There are things that are the same now that Bill Davis has returned to the Cardinals and the building he worked within for four years.
There are things that have changed.
“The renovations to the building,” said Davis, the once-linebackers coach/defensive coordinator under Ken Whisenhunt who will coach linebackers under Kliff Kingsbury. “I mean, that big (practice) bubble is a godsend. I saw that, I dropped to a knee and said thank God. I went up to (team president) Michael (Bidwill) and said thank you. To get out of the heat, as a coach, it’s huge.”
The change Davis wants to be part of with the Cardinals will be more about going to the future backwards. After a year making a move to a 4-3 scheme under Steve Wilks, the Cardinals will move back to the 3-4 look that the Cardinals played before Wilks – a shift from the 4-3 the Cards actually began making back in 2008, when Davis was doing his first tour in Arizona.
Davis was the defensive coordinator his final two years with the Cards, before Ken Whisenhunt decided to move on after the disappointing 2010 season. Davis went to the Browns and Eagles after that – he was defensive coordinator in Philadelphia – and spent the last two seasons as the linebackers coach at Ohio State.
It’s because of the last stop that Davis has first-hand knowledge of the player many think the Cardinals will take with the first pick in the NFL draft – Ohio State pass rusher Nick Bosa.
“He just told me the other day he is fighting for Nick, and I told him to go back and fight for players in the sixth- and seventh-round who have holes in them,” General Manager Steve Keim said. “It’s not too hard to fight for Nick Bosa.”
Davis knows that. He said Bosa would be a great pick for the Cards, but also emphasized, “Is he the best pick for the franchise? That’s what we have to figure out.”
The Cardinals do have one stud pass rusher in Chandler Jones with whom Davis gets to work. Davis echoed the thought process of defensive coordinator Vance Joseph that a defense needs to start with two pass rushers and two cover corners. The Cardinals think they have the cornerbacks in Patrick Peterson and the newly-signed Robert Alford.
Who will team with Jones? That is a question, whether it be Bosa or Kentucky’s Josh Allen at the top of the draft or someone else. Davis noted that he once coached in Carolina under Dom Capers’ defense and the Panthers had the top two sack men in the league one year in Kevin Greene and Lamar Lathon. That caused all kinds of problems for offenses.
Davis noted the ability Haason Reddick has to rush the passer from one of the inside linebacker spots in the 3-4. Add another edge guy – perhaps free agent Markus Golden can return to form if he stays – and “then you have to sit back as a pass protector and say, ‘How am I going to do that?” Davis said.
Davis isn’t in Arizona just because he has history here. He has worked with Joseph. In 2006, Davis was the 49ers’ defensive coordinator and Joseph was the defensive backs coach. Both men have worked under Wade Phillips.
Joseph likes that Davis has worked with Phillips, that he has been a coordinator, that he has spent time recently in college – a benefit for the kind of college-type offensive concepts that have infiltrated the NFL.
It doesn’t hurt that Davis knows the Cardinals either.
“Being in the building (previous) is huge,” Joseph said. “He knows ownership. He knows Steve (Keim) well. He can communicate with those guys what we are trying to do on defense so we can acquire the right players.”
Davis’ family liked being in Arizona the first time around. And Davis does like having familiarity with his newest job.
“Michael Bidwill is one of the best owners in the business, really lets you do your thing,” Davis said. “Steve Keim, I have a ton of respect with how he runs the draft, really allows the coaches to have input, which a lot of organizations don’t – some say they do but he lives it, and it’s nice to be part of finding the players you’re going to coach.”