Dallas – Rod Marinelli
There’s not much to see here in terms of changes in defensive philosophy from Monte Kiffen to Rod Marinelli. We’ll continue to see Dallas attempt to apply pressure from their front four and deploy Tampa-2 concepts in the secondary, though not exclusively. Marinelli’s defensive in Chicago was predicated on creating turnovers, though Dallas may lack the playmakers to execute this strategy.
IDP Winner – Typically Tampa-2 concepts don’t bode positively for defensive backs, but Barry Church showed he’s capable of putting up big tackle numbers when Sean Lee is not on the field. With that same scenario playing out in 2014, look for Church to again be one of the league leaders in tackles at defensive back.
IDP Losers – Since there aren’t a lot of IDP-relevant names on this defense, it’s tough to pinpoint an actual loser. Outside of Church, it’s difficult to get behind any Cowboy as a strong fantasy option.
DST Outlook – In a word – bad. Dallas was the No. 26 fantasy defense last season, and I wouldn’t be surprise if they actually finished lower this season.
Detroit – Teryl Austin
Austin comes to Detroit via Baltimore where he served as the secondary coach from 2012-2013. He has little experience as a defensive coordinator, having only held the job in 2010 at the University of Florida.
While we don’t know much about Austin, we do know that the Lions will remain a 4-3 defense in 2014. However, Austin does promise use multiple looks up front. We can also expect to see the Lions be a little bit more blitz-heavy than they have been in recent seasons.
IDP Winner – Second-year man Ziggy Ansah is expected to be moved around in Austin’s defense. Ansah had eight sacks in limited snaps as a rookie, and he’s a Rotoworld favorite to breakout out in 2014.
IDP Loser – DeAndre Levy finished as a Top 10 fantasy linebacker in most IDP scoring systems last season. Don’t expect a repeat performance in 2014. Jim Schwartz’s defense funnels the action to the weak side linebacker, and we don’t have any indication that Austin’s defense will do the same. Levy is also extremely unlikely to repeat the six interceptions he had last season.
DST Outlook – The Lions were mediocre as a fantasy unit last season despite having talent on the defensive side of the ball. There’s no reason to assume they’ll be any better in 2014. Keep them on your list of streamers.
Minnesota – George Edwards
Like what we saw in Cleveland, Edwards is the defensive coordinator in name, but Mike Zimmer is the one who’s really pulling the strings. We can expect Zimmer to take a similar approach to what he did in Cincinnati where he used his front four to generate pressure without rely much on the blitz.
IDP Winners – While we rarely pay much attention to the defensive tackle position, Zimmer was in part responsible for making Geno Atkins a household name. The Vikings are sitting with a young talent at the position in Sharrif Floyd, who has the profile to be a breakout 3-technique in Zimmer’s system. Everson Griffen also has the makings of a strong IDP option with Jared Allen now out of the mix.
IDP Loser – A lot of folks are looking at Audie Cole as a sleeper at the linebacker position, but I’d steer clear of that path. Cole's small sample size and the fact that he was playing behind Jasper Brinkley in the offseason don't bode positively for a breakout fantasy season.
DST Outlook – The Vikings were fantasy’s No. 32 unit last season, so there’s nowhere to go but up. However, there are still a few too many holes in this defense for them to make much of a fantasy impact this season.
St. Louis – Gregg Williams
Out of the league since the “Bountygate” scandal, a lot of people may have forgotten just how innovate of a defensive coordinator Williams was in his tenure with New Orleans. His aggressive scheme is an excellent fit with the existing personnel in St. Louis.
Williams runs primarily out of a 4-3, but you can expect to see multiple looks that verge on the exotic at times. Look for Williams to generate a lot of pressure from his stacked defensive line while frequently blitzing his linebackers from the second level.
IDP Winner – We could really make an argument for most of the Rams defenders here, but I’m going to put my chips on T.J. McDonald as the biggest beneficiary. Williams’ system was extremely friendly to Roman Harper in New Orleans, and McDonald will now be that playmaker in the middle of the field who will be called on to blitz at times and will get plenty of opportunities to create turnovers as the “robber.”
IDP Loser – There’s really no player on this unit who sticks out as a clear loser.
DST Outlook – The Rams were a Top 10 fantasy unit last season thanks in large part to Robert Quinn’s breakout season. They’ll take another step forward with Williams at the helm and finish the year as a Top 5 DST.
Tampa Bay – Leslie Frazier
With Frazier in at defensive coordinator and Lovie Smith in at head coach the Tampa-2 will return to Tampa. Well, sort of. No team in the NFL runs the Tampa-2 exclusively, and most all teams deploy Tampa-2 concepts at some point. However, we’re going to see plenty of Cover 2 in Tampa this season.
IDP Winners - This scheme bodes positively for several players on the defensive side of the ball, most notably Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and Alterraun Verner. Both David and McCoy are already at the top of their positions in terms of fantasy value, and you know that, but Verner is really interesting. He’s coming off a career-year and will get an opportunity to make plays in this defense. Let’s not forget that we saw strong fantasy seasons recently out of Charles Tillman under Smith and Antoine Winfield under Frazier.
IDP Loser – As much as I love Mark Barron from a skill standpoint, Tampa-2 and Cover 2 typically don’t bode positively for fantasy production out of the safeties.
DST Outlook – If there’s a team to peg as this year’s breakout DST, it’s the Bucs. They’re loaded with young talent, and Smith's units with the Bears were frequently among the league's top fantasy defenses.