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For Defense And James Bettcher, Not Much Changes

Confidence in unit among players despite coordinator change still high

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Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher talks with linebacker Sean Weatherspoon during a recent practice.


James Bettcher doesn't do much of anything different now as defensive coordinator than he did as outside linebackers coach.

He drives to work the same way, hits all the same stoplights. He drinks the same coffee with the same generic creamer – "Too much creamer, if you ask my wife," Bettcher said – and hunkers down in his office as before.

"You just have to be able to organize at a higher level," Bettcher said. "You have to think big picture."

In that broad scope, "it's their defense," Bettcher said. "It ain't my defense, it's their defense."

The meetings and on-field work is over for the summer. The next time Bettcher gets a chance to work with the players in his new role is

training camp. Whatever transition there was going from Todd Bowles – who exited to become head coach of the New York Jets – to the 37-year-old Bettcher has taken place, between face-to-face work in the classrooms to his instruction on the grass behind the team's Tempe facility.

Besides, as Bettcher has said more than once, it's not like he's installing a new scheme.

"It's a Cardinal defense," Bettcher said. "There may be things along the way you'd do on a yearly basis regardless of having a new coordinator or not – how people are attacking, how people are doing stuff – and you find some adjustments you need to make.

"From a continuity standpoint, it makes those adjustments easier. With every call, there is always a soft spot. The awareness the players have … we are always at that point, so when we add a wrinkle, it makes those (changes) easier."

It's that "Cardinal defense" mentality that lends itself to the confidence the players and Bettcher carry into training camp. Bettcher was involved in the scheming and game planning under Bowles, a grooming process that included times when Bettcher would get up in front of the defense on Wednesdays and put in some of the game plan.

Given that Bowles was always headed toward a head coaching job somewhere, Bettcher's in-house rise wasn't surprise.

"He came in and he's been confident," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "Everybody believes in him."

Part of that is because Bettcher believes in his players.

"Bettcher has been in the system for three years now," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "He knows the expectations."

The expectations are that the defense can rally back to the levels it reached the first 10 games of the 2014 season, before tackling breakdowns forced the overall season stats to slide lower than anyone would have wanted. It didn't help that the Cardinals lost offensive efficiency as the quarterbacks got hurt, but the defensive players from last year talk more about what they did wrong rather than being left with too much of a burden without a consistent offense.

Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said Bettcher is in much the same place as Bowles was when Bowles replaced popular defensive coordinator Ray Horton. To a certain extent, it can only be games that prove where the defense stands and how Bettcher's leadership affects it.

"I think guys trust him because we run the same stuff for the most part, but it's not going to be really until we get to the season to see how he responds and when he have success before you're like, 'OK, we're good,' " Alexander said.

"At the end of the day, players play," Alexander added. "And we have our nucleus of guys who are part of that run last year. We know we can compete."

Images of the Cardinals celebrating touchdowns during the 2014 season



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