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“Same defense” for Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on January 30, 2015 – 6:16 pm

Bruce Arians said Friday he will announce all his defensive hires next week save for one, which he wants to “hold for a while.” One of the coaches he will hire will “hopefully be a former player,” as Arians continues to try and refresh the up-and-coming coaches on his staff. As of now, the Cardinals have three vacancies from last season to fill: Defensive coordinator (Todd Bowles), inside linebackers (Mike Caldwell, who joined Bowles with the Jets) and defensive assistant (Ryan Slowik, whose contract was not renewed.)

Arians has said the hiring plan is set although it’s still “top secret” he added with a smile Friday. He did clarify why he wanted to stay in-house with his new coordinator, and it answers definitively the question of if the Cardinals will change defensively.

“I did not want our players to walk in and not know what they were doing the first day,” Arians said. “No new language. It’s the same defense, the same philosophy.”

With Arians already saying the hire will also be a young coach, current outside linebackers coach James Bettcher continues to be the logical choice.

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Mathieu has confidence in new DC, same scheme

Posted by Darren Urban on January 28, 2015 – 5:29 pm

Tyrann Mathieu chose his words carefully — no reason to want to undercut the announcement sometime next week of the new defensive coordinator — but the Cardinals safety seemed comfortable in the plan for the Cardinals’ defense going forward and who will be leading it.

“I think I’ve heard enough and I’m confident enough to know we’ve been playing too well to have the scheme change,” Mathieu said during a trip around the Super Bowl’s Radio Row. “We look forward to one of our position coaches being DC.”

Coach Bruce Arians has already said the DC position will be filled in-house by a young coach. All signs point to outside linebackers coach James Bettcher. It won’t be the only coaching hire, not with inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell leaving to join outgoing defensive coordinator Todd Bowles with the New York Jets. Putting an experienced coach with the linebackers makes sense, and Arians has promised he will get the new DC “help.” I will not be surprised to see at least one defensive hire to have NFL defensive coordinator experience.

There will be an understandable wait-and-see approach with a new defensive coordinator, but that was there with Bowles too.

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“One of the young guys” will be defensive coordinator

Posted by Darren Urban on January 26, 2015 – 1:56 pm

The announcement won’t come until after the Super Bowl, Bruce Arians said Monday, but he knows who his defensive coordinator is going to be — and it’ll be, as expected, a in-house hire.

“The defensive coordinator will come off our staff,” Arians said during an appearance on ESPN’s “NFL Insiders” show. “It’ll be one of the young guys. And we’ll bring in some guys to help him.

“We’ll wait until the Super Bowl is over but we’ve got everything in place and we’re ready to go.”

Looking at the “young guys” on the Cardinals’ staff — and young can be a moving target on a staff that features the 62-year-old Arians and a couple of coaches well into their 70s — the possibility of outside linebackers coach James Bettcher seems to fit the bill. Bettcher has long been highly thought of among the coaches he has worked for. (Along the “young” lines, defensive line coach Brentson Buckner would also qualify, but I’d think Bettcher would be the candidate.)

As for bringing in “some guys to help,” that could be anyone now that Dick LeBeau has passed up the chance to come to the Cardinals. But again, that’s been the thought this whole time, that the Cards would have a younger DC and have a mentor with him. It now just sounds like it’ll be a waiting game until next week — Monday maybe? — to get official word.

— Arians reiterated he hopes Carson Palmer is the quarterback for the Cardinals “for about three more years,” and that he again really likes the future potential of Logan Thomas. Arians added that Palmer is about a month ahead of schedule coming back from his ACL injury.

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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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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?

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Bowles will be busy this week

Posted by Darren Urban on January 5, 2015 – 2:59 pm

Now that the Cardinals’ season is over, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can begin interviewing with various teams for their head coaching spots. And it sounds like that will make this a busy week.

Multiple reports have Bowles interviewing with the Jets on Wednesday, the Falcons Thursday, the 49ers on Friday and the Bears on Saturday. There are still rumblings that the Bills and Raiders could still ask to interview too. Either way, Bowles would seem to be a good chance to be promoted before too long, but after he signed his extension (which gave him a hefty raise) Bowles can afford to be choosy — which he was always going to be anyway. That’s just who Bowles is.

“I’ve got my fingers crossed both ways,” coach Bruce Arians joked Monday, on one hand hoping his friend and former player gets a head coaching gig and on the other hoping he stays in place.

We still don’t know who would be Arians’ choice to succeed Bowles as defensive coordinator (on staff, could it be Mike Caldwell? James Bettcher? Someone else?) but Arians has said a plan is in place. Now we wait for Bowles to go through the interview process.

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On the field, with coaches

Posted by Darren Urban on April 15, 2013 – 2:09 pm

On a day where most of the NFL was just starting their offseason work (and on a day when football seems a little trivial given the tragic events at the Boston Marathon), the Cardinals were entering Phase II of the offseason schedule thanks to their new coaching staff. That meant on-field work for about an hour today with coaches. The main restriction is no offense-versus-defense work, which meant once the defensive players finished with their various position drills and gathered as a group, they were limited to lining up against trash cans to walk through various defensive calls without much else to do. The offense didn’t get to do a ton more, but at least there were snaps and handoffs and passes, even if it was against air.

The most noticeable thing on this initial day of coach/player work on the field: The tangible evidence of the larger coaching staff. When players are working with individual units, they had smaller groups thanks to the extra coaches. That was Head Coach Bruce Arians’ plan all along (and there is Arians below checking out his team). Arians wanted more coaches so that it was easier to teach (and with my wife being a teacher, I understand the desire for smaller class sizes). That extended on to the field when assistant offensive line coach Larry Zierlein worked with the edge blockers (tight ends and tackles) while offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin worked with the centers and guards. Or linebackers coach Mike Caldwell working the inside linebackers with outside linebackers coach James Bettcher working with that group.

The crowd was also good. This is all voluntary remember — including next week’s minicamp — but the Cardinals had almost everyone on hand. A story on the homepage and a photo gallery coming later today.

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Cardinals have their coaches

Posted by Darren Urban on February 5, 2013 – 1:34 pm

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.)


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