The Arizona Cardinals have seen huge changes to the coaching staff and roster this offseason. While much has been said about the arrivals of head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer, the departure of defensive coordinator Ray Horton may be making fans a little nervous.
Ray Horton managed to make Arizona’s defense relevant in the NFL during his two seasons as defensive coordinator in the desert. Horton’s coaching and 3-4 scheme resulted in a very aggressive squad that was third in the NFL in takeaways in 2012 with 33.
Although he was successful in Arizona, the organization decided to part ways with Horton shortly after the 2012 season.
The Cardinals went out and hired former Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Although Bowles comes to the team with plenty of NFL defensive coaching experience, what fans really want to know is this: Should we be worried?
Let’s take a look at Coach Bowles’ road to Arizona.
Todd Bowles, a former NFL defensive back, comes to the Cardinals with 13 years of NFL coaching experience under his belt.
He started his coaching career at Morehouse College in 1997, under former Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams, as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach. He would move on to coach under the legendary Eddie Robinson at Grambling State, also assuming the defensive coordinator and secondary coach duties from 1998 to 1999.
Todd Bowles earned his first NFL coaching job with the New York Jets in 2000 as the secondary coach. Bowles’ Jets finished sixth in the NFL in passing defense, giving up 183.3 yards per game.
From 2001 to 2004, Bowles was a defensive assistant for the Cleveland Browns. He served as the defensive nickel package coach from 2001 to 2003 and moved to secondary coach in 2004. In 2001, the Browns’ defense set a franchise record with 33 interceptions. The defense ranked fifth in the league in passing defense in 2004, giving up just 181.3 yards per game.
Bowles was the secondary coach for the Dallas Cowboys from 2005 to 2007. Over his three seasons with the Cowboys, Bowles’ defenses intercepted 52 passes and held their opponents to only 310.4 total yards per game.
Additionally, three of his defensive backs were named to a combined five Pro Bowls: safeties Ken Hamlin (2007) and Roy Williams (2005-2007) and cornerback Terence Newman (2007).
From 2008 to 2011, Bowles spent his time as the assistant head coach and secondary coach for the Miami Dolphins. During his time with the Dolphins, opposing quarterbacks were held to a 58.1 completion percentage. His 2010 Dolphins defense finished eighth in the NFL in passing defense.
He moved to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012 and started the season as the team’s secondary coach. However, after the team’s first six games he was promoted to defensive coordinator. Although it was a dismal season for the Eagles, Bowles’ defense finished ninth in the NFL in passing defense, giving up 216.9 yards per game.
Bowles’ strong point is obviously with the secondary. This should be huge for an Arizona team that recently lost longtime playmakers Kerry Rhodes and Adrian Wilson.
With the ever-improving superstar Patrick Peterson and the addition of Tyrann Mathieu, it should be interesting to see what Bowles can do with this defense.
Another variable to consider is the type of defensive scheme Bowles will run.
He ran a 4-3 defense last season in Philadelphia, and while the defense didn’t do much to impress anyone, we shouldn’t blame Bowles. That team was well on its way down before Bowles took the reins.
The Cardinals have run a 3-4 the past two seasons. Running a 4-3 could be a great way to make the defensive line put pressure on the quarterback, while linebackers can worry more about playing coverage and stuffing the run. With Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Dan Williams and recently acquired John Abraham along the defensive front, Arizona has the right personnel to make it work.
While the only way to have a final verdict is to let the season play out, Cardinals fans should not be worried about the defense. Todd Bowles will have it under control. All of the parts are in place for a very exciting season on the defensive side of the ball.