The Cardinals have lured their new defensive coordinator to the desert, but he’s not exactly the “veteran coordinator” new coach Kliff Kingsbury and General Manager Steve Keim said they preferred to hire.
Vance Joseph, who spent one season as an NFL defensive coordinator with the Dolphins in 2016 and spent the past two seasons head coach of the Broncos, has agreed to join the Cardinals’ staff and run the team’s defense, the team formally announced on Friday.
The Cardinals also announced that Jeff Rodgers is returning as the team’s special teams coordinator and that Bill Davis has been named linebackers coach.
Unlike Joseph, Davis has plenty of experience as a defensive coordinator, having served in that role for seven seasons for three different NFL teams, including the Cardinals for two years under former head coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Joseph’s previous stops: 49ers, Texans, Bengals, Dolphins
Joseph, 46, interviewed with the Cardinals on Thursday. He has spent 14 years in the NFL, mostly as a defensive backs coach where he had stops with the 49ers (2005-10), Texans (2011-13) and Bengals (2014-15) before moving on to the Dolphins in a one-year stint under then-head coach Adam Gase.
Miami ranked 29th in total defense with Joseph in charge. The Dolphins that season ranked 15th against the pass (242.2 yards per game), 30th against the run (140.4) and 18th in scoring (allowing 23.8 points per game).
In Arizona, Joseph will switch the Cardinals’ defense back to a 3-4 base scheme, where it ranked among the league’s Top 5 overall units from 2014-2017. Keim and team President Michael Bidwill each have said the Cardinals are built to play a 3-4 and never should have switched to a 4-3 under former head coach Steve Wilks.
They also said it was imperative to find an established defensive coordinator to work alongside Kingsbury, the offensive-minded former college coach who has no prior NFL coaching experience.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that veteran coordinator would be ideal in this situation and just based on pur personnel, I think a 3-4 fit is what we’re looking for,” Keim said this week. “Certainly, with the edge rush we have, to be able to play man-free on the back end. Again, it’s catering to your strengths. There’s no doubt in my mind we have to find a defensive coordinator that can do that.”
Joseph went 5-11 and 6-10 the past two seasons with the Broncos. In 2017, Denver had the NFL’s third-ranked defense and joined Minnesota as the only two teams that ranked in the Top 5 in both pass and rush defense. Last season, the Broncos ranked 22nd overall in defense, but ranked in the Top 10 in interceptions (17), takeaways (28) and sacks (44).
With Arizona, Tampa Bay and reportedly Green Bay finding head coaches, there’s one commonality: NFL teams are looking for someone to help their QBs.
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Rodgers, 41, joined the Cardinals last season after previously serving as special teams coordinator for the Panthers (2010), Broncos (2011-14) and Bears (2015-17).
An 18-year coaching veteran, Rodgers helped punter Andy Lee lead the league and establish a new franchise single-season record with a 48.6-yard average in 2018. Under his watch, undrafted rookie linebacker Zeke Turner led the league with 13 solo tackles on special teams and fellow undrafted rookie linebacker Dennis Gardeck led all NFL rookies with 388 special teams snaps.
Davis, 53, returns to the Cardinals after previously working as Arizona’s defensive coordinator (2009-10) and linebackers coach (2007-08). He spent the past two seasons as linebackers coach at Ohio State, helping the Buckeyes to Big Ten championships each of the past two seasons.
Davis has spent 24 years in the NFL as an assistant coach with seven seasons as a defensive coordinator. Prior to joining the staff at Ohio State, he spent three years as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator and in 2014, helped Philadelphia tie for second in the league in sacks (49), rank fifth in rush defense per attempt and sixth in takeaways (28), including an NFL-high 23 forced fumbles. He also served as defensive coordinator for the 49ers from 2005-06.
He also served two seasons as defensive coordinator for the 49ers (2005-06) before originally joining the Cardinals.
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