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Blogs

“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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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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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 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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Coaching staff roundup, as of now

Posted by Darren Urban on January 24, 2013 – 11:11 am

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.


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