Staff starts coming together

Posted by Darren Urban on January 19, 2013 – 11:10 pm

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.)


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Sturdivant’s got to speak up

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2011 – 8:29 am

The walkthrough was sparsely attended by fans, so it was even easier to hear the chatter on the field. That included linebackers coach Matt Raich, who was watching his charges from the offensive backfield when at one point he bellowed at rookie inside linebacker Quan Sturdivant, “I need to hear you back here!”

Sturdivant was calling the pre-snap signals. He wasn’t doing it loudly enough.

“Some players have that take charge voice,” Raich said. “Young guys come in here and they are not sure. That’s why I always say, ‘Say it loud and say it proud.’ They laugh about it, but it is true.”

It’s not just a Sturdivant issue, or even just young players. Raich said that even veterans new to the team might not be quite loud enough at first. It’s tough to have conviction in your voice when you are just learning the defense yourself. The starting inside linebackers, Paris Lenon and Daryl Washington, have been around a year, so even though they are learning the defense, they have been more confident. So too is new veteran Stewart Bradley.

As for Sturdivant, “you’re the Mike linebacker, it’s what you are supposed to do,” the rookie said. “It is a little adjustment. I’m not a loud person. I’m not going to say it’s tough but it is something to get used to.”

Sturdivant, the first of two sixth-round picks, will have to battle to make the roster. The addition of Bradley and the influx of new information (without an offseason) has made his impact minimal right now. Asked if he was “swimming” with all the incoming info, Sturdivant smiled and said, “you could say that.”

“I’m taking it day by day,” he added. “I ask questions of the vets if I have questions.”

Learning to pipe up is just one of his early lessons.

“He has to scream it,” Raich said. “I want them to make sure. He has his hand up to say, ‘right, left’ but the defensive linemen can’t see him. I’ve got to get Quan going.

“You’ve got to be able to communicate before the snap and obviously after. I think guys are unsure at times. … It’s just like anyone if they are talking. If you are comfortable with what you are going to say, you are fluent.”

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Going down the hill

Posted by Darren Urban on August 21, 2010 – 11:16 am

And then it was over.

The last practice today was a lighter affair — the tempo was still good (these guys wanted to finish ASAP) but it was more slow-mo; for instance, on many of the passes, the DBs let up as the ball approached, just to make sure there wasn’t any stupid contact that could cause an injury. Then the final horn blew and Herman Johnson raised his helmet above his 6-foot-7 head and Tim Hightower chucked his jersey in the air in celebration.

Whisenhunt declined to talk about planned playing time for the Tennessee game. “We have a plan but a lot will depend on how it unfolds,” Whisenhunt said. “I would have never guessed we would have played (QB) Derek (Anderson) into the fourth quarter last week.”

The biggest news of the day was Whiz talking about last night’s rookie show, which included a skit where players — Whiz didn’t indicate who — imitated Whisenhunt, linebackers coach Matt Raich and Larry Fitzgerald doing a breakdancing routine. “We were actually quite good dancers,” Whisenhunt said, and when asked if it was then OK for the rookies to make fun of the head coach, Whiz replied “It didn’t seem to stop them. Guess the only way you can look at it is they feel a lot more comfortable with themselves.”

(P.S. This is a picture of WR Mike Jones. I took it this morning and I liked how it looked, so here it is.)

That’s it. Camp’s over, and I am outta here.

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Togafau returns. Again and again and …

Posted by Darren Urban on August 12, 2010 – 9:29 am

At some point, the Cardinals will release linebacker Pago Togafau and not bring him back. But the Cards aren’t at that point yet.

Instead, they brought back Togafau last week to replace the underachieving Ali Highsmith. It is the third time he has been with the Cardinals and, because of that and his familiarity with the system (and the Cards’ lack of depth at inside linebacker), Togafau is already practicing with the first unit, alongside inside ‘backer Paris Lenon.

“I can’t complain,” Togafau said. “If they are shuffling it up, I got the right cards. I am with the ‘ones.’ I’m not going to say anything, I’m just going to keep working with the ‘ones’ and when you play with the ‘ones’ we have out here, they make you better.”

Linebackers coach Matt Raich said Togafau’s depth chart status is just part of “shuffling guys around” and he wanted to see how Togafau does as the Mike linebacker. “We liked him last year and he was pushing to make the squad until he got hurt,” Raich said. “He’s doing the same now.”

Togafau was in coach Ken Whisenhunt’s first training camp in 2007. He was cut in camp and picked up by Philadelphia and played briefly for the Eagles before being released again. The Saints picked him up and then cut him, when the Cardinals decided to bring him back. He was on the practice squad at the end of the 2008 season — including the Super Bowl run — and was with the team in Flagstaff last August when a foot injury derailed his chances. He was let go, only to be brought back to the practice squad in late November. A month later, Togafau was promoted to the Cards’ active roster — and lasted two games before being cut once again.

He was claimed off waivers by Tennessee and re-signed with the Titans at the beginning of the offseason. But he broke his foot, and the Titans cut ties with him before training camp. So the Cardinals came calling again just a few days later — for a fourth time.

“So close but yet so far is the best I can put it,” Togafau said. “It’s always nice to have a chance, to have an opportunity. I can’t complain, man. I keep getting a shot and the Cardinals keep blessing me with these shots. Hopefully it works out this time.”

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