A few days before Karlos Dansby made his first appearance at University of Phoenix Stadium after leaving the Cardinals – this past season when the Miami Dolphins visited – the veteran linebacker was asked his opinion of the man the Cards had drafted to replace him: Daryl Washington. Dansby replied in classic Dansby fashion.
“He’s a dynamic player, what more can I say about him,” Dansby said. “He’s very athletic, very fast. He reminds me of myself. They did a great job of getting the guy to fill that void.”
It was that moment when there was a little Dansby-envy swirling for those of us listening who had covered Los when he was in Arizona. He was always energetic and always could give a good quote. (One of the all-time favorites was when I was doing a story on teammate Sean Morey agreeing to donate his brain to science right at the beginning of the concussion talks first exploded. I asked Karlos what he thought: “That’s huge, man.” That was always one of his go-to expressions. Trust me, you had to be there.)
The man could play some football too. The Cards never wanted to let him go — they thought they had an extension ironed out before the 2009 season but that fizzled when Dansby changed agents — and his price tag got too high. His price tag might’ve been too high again (there was a reason he wasn’t signed yet) but Dansby’s chance to return home where he still has a home was too important. “I told my agent to bring (the salary) down,” Dansby said to me this morning, motioning his hands down like he was doing a version of his old dirty bird celebration. Dansby couldn’t stop smiling. Regardless of what the contract is, he is happy.
– He doesn’t have a jersey number yet. He won’t get 58. That’s Daryl Washington’s.
– No, his return doesn’t mean Washington is on his way out. Actually, you have to think the Cards have some decent plans to play them together. That would make sense, and Los could be a rusher from the outside if needed. He is versatile.
– DC Todd Bowles knows Dansby, because Bowles was in Miami in 2010 when Dansby was there. Bowles understands what Dansby can do.
– Between the addition of Kevin Minter in the draft and Jasper Brinkley and Dansby, the linebacker corps looks pretty decent right now, when it was a huge question mark back in early March.
– Only eight players remain on the roster that played with Dansby the first time around: Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Leach, Reggie Walker, Rashad Johnson, Calais Campbell, Levi Brown and Lyle Sendlein.
– It’d be great if Dansby comes full circle and could end his career here, but let’s remember this is a one-year contract. Right now, he’s in the same boat as guys like Rashard Mendenhall, Antoine Cason and Matt Shaughnessy. They all want to be getting paid more money, and are counting on good years to improve their stock and earn them that kind of contract. Dansby will be trying to do the same. We’ll see if Dansby-the-sequel has a long run in Arizona the second time around.
– That said, did I mention he was pretty happy?
Tags: Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Jasper Brinkley, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Minter, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Leach, Rashad Johnson, Reggie Walker, Todd Bowles
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New defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said he doesn’t expect a dramatic change with the defense and that he will stay with the 3-4 base alignment as he takes over for Ray Horton, which makes a lot of sense on a couple of levels — not the least of which being personnel. And while he didn’t address Darnell Dockett specifically, I’d think the Cards may move Dockett around a little more to play to Dockett’s strengths.
Bowles didn’t come out with any predictions, a la Horton in 2011. As for his stint as interim Eagles defensive coordinator this past season — one that did not go well as Philadelphia struggled as a team — Bowles wasn’t fazed. “I don’t think one year makes you a bad coach or a good coach.”
Head coach Bruce Arians also made it plain Bowles was always going to be his guy as defensive coordinator if he ever was a head coach, so Horton being in Arizona was likely irrelevant.
Bowles hasn’t had time yet to watch much video, so his evaluation of his players is scarce at this point (although Arians did say that cornerback Patrick Peterson will most definitely remain the punt returner, since he is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.) Bowles isn’t going to provide the sound bites his predecessor did, but Arians is clearly confident in Bowles to continue the trend as a solid defense. Rankings don’t matter to Arians — He called yardage rankings “bogus” — but wins and losses do, so Bowles is charged with coming up with a defense that helps make victories happen. Sounds like the stat goals the defense had will be a thing of the past.
More coming soon on a story on azcardinals.com. (And here you go.)
Tags: Darnell Dockett, Patrick Peterson, Todd Bowles
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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 Super Bowl run-up this week — on both TV and in print — will be filled with a handful of the obvious stories this week: The last game for Ray Lewis, the Harbaugh brothers, and, with the 49ers becoming explosive on offense with new quarterback Colin Kaepernick, there will be plenty written and said about the read-option offense.
The conventional wisdom has long been that running quarterbacks will have a hard time having long-term success in the NFL. Defenders are faster and stronger in the pros than college. The chances of a quarterback getting hurt — and the chances that a coach wants to make sure his quarterback doesn’t get hurt — are high. Of course, that all got turned on its head this season, with Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson (to a lesser degree) all making the read-option incredibly dangerous to opposing defenses.
Where does it go from here?
It’s impossible to know for sure. I do know that defensive coordinators are going to have an entire offseason to prepare to defend it. If you are Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who could/will see some version of it up to seven times in 2013 — the Niners twice, the Seahawks twice, the Panthers (Cam Newton), Titans (Jake Locker) and Eagles (with new coach Chip Kelly) — you know the Cards are going to study the strengths and weaknesses carefully. There have been comparisons made to the Wildcat offense, and that version became a lot less effective the year after it hit the scene hard.
Then again, the Wildcat was done in a situation where the main ballhandler wasn’t a quarterback. The threat of the pass was only that, a threat. It wasn’t normal. That’s what makes the read-option so difficult, because the quarterback could instead fade for a quick throw. That’s why Kaepernick and Griffin and Wilson have been so good. It’s not because they run the ball well — although they do do that — but because they are accurate passers and can make defenses pay through conventional ways too. (In other words, Tim Tebow they are not.) As more and more college quarterbacks find ways to do both, it will inevitably find its way into the pro game.
Injury concerns are legitimate. The Redskins understand this. The more hits a QB takes, the more chance he gets hurt. Simple math. Maybe the success can be sustained on a football level, but on a player level, the quarterback won’t last as long. Or maybe the QB has to morph after a few years, like Michael Jordan went from going to the hoop every time into one of the best jump shooters. Pocket passers aren’t going away. It’s really about what the talent is coming from colleges and what coaches are willing to do to adapt. I doubt every team suddenly starts running the read-option, but I don’t see it going away.
Tags: 49ers, Colin Kaepernick, Eagles, Panthers, read-option, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Seahawks, Titans, Todd Bowles
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His first conversation with new head coach Bruce Arians sparked hope with defensive lineman Darnell Dockett that he will be used more in positions that will allow him to be more effective and make more plays, Dockett said Wednesday, making him sound a lot more optimistic about his future with the team than he did as the season was wrapping up.
“It was a great, positive conversation,” said Dockett during an XTRA 910 interview with “Bickley and MJ.” “He got me excited, not just or me personally, but for the team.
“He told me I was going to play some of my regular positions, positions I played when I was a dominant force in the middle, and that got me fired up.”
It was always known that Dockett’s role in Ray Horton’s scheme wasn’t what he really wanted to be doing — it took some doing to convince Dockett — and it probably didn’t play to Dockett’s true strengths. But the defense became successful and Dockett was able to
“When you play against teams the last couple years and you play against individuals you know you are better than, but you are neutralized, you can’t do what you normally do because of the scheme of the defense, people kind of forget about you,” Dockett said. “I never wanted to be an Albert Haynesworth, one of those guys who get paid a lot of money and get into the media and complain about his position. I sucked it up. I did my best at a position I was never really great at. I wanted to put the team first.”
Playing in a 4-3 or as a 4-3 under tackle, Dockett said, gives him chances to go 1-on-1 against a blocker, which didn’t happen a lot in Horton’s scheme. If Horton had remained in one way or the other, Dockett’s future with the Cardinals would have been a legitimate question. For the money he is making, the 1.5 sacks he produced probably wouldn’t have been enough even if he was doing exactly the job he was being asked to do. That changes now as Arians tries to figure out how his pieces fit.
Dockett also believes Calais Campbell would flourish more in a 4-3, even after Campbell played well in Horton’s scheme. Arians said the Cards weren’t committing to a 4-3 or a 3-4, but would use both. Dockett admitted he has yet to talk to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and doesn’t know a lot about him, but he plans on doing that soon and is optimistic about his role. Dockett said he will be at the Super Bowl and meet with Arians in New Orleans as well.
Dockett did tell a funny story about getting a text from Arians: “Hey it’s BA, give me a call, I want to talk to you ASAP.” Dockett raised an eyebrow. “I’m looking at the text thinking, ‘I don’t even know who this is,’ ” Dockett said. “I’m not calling him back.” Arians tried again the next day, this time explaining he was the new head coach. Dockett realized his faux pas, and ended up talking to Arians for about a half-hour.
“I am training hard,” Dockett said. “I want to get back and I am doing everything I can to do that. I am coming back to my dominant ways. That’s what I am excited about.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Darnell Dockett, Todd Bowles
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The Cardinals officially announced Monday the additions of the three main new coaches to Bruce Arians’ staff: offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Tom Moore, the assistant head coach/offense. The addition of Bowles and Goodwin I’ve covered before. Hopefully we’ll hear from Arians soon about his choice. While I understand there are still a lot of questions over going from Ray Horton to Bowles, that too was explained in simple terms by Arians. Now we see how this plays out.
But the addition of Moore is a big deal. Moore had stepped away from the game for health reasons — he did serve as a consultant for the Titans for five games at the end of the 2012 season and consulted for the Jets in 2011 — but he wanted to get back into coaching this year. The Cardinals benefit. Moore was the guru who brought along a young Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. That, along with Arians himself, give the Cardinals a good base with whatever young quarterback they choose to bring along. Between the two of them (below, talking before a Colts-Titans game last season), that’s a good start for any young quarterback.
Now, would the quarterback be Kevin Kolb? Maybe. It would seem very likely a quarterback is drafted this year. Sitting here right now, I don’t see it in the first round and seventh overall, but second round, that makes sense. Jason Cole noted Arians was at the Senior Bowl practice of the North team Monday, a team that features quarterbacks Mike Glennon of North Carolina State, Ryan Nassib of Syracuse and Zac Dysert of Miami (Ohio.)
As for the rest of the staff, I believe most of the decisions — if not all — have been made but the announcements will filter out as the logistics work out.
Tags: coaching staff, Harold Goodwin, Kevin Kolb, Mike Glennon, Ryan Nassib, Todd Bowles, Tom Moore, Zac Dysert
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There have been no official announcements yet from the Cardinals about additions and changes to the coaching staff, but multiple reports from many places have noted that new head coach Bruce Arians — who said Friday he was hoping to have his staff set by Sunday — is starting to do just that.
To the surprise of no one, former Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is the pick for Ray Horton’s replacement as defensive coordinator. Bowles took over in Philly for the fired Juan Castillo last year as the Eagles season went from bad to worse. Bowles played for Arians at Temple and later played for the Redskins and 49ers. Here’s an interesting coincidence too — Bowles was interviewed for the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator job in 2011, the spot that eventually went to Horton. He worked as the assistant head coach and interim head coach while in Miami, but his part-season stint in Philly this season was his first as a coordinator.
For offensive coordinator, Arians will go back to his Colts’ ties to bring in Harold Goodwin, who was the offensive line coach in Indianapolis. Arians already said he will call his own plays. But having Goodwin on staff — along with whomever is the going to be the offensive line coach — will give the Cards extra eyes on a unit that needs to improve. Arians already said he is a big believer in technique on the line. Goodwin’s brother, Jonathan, is an offensive lineman for the 49ers.
(It may be worth noting, after a lot of talk of late that after the head coaching hires around the league did not include a minority, both Cardinals’ coordinators will be African-American.)
The Cardinals do need a lot more spots filled. It looks like Arians will move on from the bulk of the holdover coaches. Special teams coach Kevin Spencer joined former boss Ken Whisenhunt with the Chargers Saturday (Whiz was named offensive coordinator and the Chargers hired Frank Reich, who was just the Cards’ receivers coach, as the quarterbacks coach). The Cards reportedly only are keeping tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens — Kitchens played quarterback in college for Arians when Arians was the offensive coordinator in 1997 for Alabama — and strength coach John Lott. That would mean moving on from defensive line coach Ron Aiken, linebackers coaches Matt Raich and Ryan Slowik and defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi.
Again, there have been no official announcements yet. Whether the staff is all in place by tomorrow is in question, but as coaches and scouts head to Mobile next week for the Senior Bowl work, it seems that Arians will have a good chunk of his work done (and Mobile is often a place where coaches can interview prospective candidates, too.)
Tags: Bruce Arians, coaching staff, Freddie Kitchens, Harold Goodwin, John Lott, Kevin Spencer, Louie Cioffi, Matt Raich, Ron Aiken, Ryan Slowik, Todd Bowles
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Bruce Arians had coached with Ray Horton in Pittsburgh. He called Horton a “dear friend” during his press conference Friday. But by then, it was also clear that the mass of reports leading up to the press conference that Horton would indeed be moving on from being Cardinals defensive coordinator. Arians deftly and succinctly handled the question of why he would want to do that — because the question everyone had was why move on from a coordinator who had had so much success?
It was, in the end, simple for Arians. It was about one direction in the locker room.
“I had talked with Michael (Bidwill) when I got here about that (Horton) situation and I didn’t feel like, at this point and time, that’s where I wanted to go,” Arians said. “We talked about it at length, and like I said, I’ve got all the respect in the world for Ray. We worked together in Pittsburgh. We were together with a Super Bowl team. He’s done a great job here. For my first time (as a head coach), this is the direction that I feel very strongly about.
“I wish him the best. Like I said, he’s going to be a head coach. It needed to be a football team that was directed by me. Anytime there’s carryover, we don’t want guys being able to go somewhere else to voice their opinion. I didn’t want to put Ray in that situation. That’s not fair to him. If a guy’s has got a gripe or a concern, come to me, and that’s just the way we’re going to do business.”
Horton didn’t last long on the market; Within an hour of the end of Arians’ press conference, the Browns — who interviewed Horton for their head coaching job but went with Rob Chudzinski instead — hired Horton as DC with a reportedly hefty four-year, $8 million contract. Arians’ new bosses, general manager Steve Keim and president Michael Bidwill, made clear they wanted to support their new coach.
“We talked it through and when you look at it, we have great confidence in what (Arians) has done, last year and through out his career,” Bidwill said. “Ray made some tremendous contributions to the Cardinals and we wish him well. We have tremendous talent on our defense and we expect our defense to continue to be very good.”
Said Keim, “Any time you hire a new head coach, you want to give him a chance to succeed. If he thinks his best opportunity is by making changes on his coaching staff, I think you have to support him.”
Arians didn’t name his new DC yet, but all signs point to Todd Bowles, who as of right now technically remains with the Eagles. Bowles played for Arians at Temple in the 1980s and later coached with Arians in Cleveland. Arians wouldn’t talk about Bowles as a potential Cardinals’ coach — yet — but it was clear Bowles makes sense as a candidate.
“He’s very dear to me, one of my captains at Temple, has a bunch of Super Bowl rings as a player, and is a good football coach,” Arians said.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Michael Bidwill, Ray Horton, Steve Keim, Todd Bowles
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Before I power down for the evening — the Arians news continues again tomorrow with the 1 p.m. press conference, with some behind-the-scenes stuff on azcardinals.com too — a few thoughts on the newest Cardinals’ head coach.
It feels like a good move for the Cardinals. This is a guy who many thought would be a hot candidate for a head coaching job and who was close to getting the Bears job. He’s about a vertical passing game — one of the reasons he reportedly lost his offensive coordinator job in Pittsburgh was because he passed too much. I do think, with Steve Keim as general manager, the offensive line and run game will be made a priority. That part of the offense has to get better. It has to get better in general, and it has to get better to ease the pressure on a passing offense that — at this point — can’t shoulder such a burden.
I’d think Larry Fitzgerald is a big winner here, assuming that consistent quarterback play can be found. I really have no doubt that the bottoming out of the quarterback position won’t be repeated. Will the franchise quarterback be found this season? No way to know, but given the draft class, it might not be possible. But I do think the offense will get better. But the proof will be on the field in September, October, etc.
As for the defense, there’s a lot to settle. There are a lot of reports about defensive coordinator Ray Horton, about him being upset he didn’t get the head coaching job, about him wanting out, about the Cards replacing him. Here’s all that I know as I type this: He’s still under contract, he’s still employed by the Cards. (And the reported replacement, Todd Bowles, is still under contract for the Eagles.) Could there be a change? There is always that possibility when a head coaching change happens. Anyone assuming that something was set in stone — how many times in the last three weeks has something been put out there, nationally, and have it turn out to be untrue? — is wrong because these are all fluid situations.
Losing Horton doesn’t sound appealing. I get that. I do know this, that for those who suggested on Twitter that there would be a player revolt, I don’t see it. Some players might not be happy. Others might embrace a change. But players know coaches come and go. That’s the business.
We’ll see how the staff shapes up. If Horton isn’t coming back, the other defensive coaches may be moving on too. I’d think special teams coach Kevin Spencer could be OK, since he coached with Arians in Pittsburgh. Strength coach John Lott could be OK. It was a little strange when tight end coach Freddie Kitchens was the lone offensive coach retained, but look at this — Arians was the offensive coordinator for the University of Alabama in 1997, the same year Kitchens, then a senior, was quarterbacking the Crimson Tide. So there is a tie there.
There will be much more tomorrow. So I’m going to get some sleep now.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Freddie Kitchens, Kevin Spencer, Larry Fitzgerald, Ray Horton, Steve Keim, Todd Bowles
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I am not at the Super Bowl. But thanks to Twitter, it’s easy to monitor some people who are there and are talking to some of the assistant coaches who have been floated as potential defensive coordinator targets for the Cardinals. Since coach Ken Whisenhunt hasn’t talked to any of these people yet — he can’t even ask for permission to do so until after the season — these potentials are just guesswork. But it’s educated guesswork.
The name of Steelers secondary coach Ray Horton has been mentioned, and ESPN’s Matt Mosley noted that Horton isn’t all that thrilled that assistants from losing teams have a better chance at getting promotions, because assistants can’t interview until their season is over. It’s been a long-time conundrum for the league, but ultimately, I don’t know if there is a better way. You don’t want assistants still working in the playoffs to have such a distraction as to plan for another job interview.
Since Dick LeBeau already had made it pretty clear he didn’t want to go anywhere, Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler — who is close with Whisenhunt — remains a popular subject. He told reporters today — including Kent Somers — he doesn’t have a clause in his contract saying he will succeed LeBeau as Steelers’ DC when LeBeau is done. He also said the Steelers have been generous monetarily while keeping him around and that he doesn’t know if the Steelers would give permission for him to interview for the job. That has long been the $64,000 question with Butler — can he even get out of his contract?
UPDATE: And here is a good story by Mike Sando on Butler and Whisenhunt.
On the Green Bay side of things, the best guesstimates are assistant head coach/inside LBs coach Winston Moss, who acknowledged to Somers he doesn’t know Whisenhunt well. The same can’t be said for Packers safeties coach Darren Perry, who not only coached with Whisenhunt in Pittsburgh but has played and coached in LeBeau’s system. That, in my mind, makes him that much more attractive (although various reports have the Eagles and Raiders also possibly waiting to interview Perry for the same job).
Nothing will happen until Monday or Tuesday of next week, when Whisenhunt will ask for permission to whomever he is looking at (and I would guess that would include LeBeau, since a) his contract is expiring and b) since he has waited this long, there’s no reason not to inquire). Miami assistant head coach Todd Bowles remains a candidate too. And I’d think the entire process — depending on how many interviews Whiz lines up — would come to a conclusion fairly soon after.
Tags: coaching staff, Darren Perry, Dick LeBeau, Keith Butler, Ken Whisenhunt, Ray Horton, Todd Bowles, Winston Moss
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