Draft Prep: AFC Offensive Coaching Changes for 2019

Kevin Taylor takes a look at the coaching changes in the AFC and what they could mean in the coming year.

There have been several coaching changes on the offensive side of the ball this off-season. The NFL has 17 new Offensive Coordinators and 8 new Head Coaches. Some of these HC’s will call their own plays, so I will dive into them more so than the OC’s of those particular teams. This is a two-part article with the first covering the AFC changes and the second covering the NFC.

 

AFC EAST

 

Miami Dolphins New HC Brian Flores, New OC Chad O’Shea

2018 Offensive Team Rankings:

Points Scored: (26th)

Total Yards: (31st)

Offensive DVOA: (26th)

Passing DVOA: (27th)

Rushing DVOA: (15th)

The Dolphins bring in two former Patriots coaches to try and turn things around in Miami after the departure of Adam Gase to New York. Flores was the Patriots Defensive Coordinator last year and O’Shea was a long time New England Wide Receivers Coach.

Not much is known about O’Shea and how he will call the plays. During his time in New England, the Patriots never utilized a bell-cow running back so expect some sort of committee between Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage. Ballage–at 6’2′, 230lb–could potentially take on more goalline and short-yardage work and Drake would get more of the passing game work.

It will be interesting to see what O’Shea does with 2nd-year athletic freak tight end Mike Gesicki. Over the last 5 years at the combine, Gesicki posted the number one results in the vertical, shuttle, and the 3-cone drill. He was also 5th in 40-yd dash among all tight ends. Having years of experience watching future Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski, O’Shea should have an idea of how to get some good numbers out of Gesicki. He posted an uninspiring 22 catches for 202 yards in 2018, but his profile leaves much to be desired.

Lastly, it would be fair to assume the Dolphins pace of play could get a significant bump from years past. According to football outsiders pace stats metrics, the Dolphins ranked in the bottom three in 6 out of the 7 situations used. Meanwhile, the Patriots ranked in the top six in five of the seven categories.

 

New York Jets – New HC Adam Gase, New OC Dowell Loggains

2018 Offensive Team Rankings:

Points Scored: (23rd)

Total Yards: (29th)

Offensive DVOA: (28th)

Passing DVOA: (28th)

Rushing DVOA: (30th)

Gase and Loggains were both brought to New York from Miami taking on the same roles. In 2018, The Gase/Loggains-led Dolphins were near the bottom in pace, points, yards, offensive DVOA, and passing DVOA. They did receive middle of the pack results in Rushing DVOA though.

Look for the Jets to be one of the slower teams in terms of pace in 2019 as Gase’s Dolphins were near the bottom of the league in situation neutral pace during his three years in Miami.

The Jets bring in superstar RB Le’Veon Bell–fresh off of a one year lay off–and veteran slot WR Jamison Crowder to try and aid 2nd year QB Sam Darnold, who mostly struggled in his rookie season (30th among QBs in DYAR, DVOA, QBR). It will be interesting to see the Jets’ new approach as Gase’s Dolphins were bottom three in passing attempts two out of three years but top five in the other year.

Gase’s Dolphins never really highlighted the TE position as Dion Sims, Julius Thomas, and Mike Gesicki didn’t have many fantasy noteworthy games under Gase. This doesn’t bode well for 2nd year TE and popular sleeper Chris Herndon, who is also suspended the first four games of 2019.

The Jets have some interesting offensive pieces for sure, but their success will ultimately come from the arm of Darnold.

 

AFC North

 

Baltimore RavensNew OC Greg Roman

I won’t write much on Roman as I am not expecting much change for the Ravens in 2019. Roman will look to continue the success the Ravens had when Lamar Jackson took over as the starting quarterback in week 11 of last year. The Ravens were top-5 in rushing attempts per game, rushing yards per game, and rushing touchdowns when Jackson took over. They were also near the bottom in most passing stats during that time. Greg Roman led offenses have never finished above 29th in pass attempts. His teams have also never finished below 8th in rushing. So, expect another run-heavy offense that picks its spots passing in 2019.

 

Cincinnati Bengals – New HC Zac Taylor, New OC Brian Callahan

2018 Offensive Team Rankings:

Points Scored: (17th)

Total Yards: (26th)

Offensive DVOA: (19th)

Passing DVOA: (18th)

Rushing DVOA: (14th)

Taylor and Callahan were both QB coaches in 2018, so there isn’t a lot to gather in regards to their offensive tendencies. Zac Taylor is expected to call the plays in Cincinnati for what I believe is an underrated Bengals offense. Taylor worked under Sean McVay for the last two years and will try to implement some of the impressive things he has done in Los Angeles with the Rams. The Bengals dealt with a rash of injuries in 2018, especially in the 2nd half of the season. QB Andy Dalton played 11 games, WR A.J. Green played in 9 games, TE Tyler Eifert played in 4 games, and both RB Joe Mixon and WR Tyler Boyd missed a couple of games.

The Bengals don’t have a very good defense, finishing in the bottom half of the league in Defense DVOA, Pass Defense DVOA, and Rushing Defense DVOA. They didn’t address their poor defense in free agency or the draft so they should be in plenty of shootouts this coming year.

The Bengals were middle of the pack in the offensive line run blocking ranks and pass protection ranks according to football outsiders, and here they did spend some significant resources to bolster their line. They signed FA Guard John Miller, resigned Tackle Bobby Hart, and drafted two linemen in the first four rounds (1st Rd Tackle, Jonah Williams, 4th Rd Guard, Michael Jordan).

During the first eight weeks of 2018, when the Bengals were mostly healthy, their skill position players were putting up great numbers in fantasy. Looking at fantasy pros on a per-game basis in PPR formats, Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green were both top 13 WRs, Joe Mixon was a top 10 RB, Tyler Eifert was a top 15 TE, and Andy Dalton was 17th for QBs. It shows that with some injury variance going their way, this Bengals team can be one of the better offenses in the league.

 

Cleveland Browns – New HC Freddie Kitchens, New OC Todd Monken

Freddie Kitchens takes over as the new Head Coach of the Browns after being the Offensive Coordinator during the second half of 2018. Kitchens will be calling the plays this year even though former Buccaneers OC Monken was brought in, so we won’t dive too deep into him.

We should expect a similar approach from Kitchens, but the Browns do add superstar WR Odell Beckham Jr. on the outside to go along with WR Jarvis Landry in the slot and athletic TE David Njoku.

Here are some things of note from when Kitchens took over play-calling duties in week 9. Baker Mayfield was QB 20 in ppg on the season of QB’s to be in at least 8 games according to fantasy pros rankings. However, he was 10th in that stat from week 9 on. Duke Johnson’s targets didn’t change much under Kitchen (around 4 a game all season). Nick Chubb took over RB1 duties in week 7 and had about three targets a game for the season. It’s nice to know Kitchens doesn’t just see him as an early-down grinder. It is tough to know how the Browns will use Beckham Jr. as they didn‘t have a receiver as talented as he was last year. We can expect a target hit for everyone else in the passing game. Njoku was a low-end TE1 all year, but it was interesting his targets took a hit under Kitchens. From weeks 1-8, Njoku had five 7+ target games whereas the last eight games he had only one such game.

 

AFC South

 

Houston Texans New OC Tim Kelly

Not much to say here. Kelly was the Tight End’s coach and now moves up into the OC role. However, Head Coach Bill O’Brien still calls the plays and things should be similar to last year.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars – New OC John DeFilippo

2018 Offensive Team Rankings:

Points Scored: (27th)

Total Yards: (31st)

Offensive DVOA: (30th)

Passing DVOA: (31st)

Rushing DVOA: (21st)

John DeFilippo comes in to take over as offensive coordinator for Nathanial Hackett, who last year couldn’t build on the positive steps he took with this offense back in 2017. DeFilippo comes over from Minnesota where the Vikings offense underachieved in his lone season as OC there.

Expect to see a change in what we are used to with this Jaguars team and their philosophy. Since RB Leonard Fournette was drafted in 2017, the Jags have been 1st and 12th in rushing attempts while being 21st and 19th in passing attempts in that time. In DeFilippo’s two years as an OC (2015 and 2018), his teams were 27th in rush attempts both years and 11th/6th in passing attempts.

Nick Foles takes over for Blake Bortles as QB for the Jaguars. DeFilippo does have experience with Foles, as he was the QBs coach when Foles led the Eagles to a Super Bowl win a couple of years ago.

Last year, with RB’s Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray both healthy for the Vikings, Cook got 75% or more of the snaps 6 times and 55-70% of the snaps 4 times (one being when Murray chewed up garbage time in week 15). This shows that DeFilippo will go to a bell-cow back if he has a guy that can do it.

There’s no standout at WR to hog a lot of targets, so expect it spread out among a group including Dede Westbrook, Marquise Lee, Keelan Cole, Chris Conley, and DJ Chark. However, if a guy or two does emerge, they could start soaking in a lot of targets as shown by WR’s Stefon Diggs and Adam Theilen last year being the 7th and 8th most targeted WR’s per game in the whole league.

DeFilippo’s offenses have been known to funnel targets to their TE’s. Kyle Rudolph, for example, was 10th in TE targets last year and Gary Barnidge had his breakout season under DeFilippo in 2015 ranking 2nd in targets among TEs with 125.

 

Tennessee Titans New OC – Arthur Smith

New offensive coordinator Arthur Smith has been with Tennessee since 2011, but this will be his first year calling plays. From the Tennessean, “Smith said the foundation for what the Titans’ 2019 offense will look like was laid last season.” This means an offense based on establishing the run; the Titans were 9th in rushing attempts and 31st in pass attempts in 2018. Some of that could be attributed to QB Marcus Mariota having some nerve damage in his throwing arm last year.

There hasn’t been a lot of turnover for the Titans offense this offseason. The Titans have signed WR Adam Humphries and drafted WR A.J. Brown in the 2nd round of this year’s draft to compliment Corey Davis on the outside. The Titans also signed stud run blocking Guard Roger Saffold and will be getting their RT Jack Conklin back from injury in what should be a top-10 offensive line this year.

The Titans seem to be a forgotten offense in the AFC, and like the Bengals, they may be one of the sneakier offenses to watch out for.

 

AFC West

 

Denver Broncos – New HC Vic Fangio, New OC Rich Scangarello

2018 Offensive Team Rankings:

Points Scored: (24th)

Total Yards: (19th)

Offensive DVOA: (14th)

Passing DVOA: (24th)

Rushing DVOA: (5th)

Coming off a 6-10 season, the Denver Broncos decided to make changes at head coach and offensive coordinator. HC Vic Fangio and OC Rich Scangarello come in to try and improve this young offense that showed great promise in the running game last year. Scangarello comes from the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree, having worked under him in three of the last four years. This will be his first season calling plays in the NFL.

Look for the Broncos to be one of the run heavier teams in the league. Their offensive line, according to football outsiders, ranked 6th in run blocking overall and 11th in pass blocking. The unit should get back guard Ronald Leary from injury, and they signed solid right tackle Ja’Wuan James this offseason. Having both of them in the fold will help offset the loss of center Matt Paradis and tackle Jared Veldheer.

Shanahan is great at adapting his team to the personnel he has. For example, after throwing the second-most pass attempts in the league in 2017 with his healthy QB’s, his team threw the 29th most pass attempts in the league last year after quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was injured in week three. If Scangarello picked up on this from Shanahan, expect heavy doses of running backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, who make up the strength of this team right now.

The wide receiver group is concentrated which is great for fantasy football. Led by 32-year-old Emmanuel Sanders (who is still recovering from a torn Achilles that ended his season early) and 2nd-year receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton, the Broncos are expecting good things. They will, however, need Sutton and DaeSean to step up in a big way as Sanders may not have much left in the tank. The rest of the group consists of Tim Patrick and a slew of other undrafted free agents. New quarterback Joe Flacco has historically liked throwing to his tight ends, building great chemistry with Todd Heap and then Dennis Pitta before he got injured. This will be a competition to watch for sure seeing as they have four guys that could potentially be the starter from day one. Injuries hit this group hard last year. Jeff Heuerman is back after playing a partial season, second-year tight end Troy Fumagalli missed all of last year with a hernia injury, and third-year tight end Jake Butt missed most of last year after tearing his ACL. Those three guys are back and first-round rookie Noah Fant will look to carve out playing time early as well.

Overall, this offense isn’t projected to very high scoring, but the running backs should get a good amount of volume, which is key to their success in fantasy football. Also, be sure to keep an eye on who emerges in the tight end battle and how Sanders looks once he comes back.

(Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire)

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