Pressure is on these five NFL coordinators

Only three NFL teams changed head coaches this offseason. However, there was plenty of shuffling on coaching staffs, with offensive and defensive coordinators moving in and moving out. Here are five coordinators in new spots facing serious pressure:

New coordinator Perry Fewell will have his hands full trying to rebuild the Giants defense.
New coordinator Perry Fewell will have his hands full trying to rebuild the Giants defense.

Perry Fewell, DC, Giants

Who he replaced: Bill Sheridan, who was fired after the defense fell apart in 2009.

What he faces: Only the Lions and the Rams gave up more points than the Giants last season. Signing safety Antrel Rolle will help the secondary, but serious question marks remain. Can end Osi Umenyiora bounce back from a disappointing season? Can safety Kenny Phillips return successfully from his serious knee injury? Will first-round end Jason Pierre-Paul be a boom or a bust? And can anyone successfully replace Antonio Pierce at middle linebacker?

"The middle linebacker is important in anybody’s scheme," Fewell told reporters during the Giants’ recent minicamp. "When you have a veteran like Pierce, that’s very hard to replace because he’s an extension of the coordinator. He’s a communicator — he has to get everyone set."

At least five players should get a shot to replace Pierce: Chase Blackburn, rookie Phillip Dillard, Jonathan Goff, Bryan Kehl, and Gerris Wilkerson. However, the onus to improve the defense falls on Fewell, who believes he will benefit from his stint last season as the Bills’ interim head coach.

"I see the big picture more," Fewell said. "While I would like to make guarantees, I can’t. I’m going to demand that we be physical and play physical. The Giants’ defense is a physical defense, and we know that from history. I want to return to that defense."

Jim Haslett, DC, Redskins

Who he replaced: Greg Blache, who announced his retirement from coaching after head coach Jim Zorn was fired.

What he faces: Their highest-paid defensive player, tackle Albert Haynesworth, seems disgruntled and has irked new coach Mike Shanahan by skipping two voluntary minicamps. Haynesworth apparently wants no part of playing nose tackle in the Redskins’ new 3-4 defense. It’s possible the team could trade Haynesworth, but if he stays put, part of Haslett’s job will be dealing with him daily.

It’s not like the Redskins were a disaster on defense last season. They ranked 10th in the NFL and had 40 sacks — and they also have a budding star in linebacker Brian Orakpo. Shanahan is an offensive guru with a successful track record. So if the defense slips, fingers will immediately point toward Haslett.

Even if Haynesworth does not buy into what Haslett wants, newly acquired defensive tackle Adam Carriker believes most players will.

"Has is a fiery guy," Carriker said. "He’s very charismatic. He’s going to get you excited to play."

Can new Bears coordinator Mike Martz turn Jay Cutler into an elite QB?
Can new Bears coordinator Mike Martz turn Jay Cutler into an elite QB?

Don Martindale, DC, Broncos

Who he replaced: Mike Nolan, who resigned to become the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator.

What he faces: The Broncos lost eight of their last 10 games last season, and the defense surrendered 25.8 points per game during that stretch. Linebacker Elvis Dumervil led the league in sacks, but how long can safety Brian Dawkins, 36, and cornerback Champ Bailey, 31, play at a high level?

This will be Martindale’s first stint as an NFL coordinator, but he was popular with Broncos players as their linebackers coach last season. However, some had expected coach Josh McDaniels to hire former Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees to run the Broncos’ defense.

Pees and McDaniels worked together on the Patriots’ staff, but McDaniels felt Martindale was the right choice. If the Broncos’ defense falters, McDaniels’ decision to go with Martindale will be second-guessed.

Mike Martz, OC, Bears

Who he replaced: Ron Turner, who was fired after Jay Cutler’s turnover-filled season.

What he faces: This gets my vote for the most-scrutinized coordinator hire. It will be fascinating to see whether Martz can help Cutler become an elite quarterback. Martz’s success with Kurt Warner in St. Louis is well-documented, but Martz’s most recent stops with the Lions and 49ers have not ended in glory.

Coach Lovie Smith’s job is on the line, but he is a defensive-oriented coach who is trusting Martz to get help fix a quarterback who led the NFL in interceptions last season. You get the feeling this will go really well or really badly.

Mike Nolan, DC, Dolphins

Who he replaced: Paul Pasqualoni, who was fired after the Dolphins lost their last three games and finished 7-9.

What he faces: There are high expectations for this unit to improve. That’s because the Dolphins signed former Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby to a huge contract and used seven of their eight draft picks on defensive players, including tackle Jared Odrick (first round) and outside linebacker Koa Misi (second round).

This is clearly a defense in transition, with Jason Taylor and Joey Porter gone and Nolan running the show. Nolan did an impressive job in Denver last season, as the Broncos’ defense improved from No. 29 overall to No. 7. However, this will be another serious challenge for him. The Dolphins could have six new starters on defense, yet they hope to challenge the Patriots and Jets in the AFC East.

Clifton Brown is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at cliftonbrown@sportingnews.com.

Only three NFL teams changed head coaches this offseason. However, there was plenty of shuffling on coaching staffs, with offensive and defensive coordinators moving in and moving out. Here are five coordinators in new spots facing serious pressure:

New coordinator Perry Fewell will have his hands full trying to rebuild the Giants defense.
New coordinator Perry Fewell will have his hands full trying to rebuild the Giants defense.

Perry Fewell, DC, Giants

Who he replaced: Bill Sheridan, who was fired after the defense fell apart in 2009.

What he faces: Only the Lions and the Rams gave up more points than the Giants last season. Signing safety Antrel Rolle will help the secondary, but serious question marks remain. Can end Osi Umenyiora bounce back from a disappointing season? Can safety Kenny Phillips return successfully from his serious knee injury? Will first-round end Jason Pierre-Paul be a boom or a bust? And can anyone successfully replace Antonio Pierce at middle linebacker?

"The middle linebacker is important in anybody’s scheme," Fewell told reporters during the Giants’ recent minicamp. "When you have a veteran like Pierce, that’s very hard to replace because he’s an extension of the coordinator. He’s a communicator — he has to get everyone set."

At least five players should get a shot to replace Pierce: Chase Blackburn, rookie Phillip Dillard, Jonathan Goff, Bryan Kehl, and Gerris Wilkerson. However, the onus to improve the defense falls on Fewell, who believes he will benefit from his stint last season as the Bills’ interim head coach.

"I see the big picture more," Fewell said. "While I would like to make guarantees, I can’t. I’m going to demand that we be physical and play physical. The Giants’ defense is a physical defense, and we know that from history. I want to return to that defense."

Jim Haslett, DC, Redskins

Who he replaced: Greg Blache, who announced his retirement from coaching after head coach Jim Zorn was fired.

What he faces: Their highest-paid defensive player, tackle Albert Haynesworth, seems disgruntled and has irked new coach Mike Shanahan by skipping two voluntary minicamps. Haynesworth apparently wants no part of playing nose tackle in the Redskins’ new 3-4 defense. It’s possible the team could trade Haynesworth, but if he stays put, part of Haslett’s job will be dealing with him daily.

It’s not like the Redskins were a disaster on defense last season. They ranked 10th in the NFL and had 40 sacks — and they also have a budding star in linebacker Brian Orakpo. Shanahan is an offensive guru with a successful track record. So if the defense slips, fingers will immediately point toward Haslett.

Even if Haynesworth does not buy into what Haslett wants, newly acquired defensive tackle Adam Carriker believes most players will.

"Has is a fiery guy," Carriker said. "He’s very charismatic. He’s going to get you excited to play."

Can new Bears coordinator Mike Martz turn Jay Cutler into an elite QB?
Can new Bears coordinator Mike Martz turn Jay Cutler into an elite QB?

Don Martindale, DC, Broncos

Who he replaced: Mike Nolan, who resigned to become the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator.

What he faces: The Broncos lost eight of their last 10 games last season, and the defense surrendered 25.8 points per game during that stretch. Linebacker Elvis Dumervil led the league in sacks, but how long can safety Brian Dawkins, 36, and cornerback Champ Bailey, 31, play at a high level?

This will be Martindale’s first stint as an NFL coordinator, but he was popular with Broncos players as their linebackers coach last season. However, some had expected coach Josh McDaniels to hire former Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees to run the Broncos’ defense.

Pees and McDaniels worked together on the Patriots’ staff, but McDaniels felt Martindale was the right choice. If the Broncos’ defense falters, McDaniels’ decision to go with Martindale will be second-guessed.

Mike Martz, OC, Bears

Who he replaced: Ron Turner, who was fired after Jay Cutler’s turnover-filled season.

What he faces: This gets my vote for the most-scrutinized coordinator hire. It will be fascinating to see whether Martz can help Cutler become an elite quarterback. Martz’s success with Kurt Warner in St. Louis is well-documented, but Martz’s most recent stops with the Lions and 49ers have not ended in glory.

Coach Lovie Smith’s job is on the line, but he is a defensive-oriented coach who is trusting Martz to get help fix a quarterback who led the NFL in interceptions last season. You get the feeling this will go really well or really badly.

Mike Nolan, DC, Dolphins

Who he replaced: Paul Pasqualoni, who was fired after the Dolphins lost their last three games and finished 7-9.

What he faces: There are high expectations for this unit to improve. That’s because the Dolphins signed former Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby to a huge contract and used seven of their eight draft picks on defensive players, including tackle Jared Odrick (first round) and outside linebacker Koa Misi (second round).

This is clearly a defense in transition, with Jason Taylor and Joey Porter gone and Nolan running the show. Nolan did an impressive job in Denver last season, as the Broncos’ defense improved from No. 29 overall to No. 7. However, this will be another serious challenge for him. The Dolphins could have six new starters on defense, yet they hope to challenge the Patriots and Jets in the AFC East.

Clifton Brown is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at cliftonbrown@sportingnews.com.

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