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Different strokes for new Cardinals coordinators

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Dan Arkush

darkush@pfwmedia.com
Executive editor

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Posted Feb. 19, 2011 @ 12:01 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

Our sources in the desert were not surprised by the hiring of Ray Horton as the Cardinals’ new defensive coordinator and the promotion of Mike Miller, who had been serving as the team’s passing-game coordinator, to the offensive coordinator position. Horton, who was the Steelers’ secondary coach, had been rumored as a serious candidate to replace the fired Billy Davis for more than a month. And during that same time span, Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt had mentioned more than once that he did not envision any significant coaching changes on the offensive side of the ball.

But while Whisenhunt had been making it clear that he remained very comfortable with his offensive coaching situation — despite the offense’s abysmal performance this past season, when it ranked 31st overall — there was no denying it was a much different story on the other side of the ball, where underachievement and communication breakdowns had become increasingly irritating.

When Whisenhunt arrived from Pittsburgh four seasons ago, daily team observers were quickly led to believe that a “Steelers West” defensive scheme would be installed for the long haul. But for whatever the reasons, neither Clancy Pendergast, Whisenhunt’s first defensive coordinator, nor Davis was able to effectively incorporate the same type of 3-4 pressure scheme that Dick LeBeau has made such a successful staple in Pittsburgh. It hasn’t taken long for Horton to convince daily team observers that he definitely has a “Steelers West” mindset.

“No question about it,” one team source told PFW. “He has made it clear that there will be an attack mentality all the time with lots of blitzing.”

Making that game plan clear in the minds of his new troops, especially the defensive backs, will be a major point of emphasis. But the likelihood that the league’s labor problems will greatly curtail interaction with Horton's new players this offseason presents a major challenge.

“If he had a whole offseason to work with, we’d probably be seeing sweeping changes in the system,” the source said. “Instead, he plans on putting his defense into the defense's existing language in the hopes of shortening the learning curve.”

Early indications are that Horton has what it takes to get his new points across.

“He seems like a pretty sharp guy,” the source said. “And as a former defensive back, the players at that position — where there seemed to be such a big disconnect last season — figure to respond well to him.”

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