During a portion of today’s OTA when position groups were working on their own, each of the three lines of defense — the defensive line, the linebackers and the defensive backs — went to work with coaches. Except the coaches were not their own. The linebackers headed over to pass rush coach Tom Pratt. The defensive backs were with linebackers coaches Bob Sanders and Larry Foote. And the defensive line was working with secondary coaches Nick Rapone and Kevin Ross.
It’s part of the “tackling circuit,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. For instance, he said the defensive backs were working with Sanders on how to come off a cut block to make a play. “It’s just to work on all that,” Peterson said. “Get different looks.” The players rotate daily.
There is only so much tackling work you can ever do at practice. Getting after a tackling dummy and/or sliding off a blocking sled to get in the right position to tackle is about the extent. Added benefit of this sequence: All the defensive coaches get time with all the different players on that side of the ball.
Tags: Bob Sanders, Kevin Ross, Larry Foote, Nick Rapone, OTAs, Patrick Peterson, tackling, Tom Pratt
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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?
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Dick LeBeau, James Bettcher, Nick Rapone
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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
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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
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