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LeBeau as linebackers coach?

Posted by Darren Urban on January 20, 2015 – 11:00 pm

In the void of no news (yet), speculation and reports continue on the Cardinals’ still jumbled defensive coaching staff. But Dick LeBeau’s name has been part of the story almost from the moment he left the Steelers earlier this month, and that possibility certainly hasn’t lost steam.

Fox’s Alex Marvez reported Tuesday night that the Cardinals are closing in on a deal to hire LeBeau. But Marvez reported that LeBeau is actually close to being named linebackers coach.

The Cardinals do need a linebackers coach, since inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell is expected to join departed defensive coordinator Todd Bowles with the Jets. They might need more than one — or maybe one main guy for all the linebackers — if outside linebackers coach James Bettcher is the one elevated to defensive coordinator.

This doesn’t necessarily mean LeBeau wouldn’t still serve as a mentor for whomever is named defensive coordinator. It would be foolish not to lean on a guy like LeBeau no matter what his official role might be. Getting LeBeau, like adding Tom Moore once upon a time, would be a big deal for the Cardinals.


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No Cardinals’ lockers for Seahawks

Posted by Darren Urban on January 20, 2015 – 7:55 am

It was the mantra Bruce Arians made sure his team lived by all season.

“Don’t let anybody dress in your locker room come February,” was the version Arians vocalized at midseason, a nod to making sure the Cardinals fought hard to reach the Super Bowl and be able to practice and play in their home facility and at University of Phoenix Stadium. That dream died on Wild Card weekend. So the next thought was the idea this weekend that NFC West rival Seattle, after beating the Packers in the NFC Championship, would then take up residence in the Cardinals’ locker room. That got a reaction.

Except that will not be the case.

At University of Phoenix Stadium, there are multiple locker rooms, so neither the Seahawks or the Patriots will use the Cardinals’ locker room. The Cardinals’ practice facility in Tempe is in play during the week, but the Patriots are going to use the facility — it was going to be the AFC team regardless, although I’m assuming that would have changed if the Cardinals had made it this far.

lockerroomcardsblog


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Nolan as potential Cardinals assistant

Posted by Darren Urban on January 19, 2015 – 6:29 pm

This much is becoming clear: Bruce Arians is looking to have the same setup at the top of the Cardinals’ defensive food chain as he does on the offensive side of the ball.

Multiple reports Monday have the Cards looking to talk to Mike Nolan, the one-time 49ers head coach who has spent the last three seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons. Again, like the possibility of Dick LeBeau, the idea would be that Nolan would be a defensive mentor to whomever Arians names as defensive coordinator — expected to be an in-house promotion — like the Cardinals have with current offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and Tom Moore, whose title is officially assistant head coach/offense.

I’d guess the first choice would still be LeBeau, who is also receiving interest (not surprisingly) from the Titans and their coach, Ken Whisenhunt. Whisenhunt tried to hire LeBeau as his defensive coordinator a few years ago when Whiz was coaching the Cardinals. Options will have to stay open. I have heard from a few wondering why Arians wouldn’t talk to recently bounced 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. I am not sure, but if the actual DC is not going to be a new hire, maybe that’s why. Fangio does have history with Arians, having coached together with the Colts for a couple of seasons back in 1999 and 2000. (UPDATE: Fangio is headed to the Bears.)

Arians did head out to the Senior Bowl; I’m not sure what the timeline will be to fill all these spots. If reports are true that inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell is also going to the Jets to be the assistant head coach for Todd Bowles, that’s another spot that has to be filled.

 Mike Nolan


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Cromartie keeping options open

Posted by Darren Urban on January 17, 2015 – 9:53 am

Cardinals cornerback Antonio Cromartie has been a natural go-to guy the last few days to talk about Todd Bowles as the new New York Jets coach, since Cromartie just played for Bowles and since he still has a lot of media relationships with New York media after playing so many years with the Jets. He went on NFL Network to talk about Bowles — and also about his future given his impending free agency.

During his Bowles’ analysis, Cromartie noted “$50 million in cap space” the Jets have to work with. That probably wasn’t a coincidence, especially from a guy who didn’t really want to leave the Jets last year in the first place.

“I’m leaving the door open,” Cromartie said. “Right now, until the Super Bowl is over, I’m still an Arizona Cardinal. Until they come to me about a conteact, I’m still an Arizona Cardinal. Once March 10 at 4 o’clock hits, March 12 at 9 a.m. hits, and no one’s offered me a contract, then I’m free game. And I’m open to anything to go out and try to win a championship and help any organization.”

(Free agency does indeed start March 10 at 2 p.m. Arizona time, which will be 4 p.m. Eastern.)

Cromartie made $3.5 million on a one-year contract this season. He had a good season and is a Pro Bowl alternate. But his signing, and his season, has long played out as a parallel to the one linebacker Karlos Dansby had in 2013 for the Cardinals. Dansby, like Cromartie, signed with the Cardinals for one year when the free agent market did not play out the way they wanted. Dansby, like Cromartie, had a good season (Dansby actually had an excellent season, even better than Cro’s.) But both are on the wrong side of 30 in a league that values youth. There has always been a good chance Cromartie’s situation plays out just like Dansby’s did — I expect the Cardinals to make a solid offer, although it may only be for two or three years. And it’s easy to see another team swooping in to offer more years/more money. The Browns did that with Dansby, and maybe the Jets — or the Bills, who now have Cro’s former coach, Rex Ryan — will do the same with Cromartie.

Cromartie, as he said, is open to everything.

CroBlog


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New DC could impact Cardinals on the nose

Posted by Darren Urban on January 16, 2015 – 1:56 pm

I don’t think we’ll be hearing anything about the Cardinals’ vacant defensive coordinator job until next week (the coaches remain off, although former defensive coordinator/new Jets coach Todd Bowles did drop by Thursday and again Friday as he settled his affairs with the organization and said goodbyes.) We’ll wait to see if the Dick LeBeau rumors come to pass of him joining the Cardinals’ staff, and who else might be impacted (if LeBeau is a consultant, does outside linebackers James Bettcher become defensive coordinator? Or defensive backs coach Nick Rapone? Or someone else?)

What kind of scheme the Cardinals use will be the first question everyone will want to know, and if LeBeau arrives, whether it’s he dealing with what the Cardinals have been running or vice versa. The scheme of LeBeau and the scheme of Bowles have some parallels but they were definitely different — especially up front, where LeBeau (and disciple Ray Horton when he was DC of the Cardinals) look to have the linemen “two-gap” and allow the linebackers to roam and make plays. Bowles was willing to let his lineman just head one way and make a play. It’s a big reason why Darnell Dockett was so happy when Bowles arrived, as I mentioned the other day, although LeBeau had used more one-gap in the last couple of years and let his 3-4 ends rush the passer more often.

Either way, a good nose tackle is important. And the Cardinals face a crucial offseason when it comes to their nose tackles. Starter Dan Williams is an unrestricted free agent. Alameda Ta’amu, who had a disappointing season coming off a torn ACL, is a restricted free agent. Ta’amu is an interesting case, because he played well in 2013 and can be kept for a minimum of a restricted free agent tender offer. He didn’t tear up his knee until the season finale in 2013 and it wasn’t that shocking he was slow to recover, but the Cardinals were still expecting more from him this season. (It’s notable that LeBeau’s Steelers cut Ta’amu last year, which is how the Cardinals got him off waivers in the first place.)

Williams is more dicey. I’d think the Cardinals want him back. Williams said he would like to be back, but again, this is about money. What will the open market bring for Williams? Williams played pretty well this season and his weight isn’t the issue it used to be. But there is already a ton of money tied up in the defensive line (at least for now) with Calais Campbell and Dockett, and that also must fit into the equation. There was a reason the Cards drafted two defensive linemen last year.

Ed Stinson and veteran Tommy Kelly can play inside but it is Williams and/or Ta’amu who are the true nose tackles on the roster for now. Someone will need to be there in May too. If it isn’t Williams, can it be Ta’amu? Or someone else?

NoseblogUSE


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Cardale Jones, Logan Thomas and developing QBs

Posted by Darren Urban on January 15, 2015 – 3:27 pm

Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones — who just led the Buckeyes to a national championship but has played just three games — held a press conference today to say he was staying in school and not coming out for the draft, which was a possibility. Ohio State has, right now, all three of its QBs from this year returning next season (although that could change) and there is no lock that Jones will get to start. He was third-string to start the season, after all.

But even with only three games under his college belt, I can understand why someone could think about coming out to the NFL. There is the current and longstanding debate about college athlete compensation, which isn’t the case if you go pro. More importantly, there are the devastating injuries suffered by Marcus Lattimore and Todd Gurley and the two OSU QBs in front of him — Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett — that would make a kid think twice about staying in school when you can get paid to have the same injury risk on the next level.

The idea of Jones coming out, though, made me think of Logan Thomas.

The situations are not completely parallel. Thomas was in school for a long time and played plenty, and Jones — now that he’s returning — still gets that opportunity. But Thomas, like Jones, needs development. That was the book on Thomas when he came out and that’s what Bruce Arians continues to say. Many have asked what kind of progress Thomas made during the regular season and the reality is, it wasn’t much. Even Arians acknowledged that late in the year, one of the reasons Thomas didn’t get playing time despite the Cardinals’ QB situation.

Once training camp ends, it’s the starting quarterback who gets the practice reps. The few leftovers go to No. 2. Yes, Thomas gets reps as the scout team QB, but that’s running plays from another team and there’s only so much you can get from that. Yes, you can work on some fundamentals, but that only gets you so far. There is only so much progress you can make in that situation. It’s the great QB conundrum for  young quarterbacks. You have to play a lot to get good, usually, and unless you are good, teams don’t want to play you a lot.

That’s what I thought of when it was possible Jones would come out. He’d be so raw, who’s going to play him early? How would he get that experience that he’ll not get (in theory) by staying in school? It’s a big reason why it’s tough to find a quarterback these days, because the time and games needed to properly develop a guy simply aren’t available.

LoganCardale


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Waiting for a new defensive coordinator

Posted by Darren Urban on January 14, 2015 – 3:40 pm

The coaches’ offices are dark right now, not a surprise at this time in the offseason. But there is still work to do and moves to be made for Bruce Arians, now that Todd Bowles is headed to be the Jets’ head coach.

(Which, interestingly, still has yet to be officially announced at 3:40 p.m. Arizona time here on Wednesday. UPDATE: Twenty minutes later, it is.)

Bowles is expected to bring Cardinals’ inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell with him for his staff, and there is a chance he also brings along someone else, like defensive assistant Ryan Slowik. So there very well could be a couple of coaching staff openings Arians will have to fill when this all filters out. But for now, the focus is on the coordinator spot Bowles is vacating. All season, Bowles was trending toward getting a head coaching job somewhere, so when Arians said late in the season he had a plan in place to replace Bowles, that certainly wasn’t a surprise.

That was before Dick LeBeau left the Steelers. Arians has talked to LeBeau about a job, and when you connect the dots, it does make sense to have LeBeau in a Tom Moore-esque role and to hire a defensive coordinator, as reports suggest. It also rings true to me that Arians would look to his existing defensive staff to find his defensive coordinator, although who that would be remains a guess. There is also a question of whether LeBeau would want to move, at age 77, this far away from his Ohio-based family.

(LeBeau’s potential arrival does make for other interesting questions, even if he isn’t DC. Darnell Dockett, for instance, didn’t love the scheme of former DC Ray Horton, who was a LeBeau disciple.)

I know many want to know what this all means for the Cardinals in terms of scheme. If the Cardinals stay in-house, does the defense simply echo what Bowles had been doing all along? Is it tweaked and if so, how much? I’m sure Arians has already thought these things through already. With empty offices right now, we’ll see how quickly this all comes together.

Dick LeBeau, Mike Tomlin, Bruce Arians


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Fitzgerald: “Hopefully we can get something done”

Posted by Darren Urban on January 13, 2015 – 3:00 pm

Larry Fitzgerald said before the season he knew something had to be done with his $23.6 million salary cap number for 2015. The wide receiver didn’t talk about it specifically during the season — or right after the Cardinals were eliminated in the playoff loss at Carolina — but his mindset clearly hasn’t changed.

“This is the only place I have ever played,” Fitzgerald said during a Tuesday appearance on ESPN’s “NFL Live.” “I have enjoyed my time in Arizona. Working for the Bidwill family has been great, playing for the Cardinals. Hopefully we can get something done. The business part of football is not something I always enjoy, but it’s something we need to address.”

The question posed to Fitzgerald was whether he would be playing for the Cardinals this season, and obviously (and smartly) Fitzgerald didn’t answer it directly. He wouldn’t want to give up any leverage he has during contract talks. But there remains optimism around the team that there can be something worked out to keep the multi-time Pro Bowler around. Either way, with the Super Bowl descending on Arizona very soon, my guess is this isn’t the last time Fitzgerald speaks on the subject.

Fitzaddressblog

 


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Bucannon all-rookie at position he still must play

Posted by Darren Urban on January 13, 2015 – 1:28 pm

He was a safety even though he wasn’t a safety, and that’s how he was recognized.

The Pro Football Writers of America came out with it’s all-Rookie team for 2014, and Deone Bucannon was named — along with Green Bay’s Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix – as one of the safeties on the team. Bucannon had 75 tackles, a couple of sacks and a fumble recovery this season. Obviously, as has been well-documented, Bucannon played almost every defensive snap he had this season as a linebacker in the nickel defense.

He’ll be at safety sooner rather than later. That’s what he believes, and that’s the intent for the Cardinals. His role this season was a perfect example of what defensive coordinator Todd Bowles (soon-to-be-head-coach of the Jets, perhaps?) did to use the personnel he had at his disposal. The Cards did not have an obvious replacement for suspended linebacker Daryl Washington in that sub-package (Larry Foote took Karlos Dansby’s place) and with safeties like Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson and Tyrann Mathieu also available, Bucannon became the choice to be Washington’s 2014 stand-in. Because so many teams use multiple receiver sets, Bucannon was on the field more than he was not with the Cards often in their nickel look.

Once the Cardinals recalibrate their linebacker position, Bucannon should slide back to safety (and it’ll also be interesting, if Bowles leaves and there is a different defensive coordinator, how the new guy works his nickel defense anyway.) Regardless, General Manager Steve Keim looks like his draft day move to trade down seven spots worked out well, with the Cardinals still able to draft Bucannon (and passing on a chance at Clinton-Dix) and picking up the extra draft pick that turned into wide receiver John Brown.

Buc1


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Bowles, the Falcons and LeBeau availability

Posted by Darren Urban on January 12, 2015 – 9:50 am

Rex Ryan is the Bills coach, the Seahawks are favorites to return to the Super Bowl (and thus extend their season another three weeks) and now is the time when teams without head coaches begin to get a little antsy when it comes to their coaching vacancies. So it’s probably no surprise that, with Ryan choosing Buffalo, Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has reportedly become the front-runner for the opening to coach the Atlanta Falcons.

Bowles was said to have had a good interview with the Falcons over the weekend. There are ties there to the man now charged to run the football side — Scott Pioli — since Pioli is Bill Parcells’ son-in-law and Bowles coached under Parcells in both Miami and Dallas. More importantly, Bowles is a defensive mind for a team that needs to upgrade on the defensive side. For Bowles, the Falcons’ job would have to be as attractive as any, given the softness of the divison (for now) and the fact he has a quarterback (Matt Ryan) in place. It’s not often you can walk into a head coaching job with a good QB already there; that’s usually why there is an opening in the first place.

We’ll see if that plays out. (The Falcons are not only getting Bowles for a second interview, but so are the Jets.)

But if it does, what then for the Cardinals? Bruce Arians has already said he has a plan in place if Bowles left. That was a plan put together before the startling news this weekend that Dick LeBeau was resigning as defensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a move that initially sure gave off similar vibes as when the Steelers announced Bruce Arians was “re-fired” once upon a time. (In hindsight, B.A. loves that story.) As soon as the LeBeau story hit, the questions came: If Bowles leaves, does Arians — who worked with LeBeau all those years in Pittsburgh — replace Bowles with LeBeau?

There are a lot of things that go into this. LeBeau made it very clear he was resigning but not retiring. At 77, is LeBeau what Arians wants for his staff (although, obviously with Tom Pratt and Tom Moore, the age itself isn’t an issue). Does the Cards’ personnel fit what LeBeau would want to do? More importantly, how crucial did Arians see his previous moves to fill Bowles’ spot had Bowles’ left? (Was there a promotion coming in-house?)

It would be interesting, however, after how badly former coach Ken Whisenhunt wanted to lure LeBeau to the Cardinals once upon a time (in 2011, back when Ray Horton ended up the choice), if LeBeau finally did make it to the Cards long after Whisenhunt was gone.

First, though, Bowles has to take a job elsewhere, which still isn’t a sure thing.

UPDATE: A report from Pittsburgh says Arians has already spoken to LeBeau about joining the Cardinals.

Todd Bowles


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