NFL Handicapping: Analyzing New NFC Defensive Coordinators
by Robert Ferringo - 7/17/2013
As NFL offenses continue to evolve and incorporate more passing and more read-option facets, NFL defensive coordinators are tasked with keeping up. Eleven defensive coordinator positions – over one-third of the entire league – changed hands during the offseason. And how defenses respond to their new schemes, systems and leaders will go a long way in determining how their teams may fair this season.
We have broken down the latest AFC defensive coordinators here. Now here is a breakdown of the new defensive coordinators in the NFC:
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Monte Kiffin, Dallas – Kiffin is a defensive mastermind and a true legend among NFL coordinators. He is back in the league after following his loser son through the college ranks the past four years. Kiffin developed the famed Tampa-2 scheme, which is a modified Cover-2. It requires a 4-3 base defense, and that will be a significant change for the Cowboys, who have been running a 3-4 for years.
Philosophically this defense is almost the exact opposite of what they had been running under Rob Ryan. Dallas has the talent and power to make the system work in the front seven. But how the Cowboys secondary responds to Kiffin’s schemes will tell the tale of whether or not this new form takes.
Kiffin’s NFL experience, and the fact that he’s worked against read-option and spread formations the last four years in college, makes him uniquely qualified as a DC. But Cover-2 defenses are falling out of favor, and it will be interesting to see if Kiffin can spark a Renaissance.
Billy Davis, Philadelphia – This is another odd choice of coordinator for the Eagles. Davis has studied under Mike Nolan and Dom Capers, which is positive. But Davis was the coordinator of two atrocious defenses in San Francisco in 2005 (No. 30 scoring and No. 32 total) and 2006 (No. 30 scoring and No. 26 total). His next gig after that was with Arizona in 2009 and 2010, where his defenses ended up ranked No. 20 and No. 29 in total defense, respectively.
Needless to say, Davis is a disaster waiting to happen. And I know this because he brings a ubiquitous “hybrid” defense to the Eagles. Part 4-3, part 3-4, Davis’ defense looks better on the chalkboard than it does on the field. And I don’t believe you can take personnel fit for a scheme from the previous regime and then suddenly expect those players to perform in this scattered scheme.
Mel Tucker, Chicago – Over the past 15 years the Chicago Bears defense has routinely been one of the best in football. So I am a bit skeptical of bringing in a completely new coordinator from outside the organization to implement a new system. Tucker will retain Chicago’s 4-3 base defense, which his teams in Jacksonville and Cleveland used.
The problem is that – like so many guys on this list – Tucker has a track record of failure. He was the DC in Cleveland in 2008, and that team went 4-12 and was No. 26 in total defense. He had one Top 10 defense as the DC in Jacksonville (2011), but his other three units finished No. 23 or worse in points allowed and total defense each year. The Bears front office seems to be moving away from the Lovie Smith Era swiftly. But this hiring is one of those moves that could blow up in their face if Tucker can’t top his previous efforts.
Todd Bowles, Arizona – Bowles comes from Philadelphia, where he was the defensive coordinator and secondary coach last year. His background is working in the secondary, and he has 12 years of position coach experience overall. Bowles also served as the interim head coach in Miami in 2011. The pass defenses associated with Bowles in Philly and Miami were hit and miss, but it’s hard to tell just what he’s going to accomplish in Arizona in place of the departed (and well-respected) Ray Horton. Bowles will maintain the 3-4 base alignment.
Tim Walton, St. Louis – The Rams DC position was vacant last year due to the suspension of Gregg Williams thanks to the bounty scandal in New Orleans. St. Louis might be better off with no DC than with Walton.
Detroit coach Jim Schwartz is a good friend and former staff mate of St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher. Well, Walton served under Schwartz as the Lions secondary coach from 2009-2012. Since Fisher and Schwartz use similar terminology that was a big selling point, and a recommendation from Schwartz to Fisher didn’t hurt either.
The problem is that Detroit has fielded one of the worst secondaries in the league the past several seasons. Was that shoddy talent or shoddy coaching? I’m not sure. But what I do know is that Walton’s only DC experience was a one-year stint calling plays at the University of Memphis. Good luck with that.
Dan Quinn, Seattle – The Seahawks are replacing Gus Bradley, who took the head coaching position in Jacksonville. Quinn was a defensive line coach in Seattle in 2009-2010 and has been the defensive coordinator at Florida the past two seasons. This is his first gig as a DC, and I am curious as to why Seattle brass eschewed continuity from Bradley’s system and pulled someone up from the college ranks.
Bradley led back-to-back Top 10 defenses with the Seahawks. But some fools complained about his “conservative” game plans and schemes. Quinn is more of a risk taker. But when you’re steward of the No. 1 scoring defense in football, how much risk do you need to take? Expect a lot more blitzing from the Seahawks, which could lead to more big plays – and more scoring – for and against Seattle.
The Seahawks could be one of the more overrated teams in the NFL heading into the season. We’ll see if Quinn’s hire helps or hurts this team.
Robert Ferringo is a lead writer for Doc’s Sport and he has earned over $9,000 in football profit for his clients over the last 15 football months. He is looking forward to another amazing season on the gridiron and has banked five of six winning NFL seasons, two of three winning years and 27 of 39 winning football months. Sign up today and start earning and CLICK HERE to claim a $60 free credit to be used toward the purchase of Robert’s plays.
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