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5 Redesigns to Watch

Because NFL succes is so driven by research and design, every NFL team is a redesigned team every year in some respects. But some teams redesign more than others. Usually, a redesign overhaul is the result of an off-season coaching change, but not always. Here are 5 major redesigns that QC will be keeping an eye on in 2016:

1. Seattle's "All Tackles" Offensive Line

It had to be painful for HC Pete Carroll and O-line coach Tom Cable watch Carolina DTs Kwann Short and Star Lotulelei destroy the G-C-G core of the Seahawks offensive line in the first half of their divisional playoff game. When the dust settled on the carnage, the Panthers held an insurmountable 31-0 halftime lead. Destruction of Seattle's blocking core was an endemic problem in 2015. Interior pass rushers too often generated immediate gut pressure and forced QB Russell Wilson to run for his life as in this Pro Football Focus video in which LG Justin Britt is beaten almost immediately. To remedy this problem, Carroll and Cable plan to move Britt to C and install two new guards, rookie Germain Ifedi (Texas A&M, 6-6, 324) and either second-year man Mark Glowinski (West Virginia, 6-4, 310) or rookie Rees Odhiambo (Boise State, 6-4, 314). All of these players spent significant time in college playing tackle. New Orleans HC Sean Payton has had great success protecting his undersized QB, Drew Brees, by building massive G-C-G protection cores. It looks like Carroll and Cable are copying a page right out of the Payton design book.

2. Dallas' "Gambler" Pass Pressure

Before the 2014 season began, QC traveled to Las Vegas for the famed "Super Contest Sign Up Weekend." Two things dominated the conference: 1) Untucked shirtails (gamblers are "all in" on "business casual") and 2) the view that the no-name Dallas defense would collapse and take the Cowboys' season down with it. The latter did not quite happen. Dallas' pass pressure ranked 30th in the NFL and generated just .28 lost yards per pass attempt in 2014 and it would have been nonexistent if journeymen Henry Melton, Jeremy Mincy and George Selvie had not combined for 14 sacks. But Cowboys' DC Rod Marinelli designed around the absence of pass rush--a difficult magic trick indeed--and Dallas rolled to a 12-4 season. Marinelli succeeded in 2014 because mercurial Rolando McClain--a 6-4 MLB, one of the key ingredients in Marinelli's favorite design, Tampa 2--fell into his lap just as the season began. McClain is still around, though two years older and still mercurial. Moreover, Marinelli's front four pass rushers have been scattered to the winds. DE Greg Hardy has been exiled. DEs DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory have been suspended and rookie DT Maliek Collins broke his foot. In Tampa 2, Marinelli rarely blitzes. As NFL Radio's Pat Kirwan points out, Dallas blitzed the second least in the NFL in 2015. Without any organic pass pressure ingredients, Kirwan recommends "rolling the dice with more blitzes.". However, do not look for the guys in Vegas with the shirtails hanging out to back such designs. They know what usually happens when non-gamblers try to gamble.

3. Cleveland's "QB Rehabilitation Plan"

New Cleveland HC Hue Jackson is being hyped by the media as a "quarterback whisperer." This strikes QC as somewhat odd given that Jackson never has been a QB coach. Rather, Jackson spent most of his time as a positional coach minding WRs and RBs. So QC expects that his recipe for rehabbing QB Robert Griffin III will be focused on getting maximum output from the playmakers around RG3. Jackson's past results with this recipe are impressive. In 2010, Jackson became Oakland's OC and inherited underachieving RBs Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, who in 2009 combined to rush for only 946 yards and 4 TDs and to catch only 38 passes and 0 TDs. In 2010, those two combined to rush 1,812 yards and 15 TDs and to catch 65 passes and 3 TDs. The emergence of McFadden and Bush made a productive winner of QB Jason Campbell--who, like RG3, was a former Washington first round pick brought into replace a troubled QB bust (JaMarcus Russell). In RBs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, TE Gary Barnidge, and a fleet of rookie WRs led by Corey Coleman, Jackson appears to have the same ingredients he used in Oakland to immediately make the Raiders competitive (8-8). And, if RG3's knee is 100% and he can recapture the dazzling running ability that made him the NFL's Rookie of the Year in 2012, Jackson may have a secret spicy ingredient that he never has had before.

4. Jacksonville's "My Mentor's Mentor" Pass Coverage

One of the reasons QC does not believe in hiring a coordinator from a Super Bowl contender is that one does not know how much the coordinator is trading on the HC's knowledge and not his own. In 2013, Jacksonville brought in Gus Bradley, who had been serving as Pete Carroll's DC in Seattle where the "Legion of Boom" secondary had arrived as the NFL's most suffocating and larcenous secondary. But the Jaguars pass coverage has not nearly approached the standard of performance set by Carroll's defenders. To try to remedy this problem, Jacksonville dismissed DC Bob Babich and brought in venerable Monte Kiffin, who not only played a major role in inventing Tampa-2 but also mentored a young Pete Carroll. Jacksonville also has brought in some new players who look like they could be tasty ingredients in a Tampa-2 stew, particularly rookie CB Jalen Ramsey (if he can recover from knee surgery) and veteran CB Prince Amukamara. Speedy OLBs Telvin Smith and Myles Jack (again, coming off knee surgery) and MLB Paul Posluszny are a poor man's version of such former Tampa-2 stalwarts as Derrick Brooks, Lance Briggs, and Brian Urlacher. Finally, high priced FA Malik Jackson is being listed as a DE on the Jaguars depth chart. But no DL in 2015 got more pressure on opposing QBs when lined up inside a tackle than Jackson. He looks like he could provide Warren Sapp like pressure as an "under" DT. If so, the Jaguars D could be salty indeed and one of the most improved in the NFL.

5. Tennessee's "Permanent Interim" Ground Game

The Titans won only 2 games (and lost 7) after OC Mike Mularkey became the HC when Tennessee fired Ken Whisenhunt. But that did not stop Titans' management from making Mularkey the permanent HC going into 2016. Retaining an interim HC as a permanent solution has not been a managment move that has ended well in the NFL. Since 2008, Mike Singletary, Tom Cable, Jason Garrett, Leslie Frazier, and Romeo Crennel were made permanent HCs after an interim stint the year before. Only Garrett is still an HC. Cable and Crennel each lasted just 1 year, Singletary 2 years, and Frazier lasted 3 years. Their combined records as HC are 89-115-1 (.436). In order to not end up on this list, Mularkey has gathered power running ingrediets, particularly T Jack Conklin (No. 9 pick in 2015 Draft) and RBs Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray. Running the ball sounds like a good idea given that the only game the Titans won when QB Marcus Mariota attempted 30 or more passes was over New Orleans and its invisible pass coverage design. If Mularkey's ground chuck recipe can keep Mariota's pass attempts under 30 per game, Tennessee could improve. But if it fails, then Mularkey may not last any longer than Cable or Crennel.

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