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Cardinals DC Bettcher: I can improve, listening to players is important

Arizona Cardinals new defensive coordinator James Bettcher, middle, watches his players against the Cardinals offense during an NFL football training camp practice, Monday, Aug. 3, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
LISTEN: James Bettcher, AZ Cardinals defensive coordinator

The defense James Bettcher guided in 2015 was a good one, as the Cardinals finished fifth in the NFL in yards allowed and seventh in points surrendered.

The defense Bettcher will be coordinating in 2016, though, is quite different.

Gone are Jerraud Powers and Rashad Johnson, a pair of starters from the secondary; in are linebacker Chandler Jones, defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, safety Tyvon Branch and rookie cornerback Brandon Williams. Defensive lineman Corey Peters is back after recovering from an Achilles injury.

Expectations are high for the team to take a step forward, yes, but the same can be said for the defensive coordinator.

“Just like as a player, as a coach you do the same thing,” Bettcher told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday morning. “You sit around and evaluate every single thing you did, every single thing, every way you did everything and find what worked for me — in terms of game prep and game planning — and what are some of the things I could clean up.

“Certainly we’ve got to get better in the red zone and I’ve got to get better as a coordinator in the red zone, and this offseason through OTAs and through mini-camps and now through training camp, that’s been a point of emphasis for me.”

According to TeamRankings.com, the Cardinals allowed touchdowns on 56 percent of opponents’ trips inside the red zone. That placed them 14th in the NFL.

For comparison’s sake, the Carolina Panthers were ninth at 51 percent, whereas the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos were 16th at 57 percent.

Improved talent should help there, as will a more experienced coordinator. Bettcher talked about the idea of moving Jones, the team’s likely top pass rusher who had 12.5 sacks for the Patriots last season, all over the field, allowing him to line up in different spots depending on the situation.

The thought behind that is simple in that it’s meant to put players in the best position to succeed. Bettcher, who came under a little fire over the offseason from former linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who claimed the coach did not listen to his players at all, said it’s important to make sure players are comfortable in their roles.

“I think you always listen to the players; I’ve always been big on that,” he said. “I’ve grown up that way working for guys like Chuck Pagano and Todd Bowles — I think both of those guys really were in tune to what their players were thinking, and I think I’ve always been that way.”

Bettcher added he felt like he had a great relationship with some of the players that were on the team last year and are still around this season.

“We had those conversations — sometimes they were in private about, ‘hey, here’s what we’re not getting, here’s what we don’t see, here’s how we see it,'” he said. “I always want to know how it is through their eyes because they’re the guys that are on the field playing.

“I think each and every week it’s my job to make sure, as well as the position coach’s job, to make sure that we’ve got the right matchups.”

That means putting players in the right spots, catering to their skill sets and strengths.

“Each and every call that we make, that’s really the first thing that comes to my mind,” he said.

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