Cardinals DC Al Holcomb stressing importance of missed opportunities
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Cardinals defensive coordinator Al Holcomb and his staff keep a chart of missed opportunities by their players every day in training camp. They’ve been doing it since OTAs.
When the final tally is in, the staff presents the results to the players at team meetings. If a player makes a play, he earns the simplest of rewards.
“Positive reinforcement,” Holcomb said, laughing.
If he misses a play, on the other hand, “you get a minus for it,” linebacker Josh Bynes said. “You’re like, ‘dang,’ but he’s like, ‘you had your hands on the ball. It’s an opportunity for us. That could be turned into a touchdown.”
There are all sorts of plays that get charted from pass breakups and forced fumbles to tackles and interceptions.
“He’s looking at everything,” Bynes said. “It’s pretty much just like a game.
“At the end of the day, this game is about production so it’s a missed opportunity in the game. That could have been the play to seal the game. That could have been the play that stopped the touchdown the next play. That could have been the play that changed everything and gave us momentum. Those are things you have to capitalize on, on defense. If we can get turnovers on defense, we’re going to win games.”
The Cardinals are hoping that their transition from a 3-4 alignment to a 4-3 alignment will produce those turnovers. With the new alignment, there is less guesswork and thinking involved on a given play.
“Going from a 3-4 to a 4-3, we’re really going to be harping on gap integrity and everybody playing their assignment and being responsible, being accountable,” safety Antoine Bethea said. “It’s what we like, playing downhill. With a 3-4, a lot of times, it’s two-gapping. You’ve got to rock back whereas here, everybody has a gap. You hit your gap downhill, creating a new line of scrimmage. I think that’s what everybody is going to appreciate about this, being able to attack and put pressure on the opposing offense.”
Holcomb expects a transition period where the players adjust to the new approach, both mentally and in their split-second reactions.
“It’s just understanding that primarily we’re a single-gap defense right now and every man is assigned for a gap and every man has to do their job,” Holcomb said. “Those guys have embraced the switch. They get to stop the run on the way to the quarterback.”
That aggressive approach is one of the things new players profess to love about Holcomb’s approach – none more than pass rushing defensive end Chandler Jones — but there appears to be a personality fit as well.
“He’s a straight-forward guy. He speaks direct, and he’s a big attention-to-detail guy,” Jones said. “He’s both fiery and cool, and that’s advantageous for a coach because sometimes you don’t want to be one way. You need to get your players’ attention or you need to calm them down. It’s good to have the fire aspect and also the cool in your bag.”
The Cardinals are a long way from cementing their personnel packages or identifying their strengths just one week into training camp, but Holcomb says he is happy with what he has seen so far.
“It’s gone well,” he said. “Obviously, there’s going to be a learning curve with it and we have a lot of moving parts right now. We have a large roster but the guys are picking it up. As we continue to conquer old problems then we’ll go back and fix new problems.”