AFC South: Mike Nolan

Peyton Manning likes to rely on studying and breaking down what he’s seen.

Going against teams with new coordinators early in the season gives him less to study. Last season all three of his AFC South rivals had new defensive coordinators, and he saw one on opening day. The Colts edged Jacksonville and Mel Tucker, 14-12.

Sunday in Denver, the Colts will see a Broncos defense run by Don Martindale, who replaced Mike Nolan after just one season. (Editorial aside: Denver should have given Nolan, now in Miami, a raise, not sent him packing.)

Last week they also saw a new coordinator, and Perry Fewell’s plan for the Giants against Manning was questionable at best.

“[The Broncos] have a new defensive coordinator, so it will be the second week in a row of playing somewhat of an unfamiliar defense because it’s a new scheme,” Manning said in his Wednesday session with the media. “[They have] a lot of the same players from last year, but a new scheme. You never quite know how a team is going to play against you this early in the season, so there is a lot of unknown there.”

I’d argue that new coordinators facing Manning for the first time are the ones at a disadvantage due to unfamiliarity. If you don’t have much experience trying to adjust to Manning and the Colts’ offense, doing so on the fly can be quite difficult, particularly with the Colts’ pace.

Pregame checkmark to Manning here, no matter how little information he has on Martindale.

Manning also pointed out that a veteran secondary will pose a challenge to his receivers and require him to be especially accurate.

“I think [Champ] Bailey and [André] Goodman are as solid a corner tandem as you can find and there’s nothing Bailey hasn’t seen,” Manning said. “Goodman, I think, is in his ninth year; he’s a veteran. [Brian] Dawkins has been around for a long time. There’s a lot he has seen, and [Renaldo] Hill is a 10-year veteran at safety.

“A lot of experience there, you’re not going to confuse them or trick them. They all still move real well. It’s going to be a tough challenge getting open versus that secondary.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

The Texans just announced that three defensive coaches have been dismissed: Coordinator Richard Smith, defensive backs coach Jon Hoke and defensive line coach Jethro Franklin.

Smith was under fire for most of the season, though, his unit played better late in the season when the Texans played less conservatively.

Coach Gary Kubiak once wanted Frank Bush, a senior defensive assistant for the Texans, to be his coordinator. But there will be a great pool to choose from as several former head coaches are available or believed to be on their way to being available.

Rod Marinelli, Eric Mangini, Mike Nolan, Romeo Crennel are already out of work and Gregg Williams worked under a one-year deal as coordinator in Jacksonville. Jim Haslett and Herm Edwards could also become part of the available coordinator pool.

Kubiak is scheduled to talk to the Houston press at 2:30 p.m. and we'll check back once we see what he says.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

It comes as no surprise that Gregg Williams isn't going to be back as Jacksonville's defensive coordinator, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

He and Jack Del Rio, both strong-willed coaching personalities, never seemed a good fit for each other. Del Rio is safe because of his big contract, and he's never hesitated to make changes on his staff.

In a normal year, Williams might have hit the market and found a better situation.

But with Mike Nolan already available and other head coaches who could be fired likely to be available as defensive coordinators, it could be a tough market. That list could include names like Rod Marinelli, Romeo Crennel, Jim Haslett as well as less likely possibilities like Herm Edwards, Marvin Lewis and Mike Singletary.

Many will automatically presume Williams will land back in Tennessee, where he worked his way up under Jeff Fisher before leaving to become head coach of the Buffalo Bills after the 2000 season.

Fisher could have an opening if Jim Schwartz gets his first head coaching job. But with such a vacancy, Fisher would also look at strong in-house candidates Dave McGinnis and Chuck Cecil.

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