New Cardinals coach Steve Wilks said Tuesday that he wants to have his coaching staff filled out by the Super Bowl (10 days from now) and already names are leaking out. Some could be holdover assistants from Bruce Arians’ staff. One will not be James Bettcher, the defensive coordinator who was among the candidates to succeed Arians. Multiple reports have Bettcher headed to the New York Giants as their defensive coordinator under new coach Pat Shurmur.
None of Wilks’ new assistants have been officially announced, but reports have Wilks potentially bringing Panthers linebackers coach Al Holcomb with him from Carolina to be his defensive coordinator. And, of course, Wilks is a defensive guy himself and figures to have a large say on that side of the ball.
As for Bettcher, Cardinals GM Steve Keim called him a “strong candidate” for the Cards’ job following Wilks’ press conference Tuesday.
“James Bettcher is a fantastic coach and he had a great interview,” Keim said. “He did a great job. I thought he did a phenomenal job with our defense. He’s going to continue to grow in this league.”
(The Browns, in announcing they hired Todd Haley as their offensive coordinator, also added a pair off Arians’ staff: Freddie Kitchens, who after 10 years with the Cards will be Cleveland’s running backs/associate head coach, and Amos Jones on special teams.)
Besides Holcomb, there have been reports of Wilks bringing in Ray Brown to coach the offensive line and David Merritt to coach the secondary. If Merritt’s name rings a bell, Keim mentioned it Tuesday during the press conference — noting that Merritt, a teammate of Keim’s at North Carolina State — was the one who originally introduced Keim and Wilks. Keim, of course, said Merritt was a Giants’ assistant coach, where he has been since 2004. With Shurmur’s arrival, he apparently is moving on. Another report has Don Johnson as Wilks’ defensive line coach.
Interviews for offensive coordinator are ongoing, Wilks said Tuesday.
Tags: Al Holcomb, Amos Jones, David Merritt, Don Johnson, Freddie Kitchens, James Bettcher, Ray Brown, Steve Wilks
Posted in Blog | 41 Comments »
GM Steve Keim was, like Bruce Arians, satisfied with the effort from the Cardinals Sunday in a loss to the Rams, but noted that the execution “on all three sides of the ball” wasn’t good enough. Obviously, special teams was part of that, with the blocked field goal, the blocked extra point and a long punt return helping derail any Cardinals’ hopes.
Keim, during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 was asked directly about the status of special teams coordinator Amos Jones.
“I’m never going to go on record or publicly and bash any of our players individually or one of our coaches,” Keim said. “The bottom line though is, there’s no excuse. Our special teams, it’s been unacceptable, point blank. It’s something that needs to improve and I’ll just leave it at that.”
— Keim reiterated that quarterback Blaine Gabbert has a “skillset that intrigues you,” but that Gabbert needs to find more consistency. Watching Gabbert play now, and what he does, are all “critical moments” in the evaluation of the future. Improvement is still possible, Keim said.
— Then again, when it comes to the QB spot for the Cardinals in 2018, Keim said the team will “leave no stone unturned” when it comes to filling the position. He obviously cannot talk specific players, but the search will include potential free-agent signings as well as the draft (and that doesn’t even include assessing the Carson Palmer situation.)
— The first player Keim mentioned by name, unprompted, was running back Kerwynn Williams, who stats included 97 rushing yards and a couple of cracked ribs. Keim loves Williams’ toughness, and “every time he’s gotten an opportunity, he’s stepped up.”
— The Cardinals indeed have had a ton of injuries. But “I don’t think you can ever use injuries as an excuse,” Keim said, noting that he has spent much time over the years looking at the depth chart in his office envisioning what would happen if this guy or that guy got hurt and what the Cards would be in position to do.
“That’s on me,” Keim said. “I have to do a better job going forward.” Keim added “the longer you do this, it teaches you different lessons in terms of building a team and building depth.”
— “There’s a chance” Adrian Peterson (neck) will be able to return this week, Keim said. DL Corey Peters and WR John Brown could return this week too.
— Signing Peters to an extension was important, Keim said. “He’s a player to me who is under the radar.” A leader in the locker room and who plays a crucial role in the defense, the Cardinals consider him a core member.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Amos Jones, Blaine Gabbert, Corey Peters, Kerwynn Williams, special teams, Steve Keim
Posted in Blog | 70 Comments »
Steve Keim, not surprisingly, is frustrated. After Sunday’s bad game in Philly, Keim acknowledged while talking to the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 that “I don’t think we’ve played this bad in all three phases since the NFC Championship two years ago.”
Keim noted all the things that became painfully obvious. The defense could make third-down stops, with Keim blaming poor tackling and simple techniques in coverage. On offense, the lack of any kind of a run game makes it so easy for the opponent’s defense to tee off on Carson Palmer sitting in the pocket. And then “special teams didn’t help.”
It was interesting to hear Keim talk about the game reminding him how the Cards got their rears kicked around in Philly on Thankgiving night in 2008. That team, which also were whipped terribly in New York and New England that year, rallied, if you recall. “Am I suggesting we are going to the Super Bowl? No,” Keim said. “But there is something to be said about momentum and the team jelling together, and that’s the approach we have to take.”
First the Cardinals would have to find some momentum. There is none right now.
“Sometimes, when you get taken to the woodshed like this, if you’re going to use it for any positive, it’s to put that chip back on your shoulder,” Keim said.
— On the status of the offensive line, Keim said guard Alex Boone (chest) and tackle D.J. Humphries (knee) remain week-to-week and the Cards don’t want to put them in harm’s way by rushing them back.
“There is hope, once we get D.J. back and once we get Boone back, there’s no doubt in my mind it will improve,” Keim said. “That being said, there are some current players who will continue to play on this line who have to improve.”
— Keim, on Patrick Peterson’s sideline outburst. “There’s a part of me inside who loves it,” Keim said. “I like to see guys who don’t like to lose.
“It sincerely comes from Pat’s heart. I appreciate his competitiveness.”
— Keim was asked about special teams coach Amos Jones, and what goes on behind the scenes that make the Cardinals know Jones is the right coach.
“I think there are always things that people don’t see,” Keim said. “… More than anything, me or coach (Bruce Arians) or Michael (Bidwill) knowing that, the type of things that need to be taught are being taught. It’s whether the players are correcting those issues or not. We tried to really improve football I.Q. with our players, because that’s one of the issues we’ve had in the past. Once I think we get some of that stuff cleaned up and guys can play a little bit smarter, I think you’ll start to see some improvement.
“Again, week after week, the same mistakes keep happening. Quite frankly, if anything, we need to continue to rotate players in and out of here and find players who can help us. If a guy continually makes the same mistakes and isn’t going to fix it, we’ll go ahead and make a decision and look at ready list and bring in some guys and make some changes.”
— The Cardinals will bring in five long snappers for workouts today to find a replacement for the injured Aaron Brewer, who broke his hand/wrist Sunday.
— Keim reiterated that Palmer did not play well the first two games but the last three he has played “very good” given the circumstances, especially with the offensive line.
— Keim admitted he doesn’t have a lot of patience, but he doesn’t want this emotions to get the best of him. And he understands his players’ frustrations. “I think it’s a good thing from the standpoint of, if we had a bunch of guys downstairs just collecting their checks and they didn’t care, I’d be certainly concerned,” Keim said. “But there are lot of guys who are genuinely upset.”
Tags: Aaron Brewer, Alex Boone, Amos Jones, Carson Palmer, D.J. Humphries, Eagles, Patrick Peterson, Steve Keim
Posted in Blog | 76 Comments »
Carson Palmer couldn’t play. Might not be able to play, at least another game. So that gives you … a Bruce Arians shrug. “Drew’s a starter in this league in my opinion,” Arians said. “Always has been.”
Drew being Drew Stanton, of course, and he was at a starter Sunday. Unlike the recent past, where backup quarterbacks would come in for the Cardinals and it usually meant problems – although at that time, the starters weren’t all that good either – this team is equipped to live through something like the quarterback going down and still coming away, after a cross country flight, with a victory.
The Giants are not the 49ers, of course, and if Stanton is still in the lineup next week, the Cards aregoing to have to up their overall game. The same can be said even if Palmer plays, realistically. But 2-0 is certainly much better than any of the alternatives.
The fact Stanton didn’t turn the ball over was a big deal. Sure, Eli Manning had better stats, but Stanton avoided causing his team trouble. Arians said Stanton played better than his stats would indicate. Perhaps. Stanton does need to capitalize on a couple of red-zone attempts – he wasn’t that close on some throws and another touchdown would have made life a lot easier – but he looks like a guy who knows the offense.
— When Palmer comes back is anyone’s guess. He kept talking about the nerve “waking up.” I would think it will be ready when it’s ready. Arians said he’s looking at this long-term with most of the season to go, so I’d expect Stanton against San Francisco if Palmer isn’t sure. Then again, if Palmer was possible to play Sunday Arians was going to put him in, so it sounds like it’s on Carson.
— What a day for special teams coordinator Amos Jones. Bad kickoff returns from Ted Ginn – Arians said he might be firing Ginn from that part of the game – and another punt block, this time because protector Robert Hughes allowed Rashad Jennings to push him back enough so that Jennings could get a hand on the ball. That’s two blocks in two games because of a poor block. But then Ginn snapped off his 71-yard return – and Ginn most certainly isn’t leaving punt returns – showing off his hellaspeed, and then Kenny Demens knocked loose the ensuing kickoff return for a fumble the Cardinals turned into a field goal.
— It was a rough game for Patrick Peterson. It did not help the physical cornerback was in a game with an officiating crew that was taking the edict on emphasizing illegal contacts/defensive holding very seriously. But Peterson said after he has to adapt, and he’s right. There is no other choice. The TD he gave up on the fade to Reuben Randle was a nice throw and a great one-handed catch from Randle, but in the end, that’s the kind of play Peterson – who now carries the weight and expectations of being the highest-paid cornerback – has to make.
— Andre Ellington was excellent Sunday. He nearly got to 100 yards – 91, actually – on only 15 carries, and this is a guy who isn’t 100 percent. Ellington said he isn’t even sure if he’ll be 100 percent at any point because his foot only gets better with rest and the bye week may not be enough time. Regardless, if he plays like Sunday, he and the Cardinals will make it work. The guy is a threat with his speed to get a first-down running on third-and-14, like he did Sunday.
— Safe to say going with Chandler Catanzaro was a good call? The kid looks good.
— For those scoring at home, that’s Cardinals 27, opponents 0 in the fourth quarter this season. And a pair of fourth-quarter comebacks.
— Fitz was back. Ten targets, six catches (for 51 yards). Almost had a touchdown, and should’ve have another catch for 36 yards had Jared Veldheer not been caught facemasking a pass rusher.
— Big game for Calais Campbell. A team-high 10 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, and would’ve had a another sack (and forced fumble the Cardinals recovered) if not for one of those pesky illegal contacts. He has to play like the great player he is for this defense to survive all its losses.
— Antonio Cromartie made a great play on that third down bomb late in the game to Randle, getting his hand in just enough to mess up a potential catch. That hits, and all kinds of drama. Instead, the Cardinals stopped the Giants the next play, and the game was over.
— Larry Foote on his game-ending interception: “There’s a dirty rumor going around my locker room that I can’t catch,” Foote said. “I told ’em I’d catch it when it counts.” Looked Fitz-like to me.
— Tyrann Mathieu with only a few plays (but his first tackle). It’s going to be a slow process, but he’s back on the field.
— The Seahawks lost. On the road, but it was to a Chargers team the Cardinals just beat. Yes, the NFC West should be interesting all year.
Tags: Amos Jones, Andre Ellington, Antonio Cromartie, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Chandler Catanzaro, Drew Stanton, Giants, Larry Fitzgerald, Larry Foote, Patrick Peterson, Seahawks, Ted Ginn, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 40 Comments »
With the Cardinals returning to the field today, a few quick notes after coach Bruce Arians spoke to the media:
— He was asked about the health of rookie wide receiver Ryan Swope, who was not out there practicing. Teammate Larry Fitzgerald had said in a Sirius NFL radio interview that Swope had been out because of concussion-related issues. Arians did not get specific. “There’s nothing really to report,” Arians said. “We don’t have injury reports this time of year.” Asked if he was concerned about Swope, Arians said “He’ll be fine.”
— Arians was happy with the work after the team had a week off. “I expected it to be sloppier,” Arians said.
— Cornerback Patrick Peterson has missed the last nine days because of family issues, Arians said. Cornerbacks Jerraud Powers and Antoine Cason were also working on the side. Tight end Jeff King was limited as he rehabs his knee.
— Tackle Levi Brown was taking part in the work for the first time as he returns from his triceps injury. Arians said he was limited but he looked good in his reps.
— Rookie guard Jonathan Cooper is working with the first unit, which isn’t a surprise. As for his progress, “he’s getting so many reps he can’t help but but improve,” Arians said.
— Special teams coach Amos Jones was absent because his father passed away.
— Rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu made an interception that Arians was willing to call a Pick-6. (Since no one can tackle, you never really know.)
Tags: Amos Jones, Antoine Cason, Jeff King, Jerraud Powers, Jonathan Cooper, Levi Brown, Patrick Peterson, Ryan Swope, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 14 Comments »
The Cardinals finally released a list of their new coaching staff Tuesday. They had already announced, after the hiring of head coach Bruce Arians, the addition of assistant head coach/offense Tom Moore, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Now comes 13 new names, along with keeping four holdover coaches:
— Special teams coordinator: Amos Jones (last job, special teams coach, Pittsburgh Steelers)
— Quarterbacks: Freddie Kitchens
— Wide receivers: Darryl Drake (receivers coach, Chicago Bears)
— Running backs: Stump Mitchell (head coach, Southern University)
— Tight ends: Rick Christophel (head coach, Austin Peay)
— Assistant tight ends, assistant special teams: Steve Heiden (tight ends coach, Concordia University)
— Assistant offensive line: Larry Zierlein (OL coach, Hartford of UFL; was Steelers’ OL coach from’07-’09)
— Defensive line: Brentson Buckner (intern DL coach, Steelers, 2010-12)
— Pass rush: Tom Pratt (consultant, IMG Academy)
— Linebackers: Mike Caldwell (linebackers coach, Philadelphia Eagles)
— Outside linebackers: James Bettcher (special assistant to head coach, Indianapolis Colts)
— Defensive backs: Nick Rapone (defensive coordinator, University of Deleware)
— Cornerbacks: Kevin Ross (safeties coach, Oakland Raiders)
— Defensive assistant/assistant defensive backs: Ryan Slowik
— Offensive assistant: Kevin Garver (offensive assistant, University of Alabama)
— Strength and conditioning: John Lott
— Assistant strength and conditioning: Pete Alosi
An interesting note: the offensive line doesn’t have a offensive line coach per se. Duties teaching the line will be split between Zierlein, Moore and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, who has spent his coaching career as an offensive line coach.
Kitchens had been coaching tight ends under Ken Whisenhunt, but moves to quarterbacks, a position Kitchens played in college. Slowik was outside linebackers coach on the last staff, and of course, Lott and Alosi remain in their former jobs. The staff of 21 is four more coaches than was on Whisenhunt’s staff. Arians said he preferred to have extra coaches on staff, and said he likes the diversity of experience and youth. The group moved into offices and began their meetings today. More in a bit on azcardinals.com, including more background on the new group. (And here it is.)
Tags: Amos Jones, Brentson Buckner, Bruce Arians, coaching staff, Darryl Drake, Freddie Kitchens, Harold Goodwin, James Bettcher, John Lott, Kevin Garver, Kevin Ross, Larry Zierlein, Mike Caldwell, Nick Rapone, offensive line, Pete Alosi, Rick Christophel, Ryan Slowik, Steve Heiden, Stump Mitchell, Todd Bowles, Tom Moore, Tom Pratt
Posted in Blog | 40 Comments »
The Cardinals still have not officially announced their full coaching staff, past the the three top assistants. Usually the team likes to wait until everything is finalized with everyone before putting out the full list, as opposed to putting it all out piecemeal. But that doesn’t mean word hasn’t gotten out here and there as coaches are at the Senior Bowl or talk to hometown newspapers or the like. So, from that, here are the names circulating in various spots:
— Wide receivers: Darryl Drake, long-time receivers coach for the Bears;
— Running back: Todd McNair, former USC running backs coach who played in the NFL and for Arians at Temple;
— Tight ends: Rick Christophel, who had been head coach at Austin Peay;
— Defensive line: Brentson Buckner, a former 12-year defensive lineman in the NFL in his first NFL job (he interned with the Steelers from 2010 to 2012, and Arians was there a couple of those years);
— Linebackers: Mike Caldwell, who had been on the Eagles’ staff with new DC Todd Bowles and played for the Cardinals in 1997;
— Pass rush: Tom Pratt, who has been working with potential draftees at IMG in recent years;
— Defensive backs: Nick Rapone, who had been DC at the University of Deleware and coached with Arians at Temple;
— Special teams: Amos Jones, who worked with Arians in Pittsburgh;
— Offensive quality control: Kevin Garver, formerly of Alabama.
There is also holdover coach Freddie Kitchens, who was coaching tight ends but now is expected to coach quarterbacks. Kitchens played quarterback at Alabama and was a senior starter there when Arians was offensive coordinator in 1997. There are other spots still open, too, obviously, as we wait for official word.
Tags: Amos Jones, Brentson Buckner, coaching staff, Darryl Drake, Freddie Kitchens, Kevin Garver, Mike Caldwell, Nick Rapone, Rick Christophel, Todd McNair, Tom Pratt
Posted in Blog | 90 Comments »