Lance Schulters

Ken Zampese, Ike Hilliard, Barrett Ruud Join Falcons’ Staff; Team Retains Jerry Gray

In Zac Robinson and Jimmy Lake, Raheem Morris installed two first-time NFL coordinators as his top lieutenants. The returning Falcons leader will backstop the OC-DC tandem with some experienced staffers in key posts.

The Falcons hired Ken Zampese as a senior offensive assistant, and the team is retaining defensive assistant Jerry Gray. The latter, an Arthur Smith hire, agreed to an extension to stay under Morris,’s Mike Garafolo notes. Zampese worked as the Bengals’ OC from 2016-17, while Gray has multiple stints of DC experience. The veteran staffer served as the Bills’ DC in the 2000s and led the Titans’ defense from 2011-13. Gray will continue in an assistant HC/defense capacity.

Gray, 61, came to Atlanta after philosophical differences with then-Green Bay DC Joe Barry keyed a Wisconsin exit. The former decorated DB has been an NFL assistant for the past 27 seasons. A second-generation NFL assistant, Zampese brings 24 years of experience at this level. The 56-year-old staffer is best known for his 15 seasons on Marvin Lewis‘ Bengals staff, most of which coming as the team’s QBs coach. Zampese was in that role for the past four seasons under Ron Rivera in Washington.

Ike Hillard also joined the Falcons as their wide receivers coach. This will mark a return to the league for the former Giants starter. Hilliard, 47, did not coach in 2022 and was last in the NFL as the Steelers’ receivers coach from 2020-21. An NFL receivers coach from 2011-21, Hilliard was at Auburn in 2022. The Falcons also added Kevin Koger as their tight ends coach. Koger was on the radar for OC positions in 2022, interviewing for the Broncos and Packers’ jobs. Koger, 34, spent the past three years as the Chargers’ TEs coach. These appointments will be rather important, given the investments the Falcons made in Drake London and Kyle Pitts.

As Hilliard settles in, the Falcons will shift T.J. Yates from receivers coach to quarterbacks coach. The former NFL QB spent three seasons on Smith’s staff, arriving during the 2021 offseason in which Morris left for Los Angeles. This will be his first season as a team’s top QBs coach, though it is not yet known exactly who Yates will be developing. Morris is also keeping Dwayne Ledford as offensive line coach, adding the role of run-game coordinator to his title. Smith brought Ledford out of the college ranks in 2021. Pro Football Focus ranked the Falcons’ O-line fourth last season. The Falcons retained assistant Steven King but will move him from an offensive staffer to assistant special teams coach.

Multiple Rams staffers will follow Morris as well. Tim Berbenich, a 2023 Rams assistant, signed on as a Falcons pass-game specialist. He will also hold game management responsibilities. Lance Schulters, whose DB career included a stop in Atlanta, joined Morris’ staff as a defensive assistant. He last coached with the Rams in 2022. Nick Jones, a three-year Rams staffer, is signing on with the Falcons as assistant O-line coach. Offensive assistant K.J. Black will also come to Georgia after spending time on McVay’s staff.

Jay Rodgers, whom the Chargers fired shortly after dismissing Brandon Staley, will receive another opportunity as part of this staff. The Falcons hired Rodgers as their D-line coach. Rodgers has been an NFL D-line coach for the past 12 years, serving in that capacity for the Broncos and Bears ahead of his L.A. stay. Justin Hood will move up to DBs coach, after spending 2023 on the quality control level in Green Bay.

Former NFL linebacker Barrett Ruud will also make his coaching debut in the pros, being hired as Atlanta’s ILBs coach. Ruud coached at Nebraska, his alma mater, from 2018-22. The Falcons will keep Michael Pitre as their running backs coach. Helping Tyler Allgeier to a 1,000-yard rookie year, Pitre has held this role for the past two seasons.

Rounding out the staff, the Falcons are hiring the son of longtime Patriots O-line coach Dante Scarnecchia. Steve Scarnecchia is onboard as the Falcons’ chief of staff, coming over from the Jets. Ex-Bolts assistant John Timu is now on Lake’s defensive staff. Chandler Whitmer, in place as a pass-game specialist, will join Rodgers, Timu and Koger incoming from the Chargers’ staff.

Rams Part Ways With ST Coordinator Joe DeCamillis, OL Coach Kevin Carberry, Others

Sean McVay‘s return for a seventh season was believed to trigger staff changes, and the Rams are moving in that direction Wednesday. The team dismissed five assistants, including special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, Field Yates of tweets.

The Rams also parted ways with offensive line coach Kevin Carberry, defensive backs coach Jonathan Cooley and assistants Skyler Jones and assistant Lance Schulters, Yates adds. With offensive coordinator Liam Coen having left recently, the Rams now have extensive work to do on finalizing their 2023 staff. McVay informed the staffers of the decisions shortly after recommitting to the team late last week, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic tweets. The team also will not bring back linebackers coach Thad Bogardus, Rodrigue adds (via Twitter), noting Bogardus’ contract was up.

All but one of these coaches, Jones being the exception, was on Los Angeles’ staff during the team’s Super Bowl LVI-winning season. Following the Rams’ 5-12 2022 campaign — the worst record by a defending Super Bowl champion and by far the worst mark under McVay — the team will reassemble its staff. An NFL special teams coach since the late 1980s, DeCamillis joined the Rams in 2021. Carberry and Schulters came aboard then as well, with Cooley having been on staff since 2020. DeCamillis, who has been an ST coach role for the past 35 seasons, collected a Super Bowl ring with the Broncos in 2015.

This marked Carberry’s first run as an NFL team’s top O-line coach. He had worked as an assistant O-line coach in Washington, serving under then-Washington OC McVay during the first of those seasons (2016). Pro Football Focus rated L.A.’s O-line 25th. Then again, the Rams dealt with rampant health trouble up front. Following third-round rookie Logan Bruss‘ ACL tear, the Rams struggled to keep almost all of their O-linemen healthy. That obviously affected the team’s offense, which ranked 32nd in yardage — miles below any other McVay-coached Rams season.

Bogardus had been with the Rams throughout McVay’s tenure, working with both the D-line and linebackers under McVay. Cooley became the Rams’ replacement for Ejiro Evero last year, moving from the quality control level into a gig as the team’s top DBs coach. Evero did not hold the Rams’ DBs coach title until his fifth and final year with the team. McVay had previously blocked Cooley from an interview to join Kevin O’Connell‘s Vikings staff last year, and Rodrigue notes a dismissal now caught some among the team by surprise (Twitter link). Formerly a long-tenured NFL safety, Schulters worked as a Rams fellow in 2021 but became a defensive assistant this season. Jones was the team’s assistant defensive line coach, coming aboard in 2022 after a stay as Norfolk State’s D-line coach.

Prior to McVay informing Rams brass he would return, the team indicated it would not block its position coaches from interviewing for jobs elsewhere. The Rams will now have to replace two of their three coordinators — potentially all three if DC Raheem Morris lands a head coaching job — this offseason. The team had already lost running backs coach Ra’Sheed Samples, who took a job at Arizona State.

NFL Coaching Notes: Rams Complete Staff, Colts Hire QC

The Rams put the finishing touches on their 2022 coaching staff, announcing the completion earlier this month. Along with many other promotions and hires that we’ve already reported on this site, the following staff changes were unveiled:

  • Thad Bogardus, who served last season as the assistant linebackers coach, was promoted to outside linebackers coach. He previously spent the 2020 season as assistant defensive line coach, a promotion after serving previously as assistant defensive line/defensive quality control coach.
  • Lance Schulters, who spent last season as a coaching fellow, earned a promotion to defensive assistant for the upcoming season. Schulters is a former NFL safety with 19 career interceptions to his name. He started his coaching career as a defensive assistant for the Falcons in 2020.
  • Chris Shula, who oversaw linebackers last year, will now serve as pass game coordinator/defensive backs coach for Los Angeles. Shula has worked with the Rams’ linebackers in some capacity since 2017, debuting in the NFL as a defensive quality control coach in San Diego after bouncing around a few college jobs.
  • Chris Beake was hired as the Rams’ new inside linebackers coach after nine seasons in Denver. After holding a variety of roles on the Broncos staff, he spent his final season there as the defensive pass game specialist.
  • Kenneth Black was brought on as a coaching fellow for the Rams this season. Black spent the last two years as co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach for Florida A&M.
  • Skyler Jones was hired as assistant defensive line coach. Jones spent seven seasons coaching at the college level, most recently in the role of defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator at Norfolk State.
  • Jeremy Springer was brought on in the role of special teams assistant. Springer has been a special teams coordinator at the college football level for the last four years, spending last year at Marshall and the previous three seasons with Arizona.

The Colts also announced a hire at the end of the month from the college level: