More NFL New Faces
Coach Ron Meyer: More NFL New Faces
Mike Mularkey of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Dennis Allen of the Oakland Raiders both lead their new teams onto the field Friday Night in NFL Preseason action. Last week I talked about four "new faces in new places" in the Tampa Bay/Miami and St. Louis/Indianapolis games (where all four teams had new head coaches for 2012). Mularkey and Allen round out the new faces collection this year. Well, New Orleans is going to have a variety of faces replacing Sean Payton as the New Orleans Saints mess sorts itself out. I'll talk about that in a future article.
Today I want to focus on Mularkey and Allen, and what handicappers need to be thinking about as they monitor the Jaguars and Raiders tonight and this season.
MIKE MULARKEY, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Mularkey is known as an offensive-minded coach. He was most recently the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons...a team that's been pretty good offensively. You might remember him as a head coach with the Buffalo Bills back in 2004 and 2005. He had quarterback problems with the Bills, and couldn't keep his job after regressing from 9-7 in 2004 to 5-11 in 2005.
Between his head coaching stint in Buffalo, and his job with Atlanta, Mularkey ran the offense of the Miami Dolphins during the Saban years. That was a conservative offense that struggled for the most part.
I think you can some up Mularkey this way:
Likes a balance of run and pass, rather than being pass happy
Can run a very effective offense if he has a good quarterback
Struggles to run an offense if he doesn't have a good quarterback
Doesn't impress management as a "must-have" man on the sidelines
Buffalo decided they didn't want him after two years. Miami switched coordinators when he was there. He's one of those guys who gets opportunities, but may not be able to live up to expectations if he doesn't have a quarterback.
Since Jacksonville doesn't have a quarterback...that's a big deal! Blaine Gabbert struggled badly last year as a rookie. Chad Henne was inconsistent with the Dolphins before coming over to the Jaguars. Jordan Palmer, the #3 guy right now, is a career backup.
Now, the team did score 32 points last week...suggesting that the Jags are really focusing on putting points on the board out of the gate. Note that they only gained 313 yards though, on 4.5 yards-per-play. The offense wasn't as strong as the scoreboard suggested. Still...I expect the aggression to continue through August. I'm not optimistic about Mularkey and the Jags this year once they face regular season defenses.
DENNIS ALLEN, OAKLAND RAIDERS
Allen is basically a defensive version of Mularkey. He's been a defensive mind who's at his best when he has defenders who are playmakers. Though he's never been the head man himself, he did get a lot of credit for what was happening in New Orleans when the Saints won the Super Bowl. You'll recall that the team did a great job of forcing turnovers when opponents tried to play catch up. That's basically Allen's modus operandi. He's going to give up yards while trying to create high impact plays by his defense.
I'm not a fan of this style of defense because it allows too many points, and ONLY works against opposing offenses who are turnover prone. It can create the illusion of quality...but then you just get blown off the field by good offenses who don't make mistakes. I can see why Oakland wanted a defensive brain on the sidelines after last year's horrible performance on that side of the ball. Allen may have moved up the ladder too quickly.
We'll see what happens tonight. Oakland's defense did play well vs. Dallas back on Monday. They'll get a tougher test tonight on the road at Arizona. I should also say that I'm concerned about Oakland's offense this year. Carson Palmer is far from a sure thing to star at quarterback. If the offense fizzles, a defensive-minded head coach may not be able to fix it.
I wouldn't be surprised if both Jacksonville and Oakland struggle to reach five wins this season given how these new head coaches don't really line up with the talent on the rosters. But, going against them in the regular season doesn't necessarily mean going against them in August. New coaches often get results in exhibitions when opponents are just going at three quarter speed.
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