Coaching matters to Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on December 18, 2013 – 10:13 am published a interesting read this morning about how Bruce Arians and his staff may have done the best coaching job in the NFL this season. The piece, well worthy of a read, details a couple of plays on offense and defense as to how the staff has done a good job utilizing the Cardinals’ strengths. And it makes a lot of sense.

It’s been notable the Cardinals have tried fewer deep plays as the season has gone on because, quite frankly, the protection wasn’t able to hold up well enough in those situations. Arians has done a nice job diversifying the passing game. It means that someone like Larry Fitzgerald might not get as many catches as many would like, but it may help more in the long-run.

There is also no question that the coaching on the offensive line — led by offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, along with assistants Larry Zierlein and David Diaz-Infante — has made a big difference on that unit. The Cards have done a better job scheming protection as the season as gone on, but the more intimate coaching situation helps. When Arians was hired, he said one of the reasons he wanted so many coaches was to, essentially, keep class sizes down for the players (those of you who are or who know teachers know what I am talking about). Teaching matters to Arians. It seems to be paying off.

A couple of other interesting points in the article:

— Author Andy Benoit said he thinks Fitzgerald’s shift to multiple positions helps, even if Fitz’s numbers have shrunk. “The 30-year-old is just beginning what will prove to be a career-extending renaissance” Benoit writes. (Now, whether that can line up with an $18 million salary cap number, well, that’s one of the big questions of the offseason.)

— He called Andre Ellington a future superstar (and made sure to emphasize that he meant superstar and not just star.)

— He noted that Patrick Peterson’s ability to cover main receivers one-on-one with no help creates freedom for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles in Bowles’ quality scheming.

As the season comes to a close, the staff has a lot of pressure. Bowles has to handle a couple of physical offenses without key cog Tyrann Mathieu (and maybe without starting safety Rashad Johnson), for instance. And that offensive line that has been doing well enough now has to face a pair of incredible defensive lines. But the Cardinals likely wouldn’t be in this 9-5 position without the chess moves of Arians’ group.

— Arians said during his weekly segment on Sirius XM NFL Radio last night that Fitzgerald will not practice today, but that he remains hopeful that Fitzgerald will be able to play Sunday following his concussion. I saw Fitzgerald yesterday afternoon as he came out to take part in Darnell Dockett’s annual Christmas outing for needy kids. I didn’t speak to Fitz other than to say hi, but I can definitely see how this will have to play out as the week goes along. I don’t expect anything definitive on Fitzgerald before Friday, and even then I wouldn’t be shocked to hear it would be a game-day decision. That’s what happened to Kurt Warner in 2009 in Tennessee, when the decision on game day was to hold Warner out.


Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 22 Comments »

O-line progress has to be wait-and-see

Posted by Darren Urban on May 29, 2013 – 11:59 am

Bruce Arians was talking about his situational work in practice for his offense and it was the natural question: If you only have so much time in every OTA and you are trying to install a new system, how do you have time to work on specific situations? “You’ve got to make an emphasis on your priorities,” Arians said, but there was a caveat to that. “We can’t run the ball right now. We can (only) put the runs in and go through the motions of running.”

That isn’t a surprise. The running game especially is about the physical part of football, and that’s basically against the rules during the summer. But it also makes another key part of the Cardinals’ offseason clear: There has to be a wait-and-see about how this offensive line rebounds under new management.

As it stands, the offensive line will look like this, from left tackle to right tackle: Levi Brown, Jonathan Cooper, Lyle Sendlein, Daryn Colledge, Bobby Massie. Cooper is still getting worked into the first unit, but he will be there. Brown is limited anyway right now as he continues to come back from his triceps injury. More importantly, there is only so much an offensive line can do in the offseason to prepare. The techniques are worked on daily in smaller groups — often, OC Harold Goodwin takes the interior guys while assistant O-line coach Larry Zierlein (below) works with the tackles — and that part will be well covered. But it’s impossible to replicate the smashmouth play that will happen when the pads go on.

(On a somewhat side note, I am very intrigued about the future of fourth-round guard Earl Watford. No idea if he will be able to play yet, but he reminds me of Massie in the sense that the man just looks constructed to be an offensive lineman. Like Massie, he’s just big. Not sloppy big, but strong big. He looks the part.)


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 27 Comments »

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.


Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 24 Comments »

Goodwin here to help set offense straight

Posted by Darren Urban on February 6, 2013 – 1:57 pm

Bruce Arians sat at the interview table next to his new offensive coordinator, Harold Goodwin, and was asked — bluntly — what they were going to be able to do so that the Cardinals didn’t have the “worst” offense in the NFL, after the team was last statistically in 2012.

“There’s nowhere to go but up,” Arians said with a smile, cracking Goodwin up next to him and drawing laughs from the media. “I guarantee we won’t be there this year.”

There were a few smiles between the two of them Wednesday as Goodwin, 39, got to be a coordinator in public for the first time. The one-time college offensive lineman at the University of Michigan (he played there with Cardinals kicker Jay Feely) has a background in offensive line and was the offensive line coach for the Colts last season. That will remain important in his role. Arians emphasized there will be a “group of people” teaching blocking on the Cardinals, including Goodwin, assistant head coach Tom Moore, assistant offensive line coach Larry Zierlein, tight ends coach Rick Christophel and assistant tight ends coach Steve Heiden.

Goodwin will indeed be the coordinator of the offense, however. Arians said that too, noting that while Arians will call plays, Goodwin will work all the other normal coordinator duties.

— Goodwin and Arians didn’t get super specific on the offensive linemen, although Goodwin mentioned Levi Brown and Nate Potter in passing and said he thinks the group has some talent. He wouldn’t speculate why the unit would have been so poor last season. Said Arians about the line, “We’re not far off.” Injuries were a factor, both of them said.

— There were a couple of jokes about how intense Goodwin can be. If it gets emotional it will be a change for the offensive linemen. Russ Grimm saw his players through the “they are professionals and know what they need to do” lens.

— Arians opened the presser before anyone could ask about the quarterbacks by talking about the quarterbacks. “Nothing has changed on my comments on quarterbacks since the last time we talked,” Arians said, adding, “the quarterback situation will take some time.”

A full story coming later on Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is set to meet with the media tomorrow, with Moore and special teams coordinator Amos Jones coming on Friday.


Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 27 Comments »

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, including more background on the new group. (And here it is.)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 40 Comments »
%d bloggers like this: