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No DC yet, no LeBeau and Campbell surgery

Posted by Darren Urban on January 25, 2015 – 8:24 pm

Little NFL team business is going to be announced right now, since Super Bowl week is upon us and nobody wants to take the spotlight away from the league’s most important time. The Cardinals still have not made any announcements in terms of their defensive coordinator — it’s still expected to be an internal hire — but whatever role ex-Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau might have had, multiple reports say that collaboration isn’t going to happen. Given the idea that LeBeau didn’t want to be far away from family in Ohio, it’s not a surprise. What direction the Cardinals go now to fill their vacancies is yet to be determined, although the team has talked to more than just LeBeau outside of the team. (Not every name has emerged publicly.)

— Defensive end Calais Campbell said he will have to have surgery post-Pro Bowl to fix a sports hernia that was bothering him the last few weeks of the season. “It’s an easy recovery,” Campbell said.

— The Seahawks players who were named to the Pro Bowl but obviously aren’t playing — because of their game next week — were on hand at University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday night to be interviewed and announced to the crowd. The crowd, definitely pro-Cardinals here in the Valley, delivered a pretty good round of boos.

Pro Bowl Football


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The mystery of LeBeau’s availability

Posted by Darren Urban on January 22, 2015 – 8:19 am

We take a break from all this talk about deflated footballs — and there is a lot of it — to mention that the Cardinals still do not have a defensive coordinator.

(Although that apparently doesn’t rank as something to note by some.)

No DC in itself isn’t a shock. Bruce Arians is at the Senior Bowl. Reportedly, he hasn’t yet had a chance to talk fully with Dick LeBeau about joining the Cardinals’ staff. But Gerry Dulac, a long-time Steelers beat writer who knows LeBeau well, took to Twitter (and later did an interview on Arizona Sports 98.7) to throw some cold water on the report LeBeau would be with the Cardinals as a linebackers coach.

Dulac has gone beyond that, saying he doubts LeBeau will want to come this far away from family in Ohio. That’s been the vibe coming out of Pittsburgh from the day the LeBeau-to-Cardinals rumor surfaced. One thing I did not know — I had heard LeBeau had family in Ohio, but I didn’t know it was his wife that lives there. That’s a bigger deal to me than if it was, for instance, his children and grandchildren.

Where this goes is a good question. There has long been the thought (even before LeBeau and the Steelers parted ways) that if Todd Bowles left Arians would go internal for the new DC. Would getting LeBeau mean enough to Arians make him the DC? As I have mentioned, other than LeBeau — who apparently is also drawing interest from Ken Whisenhunt in Tennessee (where the Titans already have Ray Horton as DC) — there has been a report the Cards also want to talk to Mike Nolan. The coaches’ offices in Tempe, meanwhile, remain quiet and dark. There’s a chance this whole situation could remain quiet until after the Super Bowl too.


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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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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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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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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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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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Cioffi officially hired as DB coach

Posted by Darren Urban on February 15, 2011 – 12:39 pm

In news that had been expected, the Cardinals have hired long-time Bengals assistant Sigismondo “Louie” Cioffi as defensive backs coach to join last week’s hire, Deshea Townsend, as the team’s new secondary bosses. Cioffi and Townsend replace Donnie Henderson (whose contract expired and was not renewed) and Rick Courtright (who had a year left on his contract but was let go).

Cioffi doesn’t turn 38 until September, but he has already coached in the NFL for 16 seasons, including with the Bengals since 1997. He spent time coaching both with new defensive coordinator Ray Horton and Dick LeBeau, so those ties remain strong. He got a chance to meet a lot of his new players Tuesday; defensive backs Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes and A.J. Jefferson were all in the building.

I don’t expect the Cards to make any further hires on the coaching staff either.


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“Players make it come to life”

Posted by Darren Urban on February 10, 2011 – 1:59 pm

During Super Bowl week, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was talking about why his defensive schemes were so successful. There were a few reasons, but LeBeau came back a couple of times to one in particular: “The players make it come to life.”

So as Ray Horton takes over as defensive coordinator, that’s the question: What players does he have in place to have his defense – which he clearly will pattern after LeBeau’s – work? He wasn’t real specific talking about the players yesterday (and that’s only fair, he had only begun to analyze what he had). He mentioned that technique and fundamentals got sloppy at the end of the season. That can happen, but that obviously has to change.

(For now, we won’t talk about the possible short time window of the offseason due to labor problems; if there is a work stoppage, Horton won’t be able to talk to the players until it’s over. “That’s my biggest challenge, getting information to the players in a short, concise amount of time.” But that’s a topic to be attacked on another day.)

Horton also said the system was going to be “very demanding” and “very precise.”

Here’s the key, and we have talked about this before: The good players have to play good (and yes, I just butchered the English language. Making a point here). If Horton can get Adrian Wilson and Calais Campbell and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Darnell Dockett to play at a consistently high level – which I still believe all are capable of doing – then the defense is already better without any moves. If Daryl Washington, Dan Williams and O’Brien Schofield make a jump because they got playing time, you have the same thing (although you still need more linebackers).

I’ve mentioned Horton may have an advantage as a former player communicating with these guys, and he agreed that helps. “It gives you some credibility that you have sat in the same chairs they’re in,” Horton said. “It helps until they say, ‘Why’d you call that?!?’ ”

In other words, there’s a lot more that goes into the equation than similar backgrounds. We know that. Again, the cliché is that “It’s more about the jimmys and joes than the x’s and o’s.” The players, as LeBeau said, make the defense come to life. So do the Cards have the players?

“That remains to be seen, every situation is different,” LeBeau said. “But whenever you can add a person to your organization that has the depth of experience at both levels – playing and coaching – that (Ray) has, and he has been a major contributor to our success in Pittsburgh … there is no reason why, those ideas he shared with us can’t be equally effective out there.”


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Closing in on a DC

Posted by Darren Urban on February 8, 2011 – 2:43 pm

It’s amazing, the speed of today’s media and info being thrown out there so quickly in a story such as the Cardinals’ pursuit of a defensive coordinator. There have been twists and turns — and maybe not even “real” twists and turns as much as the appearance of them — but ultimately, things seem to be playing out much like everyone thought for a while.

The Cards asked for permission to interview Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler and secondary coach Ray Horton. Butler permission was denied, but Horton was available. And now, Horton is flying out to Arizona Wednesday. Nothing is official — it’s never done until it’s done — but all signs certainly seem to point toward Horton being the next Cardinals’ defensive coordinator. He worked with coach Ken Whisenhunt for three seasons in Pittsburgh, and he knows well the 3-4 Steelers defense that Dick LeBeau has built (and used as Bengals’ head coach while Horton was coaching there too).

Everything I have heard is that Horton is a smart coach and with 16 years of coaching experience. And we will see, if Horton is the guy, how this turns out. It doesn’t hurt that Horton played in the NFL for 10 years — to me, that will impact (the right way) relationships with guys like Darnell Dockett and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.


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