The times, they are a-changin’.
At least, that’s what it must have felt like for the Arizona Cardinals defense this offseason.
For a unit that finished 2012 as the second-best NFC team in passing yards allowed/game (200.8) and interceptions (22), there was a notable amount of turnover.
Their popular defensive coordinator (Ray Horton) was replaced with a lesser-known commodity (Todd Bowles), their heart and soul (Adrian Wilson) was released, their secondary — outside of Patrick Peterson — was almost completely remodeled with new faces (Jeremiah Bell, Jerraud Powers, Antoine Cason, Tyrann Mathieu and Javier Arenas) and their linebacking corps received a mix of good news (signings of John Abraham, Karlos Dansby, Lorenzo Alexander and Jasper Brinkley) and bad news (Pro Bowler Daryl Washington suspended the first four games of 2013 season).
While training camp is still in its infant stages, one holdover from last season, outside linebacker Sam Acho, already sees a change in the scenery — and not the kind that has to anything do with moving practices from Northern Arizona University to University of Phoenix Stadium.
“I think any time that you change coaching staffs, you’re always going to see a big difference,” Acho told Arizona Sports 620’s Burns and Gambo Monday. “We have a big difference in this coaching staff, as well. We have a lot more coaches, a lot more hands-on coaching with the number of coaches on staff.
“It’s also about learning a new scheme. Every time you have players coming together to learn a new defense, it takes time to adjust.”
Although the transition period will certainly take time, Acho noted that he and his teammates have already found a big positive in their new system.
“There’s a lot of creativity,” said Acho. “Coach Horton was awesome, but we’re loving Coach Bowles’ defense. We’re making a lot of plays in it.
“They’re similar in some regards, because we have to do a lot of 3-4. But we also have a little bit of a 4-3 off of it, so that’s probably the biggest difference, working in the 4-3 off of our 3-4 scheme.”
The fourth-round pick made his fair share of plays (four sacks, two interceptions and two fumbles forced) in 2012, but like his unit, Acho is not immune to change, either.
Despite serving as one of the team’s better pass rushers on third down last season, the former Texas standout might see a reduced role with the addition of Abraham, a 13-year veteran who has made a living getting after the quarterback.
But to Acho, having Abraham on board is less about competition and more about learning from one of the game’s elite players at his position.
“The coolest thing about John is that literally from the first day he stepped on the field he was teaching us some of the stuff that he’s done,” said Acho. “He has something like 122 career sacks, is the active leader right now, but he instantly jumped on board and is teaching us how we can do it better.
“So it’s almost like having — not a coach on the field — but someone who says ‘Hey this is what I’m doing, here’s what you can do to be better.’ There’s a lot of learning going on right now with every outside linebacker and John.”