Our latest installment of the NFL Coaching Systems breakdown here in the FREE fantasy football draft guide takes us to the NFC South where we may have two new head coaches, but only one offensive scheme has changed from last year. Year-to-year consistency is not something we see a lot of in the NFL, so when you do get a program that stays the same, your hope is that the teams are adding the right personnel and those who have been held over are more in-tune with what their coaches want them to do. Fantasy football-wise, however, the NFC South isn’t what it used to be. It’s not bereft of talent, but the high-flying, high-scoring offenses we are used to have changed and that is certainly evident if you look for this division’s players in the fantasy football player rankings. Sure, I’ve done some fantasy football mock drafts and some fantasy football best ball drafts where I’ve tried to stack some Saints and Bucs, but it’s just not the same as it once was. Still, there’s plenty to look at.
In case you missed the previous divisions:
NFC South Coaching Systems
|Head Coach||Arthur Smith||2nd year|
|Offensive Coordinator||Dave Ragone||2nd year|
|Defensive Coordinator||Dean Pees||2nd year|
|Offensive System||West Coast|
|Arthur Smith -- HC||Dave Ragone -- OC|
|Category||2019 (TEN OC)||2020 (TEN OC)||2021||Category||2019 (CHI)||2020 (CHI PGC)||2021|
|Pass Attempts||31||4||19||Pass Attempts||QB COACH||8||19|
|Passing Yards||21||23||16||Passing Yards||QB COACH||22||16|
|Rushing Attempts||10||20||29||Rushing Attempts||QB COACH||27||29|
|Rushing Yards||3||27||31||Rushing Yards||QB COACH||25||31|
The rebuild in Atlanta continues, but the offensive system installed by head coach Arthur Smith and offensive coordinator Dave Ragone remains the same. We are looking at a west coast offense predicated on the run and the short, high-percentage passing setting up play-action and deeper plays downfield. Of course, last year was an eye-opening lesson for Smith as he was forced into converting Cordarrelle Patterson to running back because he just didn’t have anyone else in the backfield capable of handling the workload he was used to giving to Derrick Henry back in Tennessee. And yes, I will happily take yet another mea culpa for thinking Mike Davis could be that guy last year.
Knowing deep down that Patterson, who wore down during the latter part of the season, was not the answer for the backfield this season, the Falcons brought in Damien Williams who worked with Ragone back in Chicago and also drafted Tyler Allgeier in the fifth round out of BYU. Williams fits the third-down role and will likely earn that spot given the level of experience he has, but Allgeier is the one you’d like to see develop as he sports the frame to handle the workload Smith would like to hand him.
As for the passing attack, Smith likes for his quarterbacks to get the ball out quickly so expect a lot of three-step drops and quick release for Marcus Mariota this season. Obviously, this works extremely well with the high-percentage passing and now that Smith has someone who is not just mobile but also knows exactly what Smith wants, he’s going to mix in a lot more RPO. That should actually open things up even more. Matt Ryan’s lack of mobility really stymied what Smith wanted to implement, so Mariota and, to an extent, Desmond Ridder should allow him to get a tad more creative.
Smith using a ton of 12-personnel formations, you can expect even more work for tight end Kyle Pitts this season, but contrary to last year, there’s actually another weapon in town. Gone are Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, so the Falcons have started to revamp their receiving corps with rookie Drake London and the always under-utilized Bryan Edwards. With all of the two-receiver sets we are expecting and the fact that the team could just move Pitts to the slot and use former Titan Anthony Firkser on the line in three-receiver sets, there’s little reason to look further down the receiver depth chart here. Maybe Auden Tate gets to stretch the field from time to time, but that’s nothing but fantasy football waiver wire fodder.
Defensive System: 3-4 base with a mix of man and zone coverage
Smith lured legendary defensive coordinator Dean Pees out of retirement last season and tasked him with rebuilding an Atlanta defense that still hadn’t recovered from the second half of that Super Bowl loss to the Patriots. He didn’t have a whole lot to work with, but he remains a part of the rebuild and is one of those guys the players love, as evidenced by how much he gets out them regardless of overall talent level.
The base is 3-4, but Pees has switched to some multi-front looks to disguise the pass-rush and keep the offense guessing. He expects his linebackers to be extremely versatile and everyone should be able to rush the passer as well as they stop the run or fall back into coverage. In the secondary, he mixes up the coverage scheme but likes his corners to have a strong physical presence on the field at all times. Atlanta has invested a lot in rebuilding this secondary over the last couple of offseasons, so Pees has some strong talent with which to work.
|Head Coach||Matt Rhule||2nd year|
|Offensive Coordinator||Ben McAdoo||1st year|
|Defensive Coordinator||Phil Snow||2nd year|
|Offensive System||West Coast|
|Matt Rhule -- HC||Ben McAdoo -- OC|
|Category||2019||2020||2021||Category||2019||2020 (JAC)||2021 (DAL)|
|Points||BAYLOR HC||24||29||Points||N/A||QB COACH||CONSULTANT|
|Pace||BAYLOR HC||30||17||Pace||N/A||QB COACH||CONSULTANT|
|Pass Attempts||BAYLOR HC||22||14||Pass Attempts||N/A||QB COACH||CONSULTANT|
|Passing Yards||BAYLOR HC||18||29||Passing Yards||N/A||QB COACH||CONSULTANT|
|Rushing Attempts||BAYLOR HC||21||15||Rushing Attempts||N/A||QB COACH||CONSULTANT|
|Rushing Yards||BAYLOR HC||21||20||Rushing Yards||N/A||QB COACH||CONSULTANT|
We all know the NFL is a copycat league and when a young and seemingly innovative coach like Sean McVay rises to stardom, the rest of the league follows suit and suddenly everyone is trying to run the same offensive scheme regardless of whether they have the personnel to do it or not. So when the pressure of losing got to Matt Rhule, he crumbled like day-old coffee cake and dismissed the best hire he made in his short tenure as the Panthers head coach, offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Not giving a pass for an injured Christian McCaffrey or one for the disaster that was Sam Darnold under center, Rhule managed to save his job by throwing Brady under the bus and swore to his bosses that he could fix things. Enter Ben McAdoo? Gross.
Gone is the spread/pistol offense Brady constructed and we are back to the west coast offense everyone else is running. McAdoo believes the short, high-percentage passes will help minimize the mistakes of Baker Mayfield (or Sam Darnold). The goal is to use more three-step drops with a quick release to get the ball into the hands of true playmakers. He’ll utilize the receivers to stretch the field and handle some of the underneath routes across the middle, but McAdoo loves to stretch the field horizontally and use short passes out to the flat which means Christian McCaffrey will continue to see a boatload of targets. McAdoo also likes to lean on the tight end for these short passes as well, so maybe we have a shot at seeing Tommy Tremble do a little more. The Panthers haven’t utilized a tight end in the passing game since Greg Olsen, so perhaps there’s some late-round value to look at.
We are also going to see a switch to a zone-blocking scheme which should suit McCaffrey much better, provided he stays healthy. The Panthers used a hybrid blocking scheme last year and the problem was they just didn’t have the personnel to move bodies around in a power/gap blocking scheme so creating holes or widening running lanes was a major issue. McCaffrey has the ability to cut-and-run with the best of them, so look for the Panthers to help use the run to set up the pass. Mayfield was at his best in Cleveland when they worked out of play-action, so look for McAdoo to try and establish his ground attack early, continue attacking with the short passes and then watch for shots downfield. It all sounds great on paper and I’m sure fantasy owners are salivating over guys like McCaffrey and DJ Moore, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s a reason McAdoo was so available during the offseason.
Defensive System: 4-3 base with multi-front looks and a Cover-3 zone
When he was at Baylor, DC Phil Snow used a lot of multi-front looks with a 3-5-5 base as his linebackers were both effective and versatile enough to float back and forth between stopping the run and falling back into coverage. He tried to implement that more last year but has since opted for a more traditional 4-3 base due to the strengths and weaknesses of his personnel. The defensive line is strong up the middle with Derrick Brown and fast on the outside with Brian Burns. They’ll also use Shaq Thompson in the pass-rush, while Corey Littleton likely remains in a more traditional linebacker role.
The secondary struggled mightily last year and the loss of Jaycee Horn just three games into the season certainly didn’t help. Snow will have his edge-rushers handle rushing the passer while his safeties stay back in their zones and lend a hand to the corners in coverage. This is what happens when you don’t have the personnel to handle man-coverage, so when you’re playing match-ups in DFS each week, you’re going to want those quarterbacks who can dissect the zones and exploit the mismatches.
New Orleans Saints
|Head Coach||Dennis Allen||1st year|
|Offensive Coordinator||Pete Carmichael||14th year|
|CO-Defensive Coordinators||Ryan Nielsen/Kris Richard||1st year|
|Offensive System||Air Coryell|
|Blocking Scheme||Zone/Power Hybrid|
|Dennis Allen -- HC||Pete Carmichael -- OC|
|Pass Attempts||DC||DC||DC||Pass Attempts||13||25||30|
|Passing Yards||DC||DC||DC||Passing Yards||7||19||32|
|Rushing Attempts||DC||DC||DC||Rushing Attempts||17||5||4|
|Rushing Yards||DC||DC||DC||Rushing Yards||16||6||15|
While the Sean Payton Era has come to a close in the Big Easy, the offensive scheme will remain exactly the same as Pete Carmichael returns for his 14th season as the Saints offensive coordinator. He hasn’t handled the play-calling in some time, but make no mistake – Carmichael knows this offense inside and out. Dennis Allen was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach, but he will be hands-off when it comes to the offense. Now the only question for Carmichael is, can he pull it off with such a dramatic change in personnel?
First off, this is a traditional Air Coryell system which leads with a heavy rushing attack to help set up the pass. The tandem of Alvin Kamara (suspension notwithstanding) and Mark Ingram will continue to see a high volume of touches. In this scheme, the passes are quick, timing routes where the quarterback throws to a certain spot on the field and the receiver is expected to be there once the ball arrives. It’s the same for slants as it is the vertical game. To be successful, receivers and tight ends need to be in lock-step with their quarterback.
The team showed a lot of faith in re-signing Jameis Winston even after the ACL injury and they will rely on his veteran presence to help move this offense down the field. The criticism on Winston is the lack of accuracy and the excessive turnovers, so the hope is that maturity and a more structured offense will help right that ship. Winston fell apart in Bruce Arians’ “risk it for the biscuit” offense, so perhaps we see fewer deep shots downfield until there is more of a level of comfort between him and his receivers. We’ll see what kind of condition Michael Thomas is in, both mentally and physically, but rookie Chris Olave should do a nice job of stretching the field while Jarvis Landry dominates the underneath targets.
Defensive System: 4-3 base with multi-front looks and a mix of Cover-2 and Cover-3 zones
Despite the head coaching responsibilities, this is still Dennis Allen’s defense. He promoted former DB coach Kris Richard and DL coach Ryan Nielsen to co-defensive coordinator status and they will be tasked with carrying our Allen’s defensive plan.
Allen continues to teach and develop his defense and has taken a once-atrocious unit and turned it into something a whole lot more respectable. He uses a 4-3 base, but has definitely been known to mix it up often depending on the opposition. He also likes to use a lot of Cover-3 packages, but he also started mixing in some Cover-2 looks last season. We did see him mix in some man-coverage as well and we could see a similar infusion this year, especially with how well Paulson Adebo looked during his rookie campaign and the additions of Bradley Roby and rookie Alontae Taylor. Adding Tyrann Mathieu is also going to be a big boost to this secondary.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
|Head Coach||Todd Bowles||1st year|
|Offensive Coordinator||Byron Leftwich||4th year|
|Offensive System||Air Coryell|
|Todd Bowles -- HC||Byron Leftwich -- OC|
|Pass Attempts||DC||DC||DC||Pass Attempts||4||6||1|
|Passing Yards||DC||DC||DC||Passing Yards||1||2||1|
|Rushing Attempts||DC||DC||DC||Rushing Attempts||15||29||31|
|Rushing Yards||DC||DC||DC||Rushing Yards||24||28||26|
Bruce Arians may have taken a front office job within the Bucs organization, but his fingerprints are still all over this offensive gameplan. Promoting defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to the head coach position all but ensured that Arians’ offensive legacy lives on as Bowles is going to leave the offensive game-planning to Byron Leftwich who has spent the last four years being groomed by Arians. The scheme will remain based in the Air Coryell scheme which means leading with a heavy ground attack to set up the pass which will be filled with quick, timing routes where the quarterback throws to a certain spot on the field and the receiver is expected to be there once the ball arrives.
But one of the key components to this offense is the presence of Tom Brady and the autonomy he is given at the line. Based on what he reads from the defense, Brady is the one who decides where within the route the ball will be delivered and it is up to his receivers to be precise and stay on-track with their routes. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have excelled within this system, but with some uncertainty surrounding the knee of Godwin and his availability, the team went out and added Russell Gage who fits the mold of a clean route-runner well. Reports of Godwin staying off the PUP list entering camp have fueled speculation that he will be just fine to open the season and the team just signed veteran Julio Jones, so it now looks like Gage and Jones will be fighting for snaps when the Bucs open up in three-receiver sets.
One of the big changes we are likely to see is an increase in rushing attempts. Brady threw the ball over 700 times last season and every indication says he does not want to do that again. Leonard Fournette should see a significant increase in carries this season and the team added Rachaad White in the draft to serve as insurance. The team will use a zone-blocking scheme. However, you should expect to see some power/gap blocking depending on the opposition. Your weaker defensive lines that can be pushed around will be and that should help Fournette continue to perform at a high level. He has the full trust of Brady so keep in mind that those 84 targets he saw last year are likely to remain as well. Fournette has really grown on me during the offseason and that is likely to show throughout draft season now that I know they genuinely want the ball in his hands more.
Defensive System: 3-4 base with multi-front looks and a mix of man and zone coverage
Todd Bowles will serve as his own defensive coordinator, but he is employing the help of his assistants to carry out his plan. Kacy Rodgers will be tasked with watching over the front seven while Larry Foote supervises the secondary. The scheme will feature multi-front looks, but the base is 3-4, especially with Vita Vea clogging the middle and Akiem Hicks and William Gholston on the outside. The group is more than capable of handling the run-stuffing, but the real question is going to be the pass-rush.
While Joe Tryon-Shoyinka did a nice job filling in for Jason Pierre-Paul at times last year, he did not generate the same pressure. Hicks should be able to help that out on the left side, but they might need to do some more scheming to get pressure over there. Shaquil Barrett should be able to get enough pressure from the right, but again, Bowles might need to get more creative with his blitzing, something he is not shy about at all.
Bowles really likes his secondary to be aggressive and loves to switch back and forth between man and zone coverage depending on the situation, the blitz packages and the talent level of the opposing receivers. Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis were both strong for Bowles last season and give him more freedom to employ the man-coverage and do more with his safeties. The addition of Logan Ryan to the middle of the secondary should allow them to maintain their versatility
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