Anyone who has watched much of the Cardinals the past two seasons knows the defense liked to blitz. So this recent tweet carries with it little surprise in the context of the NFL:
Over the past 2 seasons the Cardinals have blitzed (brought 5 or more rushers) 97 more times than any other team. pic.twitter.com/lGiUmkHaJY
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 24, 2015
It was the hallmark of then-defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Bring the heat, let it all sort itself out in the end. It’s why the Cardinals went for Antonio Cromartie last offseason — they wanted those press man-to-man corners to be able to survive on an island. It’s a byproduct too of not having that dynamic edge pass rusher to cause problems with a “normal” four-man rush. Now you can argue in this day and age that even bringing five rushers isn’t exactly a blitz, but there were plenty of times the Cards brought at least six guys too.
What happens now? The feeling is that the defense, even under James Bettcher, won’t change a lot. That would include the blitzing. I mean, the Cardinals still don’t have that 14-sack guy coming from the outside (although maybe Alex Okafor can raise his production from his somewhat surprising eight-sack total last season.) The pressure will still have to be manufactured through scheme, it would seem. How Bettcher calls a game won’t be known for real until the Cards open against the Saints Sept. 13 (and what a passing offense to open against.)
Certainly, I’d think Bowles will take his blitzing to New York. But it’s hard to imagine that aggressiveness — which has served the Cardinals well — is going away under Bettcher.
Tags: Alex Okafor, James Bettcher, Saints, Todd Bowles
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Head coach Bruce Arians calls the plays and that isn’t about to change. But it’s also a goal to eventually get offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin — who is also the offensive line coach — hired as a head coach somewhere like defensive coordinator Todd Bowles did with the Jets. Last preseason, Arians allowed Goodwin to call the plays in the Cards’ fourth preseason game in San Diego. There will be more of that this year, Arians said.
“This year I think I’m going to let him do at least two (preseason games),” Arians said. “So he can continue to develop as a coordinator. He’s doing a great job with what he’s doing. He has really good command of his room also. I think that’s what set James (Bettcher, the new defensive coordinator) apart from a lot of young coaches I have been around, he has really good command of the room when he is in front of it.”
Goodwin does a lot of the gameplanning during the week for the Cardinals. It’s unlikely Arians will ever completely give up his role of playcalling — he said when he first hired he would call the plays “until I find someone who can call them better.” Who knows, maybe Goodwin will eventually be that guy. For now, two or three preseason games will have to suffice.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Harold Goodwin, Todd Bowles
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For the first time at the Scouting combine, Todd Bowles spoke as a head coach when he got on the podium Wednesday. The Jets’ new boss hasn’t forgotten about his old place of business yet. After his spin in front of the cameras, there was a chance to ask him about his replacement as Cardinals defensive coordinator, James Bettcher. Bettcher was the outside linebackers coach under Bowles.
“It could have been any one of those guys (on staff),” Bowles said. “But I have all the trust in the world in Bruce (Arians) as he had in me. So I’m confident he made the right choice.”
Bowles chuckled at the idea Bettcher had a big job ahead of him, saying he was worried about his own big job in New York.
“Bettch is a good football coach, and you’ve got to remember he’s got about four guys he had on the staff last year that are good coaches,” Bowles said. “They’ll work together and they understand what has to be done. I have confidence they’ll get it done.”
Tags: coaching staff, James Bettcher, Todd Bowles
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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.
Tags: Bruce Arians, James Bettcher, Mike Caldwell, Ryan Slowik, Todd Bowles
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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.
Tags: coaching staff, James Bettcher, Mike Caldwell, Todd Bowles, Tyrann Mathieu
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Cardinals cornerback Antonio Cromartie has been a natural go-to guy the last few days to talk about Todd Bowles as the new New York Jets coach, since Cromartie just played for Bowles and since he still has a lot of media relationships with New York media after playing so many years with the Jets. He went on NFL Network to talk about Bowles — and also about his future given his impending free agency.
During his Bowles’ analysis, Cromartie noted “$50 million in cap space” the Jets have to work with. That probably wasn’t a coincidence, especially from a guy who didn’t really want to leave the Jets last year in the first place.
“I’m leaving the door open,” Cromartie said. “Right now, until the Super Bowl is over, I’m still an Arizona Cardinal. Until they come to me about a conteact, I’m still an Arizona Cardinal. Once March 10 at 4 o’clock hits, March 12 at 9 a.m. hits, and no one’s offered me a contract, then I’m free game. And I’m open to anything to go out and try to win a championship and help any organization.”
(Free agency does indeed start March 10 at 2 p.m. Arizona time, which will be 4 p.m. Eastern.)
Cromartie made $3.5 million on a one-year contract this season. He had a good season and is a Pro Bowl alternate. But his signing, and his season, has long played out as a parallel to the one linebacker Karlos Dansby had in 2013 for the Cardinals. Dansby, like Cromartie, signed with the Cardinals for one year when the free agent market did not play out the way they wanted. Dansby, like Cromartie, had a good season (Dansby actually had an excellent season, even better than Cro’s.) But both are on the wrong side of 30 in a league that values youth. There has always been a good chance Cromartie’s situation plays out just like Dansby’s did — I expect the Cardinals to make a solid offer, although it may only be for two or three years. And it’s easy to see another team swooping in to offer more years/more money. The Browns did that with Dansby, and maybe the Jets — or the Bills, who now have Cro’s former coach, Rex Ryan — will do the same with Cromartie.
Cromartie, as he said, is open to everything.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Bills, free agency, Jets, Todd Bowles
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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.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Dick LeBeau, Mike Caldwell, Ryan Slowik, Steelers, Todd Bowles
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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.
Tags: coaching staff, Dick LeBeau, Falcons, Todd Bowles
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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.
Tags: 49ers, Bears, Falcons, James Bettcher, Jets, Mike Caldwell, Todd Bowles
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The Cardinals didn’t have enough. They just didn’t, and while Bruce Arians said he doesn’t buy into that line of thinking – “We have to gameplan to win games” – it doesn’t make it any less true. For weeks even some of the players kept noting that eventually, Next Man Up would run out of bodies. It wasn’t just the quarterback situation, even though that was the most important position. Guys looked like they wore down in certain positions, and that’s what happens when you ask some guys to play at an ultra-high level for so many games and so many plays above what you originally intended.
It spoke to their effort that the Cards won 11 games, and to the coaching. That’s why Bruce Arians insisted there was no missed opportunity, because the Cardinals with what they had created the big season in the first place. I get the teeth gnashing and frustration over certain parts of both Saturday and the end of the season. But this was a good season, it was the most wins this franchise has had in Arizona, and it was another step forward under the Steve Keim/Arians regime.
That said, there are a ton of difficult and major decisions coming in the offseason and a lot of important question marks. I’m not going to address them all here now, because that’s what the coming weeks are for and I’m sure I will post about them soon (and often, I’m guessing my Larry Fitzgerald post from Friday will be the first of a few between now and early March, when his roster bonus comes due.)
— I’d have to dig it out, and I’m not sure if I tweeted it or wrote it in a post or said it on a podcast or on the radio, but at some point I know I said something along the lines – in regards to Logan Thomas as being raw – “if you are down to your third-string quarterback, you’re in trouble anyway.” That’s what the Cardinals had at the end, even if the third-stringer eventually became Ryan Lindley because Thomas was so raw he dropped on the depth chart.
That’s the NFL. You lose your best quarterback – and that’s assuming you have someone who you think is good, and the Cardinals believe they have that in Carson Palmer – and the road will be difficult. Everyone knew that’s what would happen with Lindley, and that’s what did happen. The Cardinals got the turnovers Saturday night and were trying to make it work, but the margin for error was thin at best, and had been for the last month.
— The officials had a bad game, starting when Ed Hoculi tried to give the Panthers the win of the coin toss when the Cardinals, in fact, had just correctly called it. Arians was right, it wasn’t why the Cards lost. But a couple of the calls didn’t help, particularly the Michael Floyd non-pass interference.
— Top things, in my mind, the Cardinals need to upgrade in the offseason (assuming there isn’t a good quarterback there to be drafted and Palmer is the choice for 2015): Linebacker (both inside and outside), more speed on offense, more defensive line depth. These things can change if certain veterans aren’t back.
— Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will now organize his head coaching interviews. He reportedly has five teams that want to talk to him. I’ll be surprised if he interviews with all five.
— I’ll also be curious to see if Bowles leaving, if it happened, would be the only change on the coaching staff or if Arians makes any moves.
— I think, with the way Drew Butler finished up, Dave Zastudil has to be confident when he comes back this offseason.
— Arians, on the missed tackles in the game: “Missed tackling, that was way overblown for this game, that’s not even the story line.”
— That’s about it. Going to try and get a little rest on this flight back. The final locker room cleanout and wrap-up interviews are early tomorrow morning. And then we’re into the offseason.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Dave Zastudil, Drew Butler, Ed Hoculi, Logan Thomas, Michael Floyd, Panthers, Ryan Lindley, Todd Bowles
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