Cardinals defensive coordinator faces tough opening test
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) James Bettcher is no stranger to the NFL, now in his fourth season as an assistant coach.
But Bettcher is new this season as the Arizona Cardinals' defensive coordinator, and his first test in that role comes Sunday when the Cardinals host Drew Brees and the prolific New Orleans Saints offense.
Bettcher is tasked with guiding a defense that finished fifth in the NFL last season in fewest points allowed - 18.7 per game - and became known for its aggressive style.
''Drew is obviously a phenomenal quarterback. He orchestrates things back there. Plays with great vision. We're excited as a staff to play them,'' Bettcher said. ''I think we did a good job through the preseason working out some of the things we needed to work out. I think some of those successes we had early in the preseason, that will carry over into this Sunday.''
Bettcher, among the youngest coordinators in the NFL at age 37, was promoted to his position after coaching the Cardinals' outside linebackers in 2013 and 2014. That experience gave him a good rapport with members of his defense.
''Player to coach communication is huge for me. We have some really strong veterans ... those guys, they're going to give me feedback and I'm going to let them know what I'm thinking moving forward, next series, next drive,'' Bettcher sad.
Bettcher has had to make some adjustments going from position coach to coordinator. He has learned to resist the urge to run a drill and let his coaches do their work, and make sure every line of communication is open so players know what each teammate is responsible for on the field.
There is also a new approach to meetings.
''The coaches get annoyed because I jump from meeting to meeting,'' Bettcher said.
Bettcher will match wits with Saints head coach Sean Payton, who in previous seasons has called the plays for his offense.
''He's a great play caller. Mixes personnel groupings. He's going to have personnel groupings on first down, it's going to change on second, it's going to change on third and next series he's going to do the same thing over and over and over,'' Bettcher said.
Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson likes Bettcher's energy and how he asks for players' perspective. Johnson felt it was important to retain some of previous defensive coordinator Todd Bowles' tactics and strategies.
''We created an identity these past couple of years of who we were, being aggressive, making plays on the back end, causing turnovers. So I think it was important for us to keep some of that identity but also allow Coach Bettcher to do what he does,'' Johnson said. ''He wouldn't have gotten the job if he didn't have a smart mind and was able to add some versatility to what we're already doing.''
NOTES: New tight end Joseph Fauria, signed Thursday when the Cardinals placed tight end Ifeanyi Momah on injured reserve with a knee injury, said he wants to be the pro-style offense tight end that head coach Bruce Arians looks for. ''I'm no stranger to learning a new system and a new offense and I'm ready for the challenge,'' he said.
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