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Potent Saints Will Test James Bettcher

Notes: New DC has big challenge; RB workload undetermined; injury update


James Bettcher must slow down the Saints in his debut as defensive coordinator.

The test drive is over for James Bettcher, and hopefully his seat belt is on, because the first race is the Indy 500.

Sunday's regular season opener will not allow for a slow immersion into his new defensive coordinator duties, as Bettcher must attempt to slow down Saints star quarterback Drew Brees. New Orleans may have lost star tight end Jimmy Graham in the offseason, but its offense has been one of the best in the league for years, and that's not expected to change this season.

Bettcher got his feet wet by calling plays and executing game plans in the preseason, but now must deliver with significantly higher stakes.

"Drew is a phenomenal quarterback," Bettcher said. "He orchestrates things back there. He plays with great vision. I think it's a great first test for our defense, and our guys are excited, and we're excited as a staff to play him."

Bettcher said he learned a couple things as a first-time coordinator over the four preseason games. One was the importance of communicating with both his players and defensive coaches, and the other was to trust what he believes instead of second-guessing it.

"I'm kind of a cerebral guy, but for me personally, make sure you don't overcook it," Bettcher said.

It seems clear the Cardinals aren't going away from the defensive style formed under Todd Bowles, which included a majority of man-to-man coverage and a variety of blitzes dialed up frequently.

While most of it should look similar, safety Rashad Johnson said a new play-caller will undoubtedly have some of his own philosophies.

"We created an identity these past couple years of who we were: being aggressive, making plays on the back end, causing turnovers," Johnson said. "So I think it was very important to keep somewhat of that identity, but also allow coach Bettcher to do what he does. He wouldn't have gotten the job if he didn't have a smart mind and able to add some versatility to what we were already doing."



Ellington will be the starting running back against the Saints, but with Chris Johnson and rookie David Johnson waiting in the wings, it remains to be seen how the playing time gets distributed. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said it depends on the flow of the game, and that he has a high level of comfort in all of the running backs.

The Cardinals were last in the league in yards-per-carry last season, but may be primed for an improvement.

"I can tell you right now, I feel pretty good," Goodwin said. "As long as we can open holes, we've got some potential to get some home runs in there."


There was no change to the Cardinals' injury report, as tight ends Troy Niklas (hamstring) and Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) were listed as limited, as was wide receiver Michael Floyd (hand). Their availability for the opener is unknown.

Guard Mike Iupati (knee) didn't practice and has been ruled out of Week 1. Tight end Ifeanyi Momah (knee) was placed on injured reserve Thursday.

For the Saints, safety Jairus Byrd (knee), linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (toe), cornerback Keenan Lewis (hip), running back C.J. Spiller (knee) and linebacker Davis Tull (shoulder) sat out practice on Thursday. Running back Tim Hightower (knee) returned to full practice after sitting on Wednesday.


Former Cardinals running back Vai Sikahema is one of 25 finalists for the Polynesian Hall of Fame. He made the Pro Bowl in 1986 and 1987 with the team and had an eight-year NFL career.

Former Cardinals linebacker Niko Noga is another finalist. This year's inductees will be announced Oct. 7.

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