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NFL Teams With New Looks
by Bryan Leonard - 07/31/2007
NFL Preseason is approaching. Time for players, coaches, and teams to turn over a new leaf. General managers have hired some new coaches, while coaches have added some offensive and defensive assistants to try and improve things. Hereâ€™s a look at some changes to look for with some teams in preseason.
Jets: The Jets were one of the surprise teams in the NFL last season, making the playoffs under hard driving first-year coach Eric Mangini. Mangini rebuilt the offensive line with rookies D'Brickashaw Ferguson (the No. 4 pick in the 2006 Draft) and Ohio State center Nick Mangold (the 29th pick in the first-round). This season he upgraded the defense with rookie LB Rookie linebacker David Harris (Michigan) while the secondary picked up a much needed top-notch corner in Pitt CB Darrelle Revis (No. 14 overall).
The Jets have added balance to the offense for QB Chad Pennington with RB Thomas Jones, essentially stolen from the Bears. He will upgrade a NY ground game that was 20th in rushing the football with a weak 3.5 yards per carry. They have their first true feature back since Curtis Martin. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer prefers ball control, like his father Marty. In preseason, behind Pennington youâ€™ll see second-year QB Kellen Clemens and mobile newcomer QB Marques Tuiasosopo.
Jaguars: The heat is on Jack Del Rio in Jacksonville, as they flopped last season despite a ton of talent. Keep in mind that under Del Rio the Jaguars have been outstanding in preseason with a 12-4 SU, 11-5 ATS August mark. Their defense is loaded, itâ€™s the offense that has been stuck in first gear the last few years.
Enter a new offensive coordinator in Dirk Koetter, the former Boise State and Arizona State pass-happy coach. He will try and upgrade a passing game that ranked 24th last season. Del Rio has criticized the wide receivers this summer in Reggie Williams and Matt Jones, who have battled injuries. It will be interesting to watch the â€œnewâ€쳌 Jaguars passing game in preseason.
Cardinals: Word out of Arizona is that the players like new coach Ken Whisenhunt, who was the Steelers offensive coordinator last year. We think of Arizona as all-passing because their running game has been awful of late because of a poor offensive line. However, keep an eye on the running game in preseason as theyâ€™ve made a lot of changes.
The new coach brings in Russ Grimm to coach the offensive line, who did a marvelous job building the Steelers line. They took Penn State OT Levi Jones in the first round and signed two offensive linemen, Mike Gandy and Al Johnson, to provide depth. Reggie Wells was moved from right tackle to left guard and they want more speed out of the offensive line for pulling and traps, a Pittsburgh staple under Bill Cowher.
Falcons: While all the attention has been focused on QB Mike Vickâ€™s off-field problems, new coach Bobby Petrino is revamping the Falcons from an all-running team to a more balanced one. Petrino likes the experience of backup QB Joey Harrington and he has veteran backup Chris Redman, who used to play for Petrino at Louisville and knows his offenses better than anyone. Petrino wants Vick to be more of a pocket passer.
The addition of FB Ovie Mughelli is a sign Petrino wants a power rushing attack behind a physical fullback and newcomer WR Joe Horn should upgrade what was a below average wideout corps. Petrino is changing their old zone-blocking scheme to a more traditional in-line blocking scheme and the offensive line is bigger. Rookie DEJamaal Anderson was grabbed in the first round and the secondary got younger with former Auburn cornerback David Irons, who they think was a steal as a sixth round pick.
Browns: The 2007 Browns look like a double-edged sword. There was the excitement of the offseason, trading for RB Jamel Lewis, upgrading the offensive line with Wisconsinâ€™s Joe Thomas (the No. 2 pick in the draft) and free agent LG Eric Steinbach, then trading for Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn when he fell to No. 22. GM Phil Savage and head coach Romeo Crennel feel they have a talented, balanced offense with these new pieces, plus TE Kellen Winslow and WR Braylon Edwards.
However, were these moves made in desperation? And were they foolish ones? The Browns gave up their 2008 first round pick for Quinn and we all know QBs take time to develop. And even first-round QBs can be busts (Joey Harrington, Akili Smith). We also donâ€™t know if the offensive line is that much improved (31st in rushing in 2006) and they did nothing to improve a defense that was awful against the run (142 yds pg allowed).
The Browns have a new offensive coordinator in Rob Chudzinski. This is a young offense and Quinn looked tentative, indecisive and inaccurate early in camp. Crennel will play Charlie Frye, Quinn and Derek Anderson in preseason. And there is a mixed bag for rookie QBs receiving significant starts: Tim Couch (14), Kerry Collins (13), Ben Roethlisberger (13), Vince Young (13), Joey Harrington (12), Matt Leinart (11) and Kyle Boller (nine). While all the focus will be on the Browns new-look offense, Iâ€™m more concerned with the defense.
Panthers: Coach Jon Fox loves the ground game, but Carolina has made some interesting changes for 2007. Fox fired offensive coordinator Dan Henning and brings in Jeff Davidson to run the offense. Davidson has brought in zone-blocking schemes to the Panther offense, a dramatic change for a system that's been built around a power-running style.
In zone-blocking, offensive linemen are responsible for blocking any defender who appears in their zone, instead of focusing on one defender. The Broncos and Falcons have had success with the system, which features smaller, more athletic offensive linemen and can create running lanes on the inside and outside. Keep an eye in preseason on how Carolina adjusts as it will take time to learn the system. Fox has been one of the top coaches in preseason, with a 15-5 SU, 12-7-1 ATS August record.
Dallas Cowboys: WR Terrell Owens is still here, but QB Drew Bledsoe and Bill Parcells are gone. New head coach Wade Phillips takes over replacing Parcells. He ran the Chargers defense last season. Phillips was chosen by teary-eyed owner Jerry Jones partly because he is one of the best 3-4 coaches in football and the Cowboys have loaded up on players for that scheme.
Remember that Phillips was blitz-happy with the Chargers last season and reports out of the Dallas camp have mentioned how the Cowboys have been blitzing a lot, which is a departure from Parcells. The theme of the 2007 Dallas defense appears to be one of attack.