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Kingsbury empowering Cardinals ‘defensive head coach’ Joseph

Vance Joseph (AP Photo/Gary Landers)

TEMPE, Ariz. — By title, Vance Joseph is Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator.

Introducing Joseph to the media on Tuesday, Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury referred to the DC as his “defensive head coach.” It’s an empowering point of emphasis for Kingsbury, who upon interviewing with Arizona and then being introduced himself admitted he would hire a staff of the best coaches and not best friends.

“I wanted somebody who’s really a defensive head coach. That’s what Vance is,” Kingsbury said. “I’ll give my insights and we’ll have great communication on how we can be the best that we can on that side of the football, but that’s going to be a deal that Vance is going to head up.”

Joseph appears lower on the totem pole this year after being fired as Denver Broncos head coach.

He doesn’t mind ceding control to Kingsbury, and he understands his job description. But he doesn’t approach this differently.

“I think I pride myself on being the same guy,” Joseph said. “I don’t think I’m more relaxed. It’s a smaller job. It’s not my first go-around. For me, it obviously comes natural. It’s definitely an easy job, in my opinion, until we start playing games.

“As far as proving I can call defenses, I’m not worried about that. I can call defenses. I want to win. I haven’t won in two years. I won 11 games in two years. That’s where my motivation comes in.”

Here’s what else we learned about the Cardinals’ new defensive coaching staff after they met with reporters on Tuesday.

They like their talent as of February

An entire offseason needs to play out before the Cardinals can stamp roles on specific players.

What we do know:

Joseph will play an attacking 3-4 defense — not a 4-3 defense deployed by 2018 Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks — with Chandler Jones acting as an open-sided linebacker and Patrick Peterson locking down one side of the field.

“Ideally what you would like to be able to do is you want guys to actually try to throw the ball to Patrick Peterson,” said defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson, who followed Joseph from Denver. “In my mind, I’m saying that’s what I would like to see happen. I would like to see more balls thrown to him so we can find out how good he really is. I would like to see teams try it.”

Budda Baker is the biggest unknown in terms of position. He has the capability to move around depending on the situation and the talent around him.

Arizona is already set at safety with veterans D.J. Swearinger and Antoine Bethea under contract for next season. Veteran defensive tackle Corey Peters and linebackers Josh Bynes and Haason Reddick are also notable players under contract.

Newcomers earn high praise

The Cardinals recently added two former Atlanta Falcons: corner Robert Alford, who figures to play opposite Peterson and can play press coverage, and outside linebacker Brooks Reed.

Reed could play alongside Jones and thrived in the first four years of his career playing in a 3-4 defense with the Houston Texans.

“The fit of the 3-4 fits some of these guys more than the 4-3,” said linebackers coach Bill Davis. “I think Brooks is one of those guys, where you have the ability to rush on tight ends, backs and tackles. When you’re in a 4-3, you’re really rushing on tackles, down in and down out. That’s the biggest difference (between 3-4 and 4-3).”

Davis happy to return to Arizona

Davis returns to the Cardinals after he spent time as linebackers coach and defensive coordinator for the Cardinals from 2007-10.

He found comfort in rejoining Keim, who he praised as one of the better executives in football.

“As a coach, some places you go, you have no say in the players, in acquiring players,” Davis said. “With Steve, he’s got such a confidence about him and an open mind. The coaches will have a lot of input. That’s a lot as a coach.”

Rapport between Kingsbury and his defensive coaches

Joseph believes in-game rapport will build naturally between him and Kingsbury.

They will learn one another and decide as a collective about when to be aggressive and when to play it safe. Kingsbury will ultimately make the call.

But their film sessions will invariably challenge one another as they attempt to chase progressive NFL offenses in a division full of them.

“When you look at Kingsbury’s going to do on offense, all he’s going to try to do is create mismatches. This is like how the game has evolved to centers in basketball shooting three-pointers,” said Robertson when asked about where he can plug in Baker as a defender.

And of those film sessions and what he’s learned sitting in them with Kingsbury?

“It’s my job to stop it. When I look at what he does, I just kind of think in my head how we’re going to defend some of the things I’m seeing,” Robertson said, adding he can use those lessons against opponents. “This team needs to be built to beat the division winner. If we’re not building this team to beat the Los Angeles Rams, then how can we expect to go to the playoffs?”

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