Despite the fact that players have been unable to communicate with their new coaches and get acquainted with their new systems due to the lockout, every new head coach brings some change from last season. When the players will get a chance to review their new playbooks (or when free agents and draft picks will get signed) remains to be seen but let's review the new schemes that these seven teams will be working with.
Jim Harbaugh - 49ers
Harbaugh, a former quarterback himself, is a coach best known for his ability to develop quarterbacks and his “pro-style” west coast offense. This is good news for Alex Smith, a former first-overall pick who has not been able to catch a break thus far – he has even been working with Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck on learning the Harbaugh system. This also means a bigger focus on tight ends and running backs in the passing game. Vernon Davis and Frank Gore will be the centerpiece of this offense but look for secondary tight ends, backs, and Michael Crabtree to get a lot more looks.
Hue Jackson – Raiders
Jackson took over the play calling duties from head coach Tom Cable last season to great success. He doubled the team's previous season's production and helped a healthy Darren McFadden have a stellar breakout season. This also means that the Raiders will likely continue to rely on Jason Campbell to work with his young but now more experienced receivers – Jacoby Ford, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Louis Murphy.
John Fox - Broncos
With John Fox taking over for Josh McDaniels, the Broncos have a lot of work to do in learning a completely new system. While McDaniels focused on big play passing, Fox is much more conservative and focuses on a good ground game and making few mistakes. This means that Brandon Lloyd won't get the same opportunities he did last season, Knowshon Moreno and one of the Broncos other RBs (probably Laurence Maroney) will see more action, and could also be good news for Tim Tebow who seems like a better fit for Fox.
Ron Rivera – Panthers
Rivera, replacing Fox in Carolina, is a defensive minded coach so the offense will largely rest on the shoulders of new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. Chudzinski, a former tight end himself, was the Chargers' tight end coach last season and in 2005 and served as the Browns' offensive coordinator inbetween. He also coached in Miami where he brought up All-American tight ends Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow, and Bubba Franks. This is certainly good news for Shockey, the Panthers' new tight end. Rivera and Chudzinski will also have to figure out the quarterback situation. The Panthers have three young quarterbacks, this year's first overall pick and Heisman winner Cam Newton, last year's first-round pick Jimmy Clausen (3 TDs, 9 INTs in his first season), and another 2010 draftee Tony Pike, who did not get playing time in 2010.
Pat Shurmur - Browns
Shurmur is a Mike Holmgren protege who, like Harbaugh, runs a west coast offense. This means more focus on the running backs and tight ends in the passing game. Peyton Hillis will have to split time with Montario Hardesty this season after Hardesty missed all of 2010 – and will also be expected to be more active as a receiver. Tight end Ben Watson also figures to play much more heavily into the offensive scheme.
Jason Garrett - Cowboys
Garrett took over a interim head coach last season and has been the Cowboys offensive coordinator since 2007 so absolutely no change here. Expect the Cowboys to rely heavily on Tony Romo and their receivers with their two-headed running game playing an important but secondary role in the offense. Also look for Dez Bryant to get more looks if he stays healthy.
Leslie Frazier - Vikings
Like Garrett, Frazier took over mid-season for Brad Childress as an interim coach. Now official, the defensive minded Frazier and new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will work on a post-Favre Vikings offense. Adrian Peterson will be an even more important part of the Vikings' offensive strategy, so he figures to be first-overall pick material this year. Musgrave is also a great quarterback developer, a great thing for 12th overall pick in this year's draft, Christian Ponder. Look for Ponder to win the starting job and develop under Musgrave's tutelage – making him a pretty good sleeper this year thanks to those great receivers.