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How the 2021 Defensive Coaching Changes Affect IDP Dynasty Leagues

How will the new hires on the defensive side of the ball this off-season affect your IDP assets?

Robert Saleh

Breaking down how new defensive coordinators, and by extension, new head coaches are going to impact our IDP players is like throwing darts blindfolded. We need to find our way in the dark so we can predict and better prepare for designation and scheme changes.

Here, we take a look at the current changes across the NFL to see who is getting crushed moving to outside linebacker and who will get a value boost back as a defensive end.

While these are important questions, it shows the need for leagues to switch to True Position and leave all these designation changes behind. See this great article from Ryan Ealy on True Position. Also there is now a tool that should convert your leagues to true position and keep them updated for MFL changes. Check that out here.

Atlanta Falcons: Dean Pees

Likely Scheme Designation: 4-3

After taking a year off from coaching, Pees lands in Atlanta, taking the mantle of a defense and team that is in transition. Pees was most recently the defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans and was basically league average. He did deploy a lot of single linebacker personnel and uses a split safety shell for the most part as well.

His use of a single linebacker should bode well for Deion Jones going forward. With Keanu Neal a pending free agent, we will need some time to see what safeties are brought in but traditionally a system like Pees’s is not going to be incredibly favorable for IDP. That being said, he took Kenny Vaccaro to a career IDP year in 2019.

I think there is some potential for a designation change here since, during his time in Tennessee, the Titans were designated as a defense with a three-man front, but the personnel is really not there just yet in Atlanta.

Dallas Cowboys: Dan Quinn

Likely Scheme Designation: 4-3

The Dan Quinn experience makes its way to Dallas after crashing and burning in Atlanta. Quinn is living off the credibility of his two years coaching the Legion of Boom but has yet to get back to those levels of defenses.

The scheme he is bringing to the Cowboys mirrors a lot of the things they were doing under former DC Mike Nolan. We might see a bit more of just Jaylon Smith on the field. Keeping Leighton Vander Esch off it in passing situations and from getting hurt will be a good thing for the team.

Quinn will likely continue to use split safety looks but with a plethora of pending free agents across the defense, including Xavier Woods, their deployment will be interesting and likely tragic. Aldon Smith is also scheduled to be a free agent so all eyes will be on Demarcus Lawrence to live up to his big contract and 2020 success. Quinn can get creative when bringing pressure but it’s something he has gone away from in recent years.

Detroit Lions: Aaron Glenn

Likely Scheme Designation: 4-3 multiple

Glenn makes his way to Detroit to attempt to pick up the pieces of a completely failed staff experiment that was Matt Patricia. Glenn was most recently the defensive backs coach of the Saints and will likely deploy a similar scheme with the Lions. We can expect to see a traditional 4-3 with two linebackers on the field and likely a free and strong safety.

If anything there’s a chance for a safety to step forward, but don’t get too excited about any of the personnel here. This team is heading the wrong way into a rebuild and the defense is no excuse. Their lone bright spot pass rusher from 2020, Romeo Okwara, is a pending free agent and we have not seen anything from Trey Flowers or Da’Shawn Hand. Jarrad Davis is finally on his way out as well and hopefully Jahlani Tavai can step up into a full-time role.

Green Bay Packers: Joe Berry

Likely Scheme Designation: 3-4

In a surprising move, the Packers moved on from a solid defensive coordinator in Mike Pettine after a down 2020, and wanted to get a piece of what happened with the Rams last season, where Berry was the linebackers coach.

The Packers and the Rams shared a lot of similarities in their deployment of linebackers, both favoring single linebackers, three down lineman and split safety looks. I don’t think a lot is going to change for IDP, but it’s worth keeping tabs on any changes and of course, Berry won’t get to deploy his linebackers behind Aaron Donald, but Kenny Clark, Preston Smith, and Za’Darius Smith are a fine consolation prize.

Houston Texans: Lovie Smith

Likely Scheme Designation: 4-3

One of the godfathers of the 4-3 defense, Smith will have his work cut out for him with this unit. Expect to see a lot of two linebacker looks and traditional split safety roles which match at least what was going on behind the defensive line in the past.

Personnel-wise, this team is an absolute mess. Zach Cunningham is the only player really worth much of a look for IDP, but considering other players do need to play to form a defense, Benardrick McKinney and Justin Reid deserve space on shallow IDP rosters. For deeper leagues, one of Charles Omenihu or Jonathan Greenard will need to step up in a big way to fill in the snaps left by JJ Watt. I liked Ross Blacklock coming out from college as well and he should be in for an expanded role.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Joe Cullen

Likely Scheme Designation: Multiple

Cullen makes his way to Jacksonville from Baltimore to instil a bit of what he did for the Ravens, as their defensive line coach, for the last four years.

The Ravens have traditionally been a very varied defense and played a “heavy” dime scheme the most in the NFL. This could lead to a lot of single-linebacker looks from the Jags going forward and big things from Myles Jack, who had a small resurgence in 2020, especially in coverage. I think this also spells good things for Andrew Wingard, a standout UDFA.

Cullen has been great in designing pressure for his players, even as their overall level of talent has fallen off. 2020 was a huge disappointment for Josh Allen and rookie K’Lavon Chaisson, but Cullen has coaxed a lot from players with a lot less upside. I do worry about their designation but hopefully things stay with a scheme as multiple as Cullen’s.

Los Angeles Chargers: Brandon Staley/Renaldo Hill

Likely Scheme Designation: Potentially 3-4

The hot defensive coordinator of 2020, Staley took a run-of-the-mill defense and turned it into the best in the league. Of course, having Aaron Donald helps a little bit in that endeavor.

One of the hallmarks of his defense is a single-linebacker system so we can expect to see a lot of (hopefully) Kenneth Murray. But Staley has no attachment to him, so expect Kyzir White to get a chance to shine.

Staley also showed innovative uses of the safety position, especially around a big dime front. Expect a lot of good things if Derwin James can stay healthy. The personnel upfront will be in for a bit of a shakeup as Melvin Ingram is a free agent, so I think Uchenna Nwosu will step into his role. There is some legitimate concern that Joey Bosa could be in for a position switch, but time will tell.

Los Angeles Rams: Raheem Morris

Likely Scheme Designation: 3-4 Multiple

After taking over for the fired Dan Quinn, and doing a great job in his stead, Morris was getting some head coach vibes before landing in LA. The key point here is going to be consistency of the line. Even though Morris comes from a four-man front defense lineage, you want to do the things that keep Aaron Donald happy and productive. Of course, it’s the modern NFL so we will see multiple fronts all the time, but a continuation of the status quo in LA seems like a good fit here.

During his time in Atlanta, Morris did use two linebackers a lot more than what was happening with the Rams last season so both Micah Kiser and Troy Reeder could have decent roles. The Falcons also ran a ton of plays with nickel personnel and had traditional safety roles so if John Johnson is retained, expect a lot from him. Otherwise, Terell Burgess or Taylor Rapp could get that role. Jordan Fuller became an overnight star, but he’s primarily a free safety.

New York Jets: Robert Saleh/Jeff Ulbrich

Likely Scheme Designation: 4-3

Basically a shoe in to a head coaching gig, Saleh was one of the first new coaches of the 2021 coach cycle. The Jets defense has been “in transition” since about 2015, but Saleh, and by extension Ulbrich, could be exactly what is needed to right the ship.

Both Saleh and Ulbrich deploy very similar systems and should stick to a four-man front on a large majority of the snaps. They both tend to use two linebackers and traditional safety roles. There’s a lot of spare parts in this defense but with the plethora of free agents, some value could be had in “next man up” Ashtyn Davis and Blake Cashman, while once and future studs Quinnen Williams and CJ Mosley should be safe in any role.

Las Vegas Raiders: Gus Bradley

Likely Scheme Designation: 4-3

How coaches like Bradley and Quinn keep getting jobs just shows the state of the league, but alas, he is here in Las Vegas. It is a pretty vanilla defense at this point with standard split-safety and two-linebacker looks. I fully expect the same old same old from this defense.

Philadelphia Eagles: Jonathan Gannon

Likely Scheme Designation: 4-3

If boring was a defense it would be bringing in Gannon compared to Jim Schwartz. Coming by way of Indianapolis, Gannon was most recently their defensive backs coach, leaving his exact scheme a bit hard to distill. I think we can expect a lot of the same from a designation standpoint and hopefully a bit of a leap forward in defensive adjustments.

Linebacker is the one to watch here, but trying to compare TJ Edwards, Davion Taylor, and converted EDGE rusher Genard Avery to Darius Leonard is like comparing apples to rocket ships.

Adam Tzikas
How the 2021 Defensive Coaching Changes Affect IDP Dynasty Leagues
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Chris Mertz
1 year ago

I have a hard time believing Jacksonville paid Joe Schobert $56 million to not play every down. Both he and Jack are excellent in coverage and I’d be surprised to see a heavy rotation that sees Schobert on the sidelines. JMO.

1 year ago

It happens fairly often Chris. Coaches don’t care about the contracts once the front office provides the players.
Last year Zach Cunningham, Cory Littleton, Jamie Collins, Anthony Hitchens, Danny Trevathan, Denzel Perryman, Christian Kirksey, Damien Wilson… All LBs on big contracts who were not fulltime players.
Dee Ford springs to mind – over the past 2 years he was on monster cash and not a full-time player [even when healthy].

Chris Mertz
1 year ago

I’m aware that it happens and it is a case by case basis. And, perhaps it remains to be seen what happens in FA, but does the assumed scheme change call for putting Schobert on the bench? Does JAX have 6 DBs worth putting on the field that makes them better than keeping Jack and Schobert out there? I don’t think they do. Again, Jack and Schobert are two of the better coverage LBs in the NFL and JAX isn’t flush with talent. I’ll be shocked if one of those two guys are coming off the field in favor of the Jaguars DB6. Perhaps they invest some significant free agency dollars and/or draft capital to accommodate that scheme, but if they do, they should be trading Schobert while he’s in his prime and can command a nice return. Wasting him on the bench is coaching and management malpractice.

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