Cardinals DC: Will evaluate defense, see how offseason plays out

Jan 27, 2017, 1:43 PM
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher calls in a play during training camp Aug. 5. (Photo by Adam Gr...
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher calls in a play during training camp Aug. 5. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)
(Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)
LISTEN: James Bettcher, Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator

When it was all over with, the Arizona Cardinals were first in the NFL in sacks, second in yards allowed, tied for fourth in takeaways and 14th in points allowed.

That last number — and the 7-8-1 record it helped lead to — is what defensive coordinator James Bettcher is trying to wrap his head around.

“One of the biggest things you do at the end of every season is sit down and evaluate the whys,” he told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday morning.

Bettcher, who recently completed his second season in charge of Arizona’s defense, said during the season there is a lot of self-scouting while trying to adjust in an effort to win the next game. But now that there are no games for a while, he will take a deeper look at things, with an emphasis on how the team played on third downs inside the red zone.

“I think up the field, non-red zone third downs, when you take out the red zone, we were really good on third down,” he said. “But once we were in the red zone, we weren’t efficient enough. And I’ll tell you what, it was a multitude of things it was.

“It might have been penalties, it might have been mental mistakes. Heck, it might have been a bad stinking call. I evaluate myself first, I ain’t afraid of that. I ain’t afraid to run to it now.”

In 2016, the Cardinals were 13th in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert on just 38.8 percent of their attempts. The year before, they were eighth at 35.7 percent.

Bettcher added the next month and a half will be dedicated to trying to ascertain what went wrong for his unit and how it can be fixed. He will study other top defenses who have similar schemes or personnel and see if there is something they do that the Cardinals should bring into the fold.

For Bettcher, the process of producing another sturdy defense should be made easier by the fact that he has a pretty talented group of players on the roster. Returners include cornerback Patrick Peterson and a healthy Tyrann Mathieu, along with linebacker Markus Golden, who led the team with 12.5 sacks in just his second season. Dollar linebacker Deone Bucannon who, like Mathieu, dealt with injuries in 2016, should also return to form when he takes the field again.

Because of their talent, Bettcher had an opportunity to deploy his personnel in many different ways, which is part of what made the Cardinals so difficult to game plan for.

But as everyone knows, this offseason could take a toll on the players Bettcher has at his disposal.

Of the Cardinals’ 20-plus free agents, a handful of them are from the defensive side of the ball, including key contributors in Chandler Jones, Calais Campbell, Marcus Cooper, Tony Jefferson, D.J. Swearinger, Kevin Minter and Frostee Rucker.

According to head coach Bruce Arians, Jones will not be going anywhere. But for the rest of the players, it’s possible their time as Cardinals has come to an end.

Bettcher said he’s not sweating it.

“Quite honestly, Steve Keim and our personnel department and coach have done an amazing job over the course of the last four years putting together a defensive roster,” he said. “I am not in the least worried about what we will look like when we come back because those guys will put it together.

“The proof is in who’s been playing for us. That’s the proof in what they’ve done.”

In fact, Bettcher said he is excited to see what happens this offseason, while understanding that all the free agents will have opportunities, and some may end up back in Arizona.

“We’ll see how that plays out, and that will lead to what our needs are in the draft, and that leads to kind of maybe how we need to evolve defensively and schematically and some of that stuff based on who’s back,” he said. “But the true identity of who we are, that’s the culture that Coach Arians has created, and that’s not going to change.”

That’s not to say Bettcher is without feelings on some of his players.

With regards to Campbell, who has been with the Cardinals since he was a second-round pick in the 2008 draft, the defensive coordinator offered nothing but praise.

“Our fans should be proud of how this guy has played for us — for all of us,” he said. “He puts it on each and every week, plays hard, has done anything and everything I’ve asked him to do; has been a good leader for us, on our defense, as a team.

“Something’s coming for Calais. Hope it’s back here, but whatever it is, I always will love Calais and respect him for how hard and what he’s done for me, speaking personal-wise.”

As for Jones, Bettcher said Arians declaring that the team would use the franchise tag on him if necessary to keep him was “like Christmas.”

“You love hearing that, especially as a coordinator,” he said. “A guy like that, that’s young, that’s talented, that I still think is going to keep getting better as a player — and that’s kind of scary, isn’t it — because of the things he’s able to do already. He’s going to keep getting better.”


Devin Booker #1, Chris Paul #3, and Torrey Craig #12 of the Phoenix Suns take a moment later in the...
Kellan Olson

Phoenix Suns run it back with Torrey Craig in no-brainer acquisition

The Phoenix Suns brought back Torrey Craig at the trade deadline, a move that makes all the sense in the world.
5 months ago
Arizona Sports

Panthers’ Sam Darnold getting MRI on shoulder ahead of Cardinals game

Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold is getting an MRI on his shoulder, head coach Matt Rhule told reporters on Monday.
8 months ago
Arizona Cardinals WR A.J. Green runs through drills during practice Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Te...
Arizona Sports

Reports: Cardinals’ A.J. Green, Demetrius Harris placed on COVID-19 list

The Arizona Cardinals have reportedly placed wide receiver A.J. Green and tight end Demetrius Harris on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
8 months ago

Return of the Hottest Tickets

9 months ago
Arizona Sports

Cards-Vikes Relateds

Follow @AZSports
9 months ago

Arizona Sports Valley Virtual Series

  You will automatically win tickets to the ASU home opener (September 2) or to see ASU take on UNLV on September 11! Register below
10 months ago
Cardinals DC: Will evaluate defense, see how offseason plays out