By Juan C. Lozano | June 29, 2018
There are a host of new offensive and defensive coordinators throughout the NFL this season. Over the next few weeks, HCR will take a look at these coaches, who will have a profound impact on their new team’s fortunes.
Today, we’ll examine the new offensive coordinators in the AFC:
PRIOR OC EXPERIENCE: Cleveland Browns (2009–2010), Miami Dolphins (2011), Kansas City Chiefs (2012), Alabama (2017)
REPLACES: Rick Dennison
BIGGEST CHALLENGES: Daboll is the Bills’ fifth coordinator in five seasons, and he has his work cut out for him. The Bills, a playoff team in 2017, begin the season with questions at quarterback. Last year’s starter, Tyrod Taylor, is now with the Browns. Daboll has this year’s first-round pick (Josh Allen) as well as 2017 selection (Nathan Peterman) and free-agent acquisition A.J. McCarron to work with. … There will also be new faces in front of the quarterback, as the offensive line loses Cordy Glenn, Richie Incognito and Eric Wood. The only certainty along the line is that second-year player Dion Dawkins will start.
PRIOR OC EXPERIENCE: Arizona Cardinals (2007–2008), Pittsburgh Steelers (2012–2017)
REPLACES: No one officially; head coach Hue Jackson called the team’s offensive plays.
BIGGEST CHALLENGES: In 2018, Haley has more weapons than the Browns have had in Jackson’s two previous seasons, as new GM John Dorsey made several transactions to improve the roster. Despite the improvements, there is a great deal of uncertainty about player roles on the team. Standout left tackle Joe Thomas retired and running back Isaiah Crowell left during the offseason. All the quarterbacks that were on the 2017 roster are now elsewhere. The starting QB will either be former Bills starter Tyrod Taylor or first overall pick Baker Mayfield. … Former 49ers running back Carlos Hyde joins Duke Johnson and Nick Chubb, a second-round pick out of Georgia, at running back. … Wide receiver Jarvis Landry, obtained via trade with the Dolphins, brings stability to the passing game as the Browns have a host of unproven and to this point unreliable talent in oft-injured Corey Coleman, frequently suspended Josh Gordon and tight end David Njoku. … Haley’s challenge will be getting all the new parts on the same page in order for the Browns to compete in the AFC North.
PRIOR OC EXPERIENCE: Carolina Panthers (2000), Virginia (2001–2002), Jacksonville Jaguars (2003-2004), Minnesota Vikings (2011–2013), Oakland Raiders (2015−2016), Denver Broncos (2017)
REPLACES: Mike McCoy
BIGGEST CHALLENGES: It’s going to be a process in getting the offense to go from one of the least productive offenses in the NFL. Musgrave was promoted from QB coach after Mike McCoy was fired in late November. The Broncos released 2017 leading rusher C.J. Anderson and drafted Oregon running back Royce Freeman in the third round. Freeman joins a committee of young running backs. … After parting ways with QB Trevor Siemian, the Broncos signed former Vikings quarterback Case Keenum to be the starter. Keenum will need to rely on veterans Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders as the rest of the pass catchers are young and unproven. The tight ends, Jake Butt and Troy Fumagalli, are expected to play a significant role in the offense as both pass catchers and run blockers.
PRIOR POSITION: Wide Receivers, Los Angeles Chargers
PRIOR OC EXPERIENCE: None
REPLACES: Rod Chudzinski
BIGGEST CHALLENGES: Head Coach Frank Reich will call plays in Indianapolis. However, Nick Sirianni will have the offensive coordinator title. The Colts offense struggled in 2017. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett played admirably despite being acquired just before the season. There are still doubts as to whether Andrew Luck will return, although the word out of Colts camp is that he is expected to return from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the 2017 season. Whoever the quarterback is in Indianapolis, they must do a better job of protecting him. … Second-year Marlon Mack and rookie speedster Nyheim Hines will shoulder the load at running back. … The biggest frustration for the Colts offense a year ago was at wide receiver, where the team didn’t get what they needed out of T.Y. Hilton. His on-field decision-making was curious at times. … The team signed Eric Ebron and he joins steady Jack Doyle at tight end.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS:
PRIOR POSITION: Running Backs, Kansas City Chiefs
PRIOR OC EXPERIENCE: Colorado (2011–2012)
REPLACES: Matt Nagy
BIGGEST CHALLENGES: Eric Bieniemy doesn’t have play-calling responsibility. This is Andy Reid’s offense. … At quarterback, Pat Mahomes takes over for the departed Alex Smith. Mahomes, a second-year player, only started one game during his rookie campaign. He’s still unproven. The running game should help take some of the pressure off Mahomes, as 2017 leading rusher Kareem Hunt returns at running back. … After a hot start in 2017, the Chiefs had issues scoring touchdowns in the red zone. The acquisition of wide receiver Sammy Watkins should help with their scoring woes. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce return after 1,000-yard seasons. … The big change here is Mahomes. Can he make the plays that Smith couldn’t? Can Reid help in lessening the learning curve for his young quarterback? Reid has a reputation as a quarterback guru. He’s going to need to channel that guru one more time to get Mahomes and the Chiefs to the playoffs.
PRIOR POSITION: Offensive Coordinator, Chicago Bears
PRIOR OC EXPERIENCE: Tennessee Titans (2012–2013), Chicago Bears (2016–2017)
REPLACES: Clyde Christensen
BIGGEST CHALLENGES: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is coming off a knee injury that sidelined him for the entire 2017 season. The Dolphins are a different team now than when Tannehill last took a snap. The Dolphins lost key contributors in wide receiver Jarvis Landry, running back Damien Williams, and center Mike Pouncey in the offseason. The Dolphins did add Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson to join Devante Parker and Kenny Stills at wideout. Miami native Frank Gore signed during the offseason and gives the team depth at running back as Kenyan Drake, who finished the season strong, will likely be the lead back. … How Loggains integrates this new talent will determine how the Dolphins offense fares in 2018.
NEW YORK JETS:
PRIOR POSITION: Quarterbacks Coach, New York Jets
PRIOR OC EXPERIENCE: Seattle Seahawks (2010)
BIGGEST CHALLENGES: This is the third offensive coordinator in three seasons for the Jets. The offense struggled in 2017 as it averaged just under 19 points per game and the team promoted Bates, a Mike Shanahan disciple, from quarterback coach. Bates has the task of getting rookie QB Sam Darnold ready for game action. If he can’t, look for the quarterback to be either veteran incumbent Josh McCown or free-agent signee Teddy Bridgewater. … Another significant free agent acquisition was RB Isaiah Crowell who joins Thomas Rawls as the primary backs in the Jets backfield. Running backs coach Stump Mitchell has heaped praise on Elijah McGuire’s development. … The wide receiver corps is young and largely unproven as are the tight ends. Terrelle Pryor and Jermaine Kearse are the only proven players at wideout. The team missed injured wide receiver Quincy Enunwa last season. … Bates has his work cut out for him if the Jets are to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season.
PRIOR POSITION: Quarterbacks, Los Angeles Rams
PRIOR OC EXPERIENCE: Central Washington (1990–1993), Detroit Lions (2004–2005), St. Louis Rams (2006–2007), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2008–2011), Oakland Raiders (2013–2014), Jacksonville Jaguars (2015–2016)
REPLACES: Todd Downing
BIGGEST CHALLENGES: Olson is the offensive coordinator, but the expectation is that Jon Gruden will call plays. This is the Raiders’ fourth different play-caller and third distinct scheme in the last five years. … The Raiders offense will play a more smash-mouth style that will employ the use of the fullback. However, it will rely on players such as running back Marshawn Lynch and wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who are on the back end of their careers. … Gruden and the Raiders need Derek Carr to rebound from a down year where his production waned due in part to a back injury. … Wide receiver Michael Crabtree departed during the offseason. Amari Cooper faded at times during the season and had a career low in catches and yards. Seth Roberts is steady, but the Raiders need more out of this group. The Raiders added Martavis Bryant and Ryan Switzer to give Carr more targets. … The interior of the line is one of the best in the game, but may have issues at tackle. Donald Penn is an older player at left tackle and rookie Kolton Miller is expected to man the right side of the line.
PRIOR POSITION: Quarterbacks Coach, Pittsburgh Steelers
PRIOR OC EXPERIENCE: Arkansas State (1997–2000), Memphis (2001–2006)
REPLACES: Todd Haley
BIGGEST CHALLENGES: This was one of the better offenses in the NFL in 2017; however, the organization decided to move on from Haley and promote Fichtner from quarterbacks coach. … The Steelers put up 42 points in a home loss in the AFC divisional round against a strong Jacksonville defense. They are capable of scoring points in bunches and are explosive. Did the window for an aging team close with that home loss? … With the foundation of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell and wideout Antonio Brown, the offense is in good hands. The development of slot receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was a pleasant surprise last year. The Steelers do a fantastic job of developing young wideouts. However, the team has a new wide receivers coach (Darryl Drake), as longtime coach Richard Mann retired after the season. … The offensive line was healthy for most of the 2017 season. But it is one of the older groups in the NFL. Age can creep up on teams quickly. Can the Steelers stave off this opponent for one more year?
PRIOR POSITION: Offensive Coordinator, Los Angeles Rams
PRIOR OC EXPERIENCE: Los Angeles Rams (2017)
REPLACES: Terry Robiskie
BIGGEST CHALLENGES: Since Sean McVay called plays for the Rams last season, this will be LaFleur’s first play-calling since he was OC at Div. II Ashland in 2007. As we wrote about in a recent feature on LaFleur, his biggest challenges will be getting the best out of QB Marcus Mariota, developing a young receiving corps and defining roles for running backs Derrick Henry and free-agent pickup Dion Lewis.