Arizona Cardinals: How Can the Defense Improve?
Oct 28, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles along the sidelines prior to playing the Atlanta Falcons at Lincoln Financial Field. The Falcons defeated the Eagles 30-17. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Arizona Cardinals new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is no stranger to turning a team with a losing record into a team that is able to win. In 2000 the Cleveland Browns went 3-13, and the next season, Bowles was hired to the staff as the defensive nickel package coach. He helped them to a 7-9 record and then a 9-7 record. Not bad for the Browns.
In 2000, Bowles was on Bill Parcells’ staff as the defensive backs coach for the New York Jets. Bowles said Parcells told him that he would be a head coach in the league and taught him accordingly.
Parcells taught Bowles step by step the structure of how to put a team in place, how to keep a team in place, and not just be a one hit wonder. When Parcells went to the Dallas Cowboys he hired Bowles as the secondary coach and it gave Bowles another season to learn from the future hall of fame coach.
When Parcells went to the Miami Dolphins, he hired Bowles as the assistant head coach/secondary coach. The Dolphins then had a dramatic turnaround from being 1-15 to posting a 11-5 record. It takes a group of people knowing what they’re doing to post a turnaround like that, and I for one am thrilled Todd is a part of the Cardinals new staff.
In an interview in 2009 Bowles said, he knows the blueprint to turning a team around. “The blueprint is to change the culture, the first thing you do is to condition the players mentally, they have to buy into the system. The second thing, you have to forget emotionally” (in the Cardinals’ case, that’s going 5-11). “You have to get past that mental part, you have to work, and you have to give them a goal to shoot for.”
Bowles said, “You can’t cut 53 players on the roster and draft 53 new ones. You have to weed out the bad ones and you have to make the ones buy into the organization. You as a coach, have to understand that through the personal part and the team you’ve got to find the right player. You have to find the right personnel for the entire roster.”
Bill Parcells taught Bowles about making the first guy on the roster to the last guy on the roster fit into the system. Why they fit into the system. Why they want a player on the team and why they don’t want a player on the team. Bowles was taught how to learn players.
In Ray Horton’s defense, Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell played the two-gap taking on the offensive guard and tackle freeing up the linebackers to blitz. Campbell did a good job in that scheme while Dockett couldn’t of failed more miserably. Dockett’s going back to what he does best and loves the fact that he’s going to be able to be a dominate player once again.
Bowles philosophy is, you base your system on the players you have, not force them to play into your scheme. Ken Whisenhunt had that same mindset his first few years here but after the ’09 season he implemented his scheme, stuck to it, and it cost him his job.
If Bowles runs his hybrid defense right, Dockett and Campbell will get more one-on-one opportunities to rush the quarterback, and the linebackers will have to cover the underbelly. The starting linebackers (including D Wash) should do fine covering the middle of the defense and should make big plays in big moments.
With all the should-be-solid depth players the Cardinals have with their front seven, expect plenty of different looks from the defense. With a consistent rotation, it will keep the players fresh throughout games and the season.
The pass defense did a decent job covering the secondary but there is room to get better and that’s what Bruce Arians is believing he’s doing. Arians cut Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes, now they have three lesser known players, Justin Bethel, and rookie Tyrann Mathieu. This is the unit I’m most worried about.
With five guys looking to start opposite Patrick Peterson, I believe it’s safe to say the Cardinals will find a starter that can hold their own. It may take time for the secondary to come together and start trusting one another to do their job but it should work out with time.
Stopping the run was what needed to be addressed, so Arians and Keim did just that and a little bit more. With Bowles’ philosophy, the free agents signings, and the draft picks, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cardinals had one of the best defenses at the end of the upcoming season.