Coaching Changes in the NFL (Part 2) – By Josh Deisinger

Frank Reich to kick start new era in Indy

Yes, there’s a chance that Andrew Luck is the starting QB for the Indianapolis Colts come week 1 in the upcoming 2018 NFL season. Sound familiar? In 2017, Luck was supposed to be the starter and then Jacoby Brissett was acquired via trade from New England for Phillip Dorsett on the eve of the season; it was a brutal season. The Colts came away with a 4-12 record. However, there are some things that people might be overlooking. How about the Colts went into halftime with a lead 9 times throughout the 2017 season, blowing most of them in the second half. Not bad for a team with a ‘brand new to the building QB’, youth all over the field, 3rd string starters in some positions, and oh yeah – some guy named Andrew Luck. Apparently, he was one of the best Quarterbacks in all of the NFL for almost 4 straight years, but got injured and couldn’t suit up in 2017.

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Photo Credit: George Gojkovich/Getty Images

 

So why would a guy, like Frank Reich, who just won a ring with the Philadelphia Eagles – choose Indianapolis – of all vacancies? He must trust that Luck will be ready. At least you have to think that is the case, right? This is his first head coach position in the NFL, he just made a name for himself by putting Carson Wentz in the MVP conversation for much of the year, and blew up scoreboards regularly with one of the most potent offenses that the league had seen in some time. He of all people needs to have a pulse on the Luck situation.

So, what have they done to this point, to help prepare Frank for success?

  • FREE AGENCY: A lonely trio of free agency signings in Eric Ebron, Denico Autry and Ryan Grant left many of the Colts faithful wondering what wasn’t happening and why?
  • FAMILIAR CIRCUMSTANCES: Look at the similarities he has created already with his former employer in Philly. A dynamic TE duo in Ebron and Doyle, a multifaceted running back committee that has promise and a focus on improvement through the draft and building from inside out.
  • THE DRAFT: Indy had an outstanding draft, where the team moved back three spots, made solid and smart selections, and gathered draft capital. They drafted players that helped to solidify their trenches. They started building from inside out. With the sixth pick of the first round in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Colts selected OL Quentin Nelson from Notre Dame. Nelson was believed to be one of the most polished and sure-fire picks available in the entire draft. The entirety of the Indianapolis Colts 2018 draft was, at this point, a great success.

Prediction: A young offensive minded coach, a promising group of first and second year players and the possibility of Andrew Luck back under center has the Colts faithful cheering and proud once again. Vegas has them at an over under 6.5 the last I checked. Looking at their schedule I’m thinking they finish last in the South again but improve in the Win column. Indy finishes this season 8-8. 

Detroit Lions bring in former Patriot Matt Patricia

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Photo Credit: Jim Rogash / Getty Images

Of all the Head Coaching changes in this past offseason, the one I believe that needs to be discussed the least should be Detroit. Matt Patricia’s final season at Foxborough as the Defensive Coordinator was less than stellar despite getting the Patriots to the big game in Minnesota. Detroit still has Offensive Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter steering the Lions offense, thus staying much the same as before.

So how does the team look for 2018?

  • PASSING GAME: Marvin Jones Jr had an exciting season in 2017 and his opposite number in the receiver corps, Golden Tate has had 90+ receptions for 4 years. They still have the often underappreciated QB in Matthew Stafford; the guy has only thrown for 4,000+ yards for 7 straight seasons now, but no one talks about him, EVER!
  • RUNNING GAME: More significantly should be the changes that Detroit made to its backfield, which as of today is very muddied. Ameer Abdullah, he will not be a ‘thing’ and most likely will be considered a bust and cut or traded sometime during this season. Theo Riddick is still in town and will stay at least for this season. They did however bring in LeGarrette Blount and drafted Kerryon Johnson from Auburn. Most people seem to believe that Blount will vulture a few touchdowns from Kerryon early in the season. They also believe that Johnson is the first 3 down back that Detroit has had since Barry Sanders. Now I’m not in anyway, imploring anyone to believe that KJ is the answer, but I can tell you I watched his film and I’m excited for Detroit’s potential to have a 100-yard game from a running back, for the first time in forever.
  • DRAFT GAINS: The Lions focused on the trenches early in the draft and added some help to an offensive line that was quietly good in 2018. Frank Ragnow was believed by some to be the best Center prospect in the draft and the Lions scooped him at pick number 20 of the 2018 draft. They followed that selection with Kerryon Johnson, with many projecting the Lions would select Derrius Guice in the first round but Kerryon was still available in the second; allowing the Lions to trade up to get their guy. The addition of Da’Shawn Hand to an already stout Defensive Line will prove to be another solid choice for Detroit, and a nice compliment to his former college teammate A’Shawn Robinson.

Prediction: Matt Patricia will bring an opportunistic and aggressive style to the Lions defense and another year under Jim Bob Cooter will keep the Lions rolling offensively, however – Patricia will not have a Cinderella storyline to his first year as a HC as I see Detroit finishing 9-7 and missing the playoffs in 2018. The Vikings and Packers will be the lead dogs vying for control of the NFC North once again.

Steve Wilks swaps Charlotte for Arizona

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Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY Sports

Steve Wilks comes to Arizona having been an assistant or a coordinator for the better part of the last 23 years. He made a name for himself the last couple seasons with Carolina. Wilks has a coaching tree most recently comprised of Ron Rivera and Norv Turner. He was a HC candidate in 2017 for the Los Angeles Rams, and many teams took notice when LA interviewed him, particularly as he impressed the Rams. He was hired this offseason by Arizona to become their HC and brought with him Mike McCoy as the Offensive Coordinator, whom he worked with in San Diego. Make no mistake, Steve Wilks has made his money as a defensive minded coach, and Mike McCoy, is the perfect foil to his defensive mind.

What does he have to work with?

  • A competent QB pairing in Sam Bradford and rookie Josh Rosen.
  • One of the best running backs in the league in David Johnson.
  • A sure fire future first ballot hall of famer in Larry Fitzgerald
  • Two absolute studs on the defensive side of the ball in Patrick Peterson and Chandler Jones.

Despite this all, this is a year of rebuilding for Arizona and they have tried to plug a few holes with the additions of Brice Butler and the drafting of Christian Kirk at wide receiver. David Johnson will get paid and they have said they are supporting his personal goal to hit 1,000 yards in both rushing and receiving. Larry Fitzgerald is a true-blue ribbon human being; he could’ve walked at any point in his career and had his choice of any team to play for, but he has stayed true and will finish his career with the Cardinals.

I believe the Arizona Cardinals will be more competitive this year than last, just by the simple fact of semi-competent Quarterback play and the resurgence of a healthy David Johnson. However, this is still a rebuilding year, with many new pieces and a new coaching staff. There is a big if over whether Sam Bradford can stay healthy, he may keep them in games, but that is a big if. I’m calling it, Josh Rosen is the starter by Week 5 if not sooner.

Prediction: Red birds finish Steve Wilks maiden voyage at a ‘could have been worse’ clip of 6-10. This team currently is a year or two from serious contention. I say this with confidence, ‘the Rosen era is going to be exciting!’

By Josh Deisinger – @SconnieJosh

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