upgrade an otherwise mediocre set of wideouts. Then again, that’s what McDaniels was given in most years running the Pats offense.

Fantasy football takeaway

The fantasy fortunes of the Raiders’ offense won’t likely see a leap, at least not in the first year of the installation of McDaniel’s scheme. Derek Carr is a capable quarterback and very much in the mold of a smart pocket passer that thrives in the scheme. This is a contract year for him as well, so he’ll need to give confidence that he’s the guy for McDaniel.

The backfield won’t change too much. Josh Jacobs is also in a contract year and has plenty of motivation to do well, but he’s more likely to see fewer receptions after jumping from 33 to 54 last year. That also reflected the loss of Kenyan Drake in the latter half of the season. Drake could return to that receiving role as the change-of-pace back, but he’ll need to take a hefty pay cut to remain. And McDaniels could end up bringing on James White or some other back as well. He won’t be happy with just one active back. He usually relies on at least two if not three in every game, so the fantasy prospects are not encouraging here, but Jacobs should hold onto his Top-15 level or a bit better.

Darren Walls was shockingly ineffective in many games for 2021 after being elite for two straight seasons. His stock should remain high and any concerns about him are more regarding the decline last year than what his role would be in the new scheme. Walls is well suited for a “Gronkowski” role.

Installing a new offense usually takes more time with the wide receivers, though Carr is capable veteran and the current receivers have chemistry with him. Hunter Renfrow’s dramatic improvement in the second half of the 2021 season is more likely to continue than to decline.  Chances are best that he’ll be the clear No. 1 wideout and that the rest of the receivers remain mediocre. If they draft a speedster in an early round, he’ll play an immediate role but will be very unlikely to produce consistent, notable fantasy stats every week.