Cioffi officially hired as DB coach

Posted by Darren Urban on February 15, 2011 – 12:39 pm

In news that had been expected, the Cardinals have hired long-time Bengals assistant Sigismondo “Louie” Cioffi as defensive backs coach to join last week’s hire, Deshea Townsend, as the team’s new secondary bosses. Cioffi and Townsend replace Donnie Henderson (whose contract expired and was not renewed) and Rick Courtright (who had a year left on his contract but was let go).

Cioffi doesn’t turn 38 until September, but he has already coached in the NFL for 16 seasons, including with the Bengals since 1997. He spent time coaching both with new defensive coordinator Ray Horton and Dick LeBeau, so those ties remain strong. He got a chance to meet a lot of his new players Tuesday; defensive backs Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes and A.J. Jefferson were all in the building.

I don’t expect the Cards to make any further hires on the coaching staff either.

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Reports: Cards change secondary coaches UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on February 9, 2011 – 9:54 pm

UPDATE: The Cardinals have officially announced the hiring of Deshea Townsend as assistant defensive backs coach. That was the only news released.

The Cardinals have made changes on the defensive staff with Ray Horton coming in as defensive coordinator. We knew something was coming, and reports now attach names to the news. XTRA’s Mike Jurecki reported the Cardinals fired defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson and assistant defensive backs coach Rick Courtright (who had been a part of the staff since Denny Green was hired in 2004).

Joe Reedy in Cincinnati, meanwhile, reported the Cards are hiring former Bengals assistant Louie Cioffi, who had been in Cincinnati since 1997 and has been their assistant defensive backs coach. Cioffi coached together with Horton with the Bengals. Add in Deshea Townsend, the just-retired defensive back who also interviewed Wednesday and who Horton made clear he wants to hire, seems like the other likely hire. By the sound of it, both could end up being co-secondary coaches, although we’ll have to see how that plays out.

Nothing official has come down yet, but I’d guess we will see something Thursday.

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Post-presser notes from Whiz

Posted by Darren Urban on December 27, 2010 – 11:52 am

After a day off yesterday thanks to the Saturday game, coach Ken Whisenhunt officially had his “day-after” press conference today. Nothing earth shattering.

— TE Ben Patrick has a hamstring injury. The Cards are waiting to see how LB Joey Porter and RB LaRod Stephens-Howling are this week.

— DB coach Donnie Henderson is feeling better and back to work after fainting while driving in to the parking lot Saturday before the game. They still aren’t sure what happened, but Henderson is OK.

— The use of four down linemen on defense is mostly due to injury at linebacker. Whisenhunt wants to be able to use it, especially against the run. But it terms of flipping the scheme and becoming a 4-3 team long-term, it’s not a consideration.

— Whiz said you need to be “careful” about telling a young QB where to throw the ball, RE the lack of catches for Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston. The Cards use a read-progression for their passing game, and deviating from that too much to force the ball to one place or another would hurt the offense more than help, Whisenhunt said.

— Whiz believes John Skelton’s accuracy will improve over time as he gains experience. It’s not a mechanical issue, he said.

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DB coach Henderson taken to hospital

Posted by Darren Urban on December 25, 2010 – 3:24 pm

After arriving at University of Phoenix Stadium today, defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson fainted as he walked drove down the ramp into the player parking lot, hitting one of the cement ballards in place. He was alert and conscious, but he was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation. If there is any further information later, I will pass it along.

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A full afternoon, yet shorter

Posted by Darren Urban on August 6, 2010 – 5:48 pm

The Cardinals were in pads Friday afternoon, but considering they have to practice in pads again first thing in the morning — the Red-White practice starts at 9:15 a.m. — it wasn’t all that surprising to see them stop about 4:45, or 30 minutes earlier than scheduled. There were some nice plays, but mostly, that intensity that had carried through the week seemed to have dissipated a little bit. The players I am sure are tired. I would guess it’ll be ramped up by the end of tomorrow’s work, but that is tomorrow.

— Linebacker Stevie Baggs looked very good this afternoon. The former CFL star is still running third-team, but he still believes he has a shot. The way he looked today, I will say I am interested to see what he can do in a preseason game.

— Cornerback Trumaine McBride was out in the afternoon with a groin injury, so suddenly it makes a little more sense why the Cards were running so many corners through the first team during the morning workout.

— Quarterback Matt Leinart followed up a good day of practice yesterday with another pretty good day. There was a bomb to Steve Breaston that was broken up by safety Kerry Rhodes when it looked like Leinart could have thrown it a tad earlier (Breaston had to slow down at the end to try and make a catch). But Leinart did hit Larry Fitzgerald on a nice pass to beat DRC (although it was tough not to notice Fitz’s subtle push off on DRC. The official — in town for the practice tomorrow — didn’t flag Fitz. DBs coach Donnie Henderson wasn’t thrilled about that). At this point, I think Leinart has separated himself from Derek Anderson. Then again, I think games mean more than practice and we’ll see what happens starting a week from tomorrow.

— I don’t know what is up with WR Early Doucet,  but for the second straight day he didn’t do much in the afternoon even though he is out there and in uniform. Doucet did go down early in Wednesday night’s practice — for a moment, it felt like an “Uh oh …” kind of thing, but he returned. It did look like he banged up his knee a little that night; maybe they are just being cautious. I don’t know. And again, I am speculating.

— Last thing. While linebacker Joey Porter and defensive tackle Bryan Robinson took another veteran day off, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald continues to look very good. I know Fitz hasn’t been in the league as much as some of these other guys, but as a superstar, you could see where maybe they’d at least slow him down. Nope. He seems to be taking all the reps he normally would, and doing it at a high level.

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For what it’s worth in June, defensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 14, 2010 – 4:10 pm

Back in 2007, when I was still at the East Valley Tribune and just about three months into a blog for the first time, I wanted to come up with something that could stand at the top of the blog for several days while I – gasp! – actually took some vacation time.

Guestimating the starting offensive and defensive lineups for the regular-season opener, in June, seemed to make sense, especially on the heels of the just-completed offseason work. So that’s what I have done every year and will do again the next two days. Today, we’ll hit the defense. Tomorrow’s swan song entry will be on the offense.

We’re going with the 3-4 alignment because that makes the most sense as a base, although the Cards continue to mix it up and use plenty of other sub-packages (would they really use a four-safety set this season, like we have seen at times in OTAs?). But this is how I think they’ll line up Sept. 12 in St. Louis.

DE – Darnell Dockett. He’s done all the right things this offseason. OK, except for the shower thing. But you know what I mean.

NT – Bryan Robinson. Dan Williams will get plenty of playing time this season, and he may even be starting at some point (after the bye?). But coach Ken Whisenhunt has made it clear the past three years rookies, even first-rounders, have a hard time getting playing time early. And as good as Dockett said Gabe Watson looked this offseason, it’s tough to bet against Robinson once again starting, even if he ends up with fewer plays.

DE – Calais Campbell. If anyone is poised to have a big year, it would seem to be Campbell. With his potential and what Williams can become, the Cards have to be happy with the future D-line.

ROLB – Joey Porter. No-brainer. The Cards need a pass rush upgrade off the edge. The preseason will be about narrowing down Porter’s eventual heir apparent. You figure Cody Brown, but we’ll see.

SILB – Gerald Hayes. I still think Hayes finds a way in there, although the coaches like what Reggie Walker brings and Hayes is battling the back issue.

WILB – Paris Lenon. Replacing Karlos Dansby isn’t going to be easy (Thanks, Mr. Obvious). This is eventually Daryl Washington’s spot, but maybe not this year and certainly not to start the regular season. I’ve already talked about the coaches’ aversion to giving rookies a lot of time early.

LOLB – Clark Haggans. Will Davis looked good in his pre-injury stints last season. But Haggans was pretty consistent last season. And he’s exactly what Whisenhunt likes having around the field and the locker room.

CB – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. His knee will be fine. So will his toe. I am interested to see how he handles DB coach Donnie Henderson, who can be in-your-face.

CB – Greg Toler. The Cards have moved around the candidates thus far, but Toler should find a way to win the job. He has to step it up though. And I still think there may be a veteran to be had after the other 31 teams make their cuts.

SS – Adrian Wilson. I am curious to see how he meshes with Kerry Rhodes on the field …

FS — Rhodes. … because you know everyone is going to be measuring what Rhodes does to what Antrel Rolle might have done.

OK. That’s it for the defense. I’ll close out with the offense tomorrow.

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Rookies work and things quiet down

Posted by Darren Urban on June 14, 2010 – 11:42 am

It’s always odd right after OTAs end. Many of the players, who have been around for weeks, are gone. With attendance so high for the OTAs, the locker room is usually busy. And now it’s not. There are still rookies in place, and so there are still at least, what 16 or so guys, and there are still a couple of veterans (Adrian Wilson this morning! Oh, and Alan Faneca and Clark Haggans, to name two others!) but still, much quieter. The coaches are also, for the most part, gone until camp too (although DB coach Donnie Henderson was still grinding today).

Maybe this is just me saying there isn’t going to be much to report. And that I am taking some vacation very soon myself. I will have my June predictions on September’s starting lineup on the blog the next couple of days, as I have done the last few years. It’s a good way to head into time off.

Obviously, Deuce Lutui signed his contract today. He didn’t want to talk about it, but at least he was pleasant in saying so. I am terrible in judging weights — I mean, the man is supposed to be big in the first place — but honestly, he didn’t look sloppy out of shape. Would I guess John Lott will want him to trim down? Yes, that’s probably a safe bet. I think that’s Deuce’s key to camp. If he can be in decent shape to start, he’s got a chance to quickly get back into the mix. If he is hurting in terms of conditioning and pounds, you know this coaching staff will have issues.

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OTA again and a Graham honor

Posted by Darren Urban on May 19, 2010 – 1:38 pm

Little bit warmer today but the nasty temperatures have stayed away so far (it is supposed to be 98 tomorrow, so …). Cornerback Greg Toler, now working with the first unit after playing behind Michael Adams in minicamp, made a nice play to break up one pass during some skeleton 11-on-11 work, and there were a couple of impressive cut-and-bounce-upfield runs by Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower.

Other bits and pieces:

— Remember the old punishment thought where if one guy doesn’t get it, the whole unit gets dinged? It looked like that happened to the defensive backs today, when DB coach Donnie Henderson got his guys to do pushups after someone (or someones, didn’t see who) didn’t get the drill just right.

— Speaking of DBs, we will have a live chat with new safety Kerry Rhodes sometime next week. More details to come.

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt on the importance of this year for fourth-year nose tackle Gabe Watson, especially with No. 1 pick Dan Williams here: “There’s no question it intensifies the competition. He understands where he has to be. So it is a critical year for him. Anytime you’re facing a numbers situation like we are with the numbers at that position, it forces you to work harder. That’s why you want it at every position.”

— For those yearning for some national coverage, Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter has been out for the last couple of days talking to many players. Expect something on as early as tomorrow, and an upcoming (smaller) piece for the magazine.

— Finally, punter Ben Graham got a hometown honor today when the deputy mayor of the Australian city of Geelong, Bruce Harwood, named Graham as an “Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary” for the city. There’s no question Graham’s fame in the NFL has brought attention to Australia and Geelong, and Graham’s only the third person to be so honored. So he’s got that going for him.

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Notes from the first practice

Posted by Darren Urban on April 30, 2010 – 12:44 pm

We’ll keep some blog items coming, but here are a few key highlights after the first (quick — they were only on the field about 90 minutes) minicamp practice:

— Everybody but G Deuce Lutui was on hand. Lutui has yet to sign his tender offer. Only LB Gerald Hayes (back) and rookie LB O’Brien Schofield (knee) sat out. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was in the lineup, and while he didn’t look 100 percent, it was a great sign to see him playing after his playoff knee injury.

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt passed on talking about Lutui, but did talk about how important it was for the team to be together right now. QB Matt Leinart said he hasn’t talked much to his long-time teammate. “Obviously Deuce has been a big part of this team and we hope he comes in,” Leinart said. “But you’ve got to keep moving forward. Deuce understands that. Hopefully Deuce takes care of his business and we can get him back in here.”

— Leinart seemed at ease with his first chance to be the starter at this time of year in a couple of years. “My accuracy wasn’t where I wanted it to be, but for the first day, it was good,” he said. “This is fun. This is an opportunity I’ve been waiting for for a long time.”

— Some interesting lineup points from the first run-through (with an emphasis that this is still way early in terms of worrying about the depth chart). Michael Adams was running at starting cornerback across from DRC, with Greg Toler as backup. Whisenhunt again emphasized Toler would have to earn any starting job. Rashad Barksdale is backing up DRC for now. The first five offensive linemen, from left tackle across, were Levi Brown, Alan Faneca, Lyle Sendlein, Reggie Wells and Brandon Keith. The second unit from left to right were Jeremy Bridges, Rex Hadnot, Ben Claxton, Jonathan Palmer and Herman Johnson.

— The rookies, as usual, have to fight their way up. Dan Williams is behind both Bryan Robinson and Gabe Watson, although as Robinson noted, “I told (Williams), ‘If I’m playing a lot more than you this year, that means you’re not doing your job.’ ”

— New secondary coach Donnie Henderson has no problem making sure his point gets across, even if it is to DRC or Adrian Wilson. That’s for sure.

— Larry Fitzgerald, joking around about all the new faces at the beginning of the practice, yelled out to rookie tight end Jim Dray — who is wearing No. 81 — “I see you, Q!”

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Cards tab Henderson for DB coach

Posted by Darren Urban on February 22, 2010 – 10:48 am

UPDATE: It’s official. Donnie Henderson is the new defensive backs coach, replacing Teryl Austin.

I have yet to hear anything official, but the National Football Post — reporter Brad Biggs was the one to break that then-Cards’ DB coach Teryl Austin was interviewing with the University of Florida — is reporting the Cardinals are going to hire Donnie Henderson to replace Austin. Henderson was out of the NFL in 2009, but has served as defensive coordinator with the Lions and Jets and was the Ravens’ defensive backs coach when Baltimore won the Super Bowl. I remember Henderson as an assistant at Arizona State back in the early 1990s.

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