If there was a perceived downside to the hiring of Bruce Arians as the Arizona Cardinals head coach last January, it was that it meant Ray Horton would no longer be with the organization.
The coordinator, who turned the Cardinals’ defense into one of the better units in the league, was passed over as head coach and wasn’t asked to stay on to guide the D.
Instead, Arians tabbed former Philadelphia Eagles coordinator Todd Bowles to run the defense while Horton moved on to the Cleveland Browns.
With Bowles at the controls, there’s been no drop-off. In fact, the Cardinals are allowing seven yards less per game than they did a year ago. In a 27-24 win over the Houston Texans Sunday, the Cards allowed just 235 yards, with only 41 of those coming in the second half.
“Defensively, we continue to step up,” Arizona general manager Steve Keim told Doug and Wolf Monday on Arizona Sports 620. “One thing I want to do is give a lot of credit to Todd Bowles, because if you think about last year and the way our defensive football team played, a lot of credit went to Ray Horton — and I know our fan base, in particular, was obviously pretty disappointed to lose Ray, and Ray’s a good coach, I don’t want to take anything away from him.
“But hiring Todd Bowles, there was obviously a bulls-eye on his chest the minute he walked in the door and we lost some defensive personnel and replaced them some younger guys. Todd has really stepped up to the plate and done a fantastic job for us, I really do want to give a lot of credit to Todd and his staff.”
Bowles’ defense has allowed fewer than 300 yards in each of the last two games and has forced at least one turnover in every contest this season. In all, their 33 takeaways rank third in the NFC behind only Chicago (44) and the New York Giants (35).
Part of the reason why there was a target on Bowles when he arrived in Arizona was the way the Eagles defense performed after he took over the reins from Juan Castillo, who was fired by the team last October after a 3-3 start.
Philadelphia’s defense struggled mightily the rest of the year, yielding an average of 350.6 yards per game in a 1-9 finish.
“He was put in a tough situation, he wasn’t running his defense and didn’t have time to install the defensive philosophy he had,” Keim said. “But he’s had some time here and feel we can continue to grow and get better on that side of the ball.
“Schematically, what he’s been able to do and the pressure he’s been able to put on opposing quarterbacks has been fantastic.”