Cory covered the Cleveland Browns' hiring of Norv Turner as offensive coordinator this past winter and, before Trent Richardson (leg) was dinged and Josh Gordon was suspended, noted how Turner's Air Coryell system should open things up.
What about the squad Turner left behind? How will the arrival of head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt change things in SoCal?
The victim of his own bravado and a horrific offensive line (notably at left tackle), Philip Rivers has thrown 35 picks over the last two seasons and taken 79 sacks, including a jaw-dropping 49 last season. Turnovers and sacks were compounded and fueled by Turner's system, when frequent vertical patterns required more time to let plays develop, often leaving Rivers extra-vulnerable to pass rushers.
That wasn't the only problem, but it was a chief concern. McCoy and Whisenhunt, seemingly, won't define themselves with a narrow approach. Both have shown a willingness to adapt to personnel, most recently and famously McCoy's overhaul of the Denver Broncos' offense in 2011 to suit Tim Tebow's skills. (He had some, at some point, we think.)
Their combined experience with Denver, the Arizona Cardinals and the Indianapolis Colts (indirectly, via Peyton Manning last year) should create a hybrid playbook with some elements familiar to San Diego. It may be a slow process early in the season, but Whiz will be thankful simply to work with an NFL-caliber slinger again.
The allotment of blind-side shields includes Max Starks and King Dunlap, which hardly promotes security; they're hoping one sticks. Can D.J. Fluker live up to his first-round price tag at RT? The staff wants Rivers to have a quicker release, though, and playbook design should aid that plan. If some reports about this staff's precision with the no-huddle offense are true, that could help hide some of the front five's flaws, as well.
Either way, the change, on paper, should be good for Rivers' value in leagues that heavily penalize giveaways, but the bigger risk of a reduction in yards per attempt means he'll probably have to again throw 500-plus times to display adequate QB2 value more soundly. He's not going to be a top-5 QB, but top-12 isn't a looney tune to sing.
Though this backfield presents a potential fantasy nightmare, it could aid Rivers. Dump-off specialist Danny Woodhead should give them the Darren Sproles element they've missed since No. 43's departure. (Think his two N'awlins seasons coinciding with Rivers' sloppiness is a coincidence?) Woodhead's shiftiness should give Rivers that blanket of comfort to avoid pass rushers more frequently.
Ryan Mathews, however, will define how far this offense can go. He hasn't proven to be a consistent passing-down back, but he's the most realistic option between the tackles. With some tweaks to his technique, the deceptively powerful Mathews could become a solid contributor if McCoy and Whisenhunt can harness his abilities, particularly out of more zone-blocking processes.
Mathews meets world of production?
Mathews has had issues with dancing in and out of his designed runs, but new offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris helped facilitate C.J. Spiller's growth last year in Buffalo; maybe similar progress can turn around Mathews' career. Luckily, you might only have to spend a borderline RB2/3 pick on him, so this is the best chance he'll ever have at delivering a profit, even with Woodhead's penchant for stealing touches.
San Diego's shift in philosophy theoretically gives their receiving corps more potential for competence in PPR leagues. Antonio Gates, who just turned 33 today and is widely considered to have run out of gas, could be a handy value in such formats if people forget he exists and reports of his fit self in non-pads work hold up. Not a bad fringe TE1 gamble, wouldn't ya say?
Danario Alexander boasts the talent to succeed regardless of system; it's a matter of whether you want to pay WR3 or 4 dollars for his spotty health record and diminishing chances to resemble Vincent Jackson in yards per snare. Malcom Floyd has to alter his streak-defined game but could serve well as a WR5. Someone among Vincent Brown, Keenan Allen, Eddie Royal and (I guess?) Robert Meachem should have fleeting inseason utility, as well.
This offense won't be as explosive as its former incarnation, which tempers the pieces' late-round flyer allure, but expect efficiency to rise, which leaves plenty of room to make money off them.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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