After more than a month of waiting, coach Ken Whisenhunt has named a new defensive coordinator. Ray Horton will be tasked to help turn around a defense that was one of the worst statistically in the league throughout the 2010 season.
"Our expectations for our defense certainly are that we're going to play better football," said Whisenhunt. "I definitely feel like Ray is the guy who is going to help us do that."
Horton comes to Arizona after seven seasons in Pittsburgh as the Steelers’ secondary coach and previous stops in Cincinnati, Washington and Detroit. Horton honed his coaching talent under legendary defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau in both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The 10-year NFL vet hopes to bring an aggressive and attacking approach to Arizona’s 3-4 defense.
"I'm here to say right now, the first call is going to be a blitz,” Horton explained. “No question about it."
When it comes to the personnel to run his schemes, Horton acknowledged he is still evaluating players on an individual basis. Improved technique from top to bottom will likely be an emphasis for Horton.
“We are going to be very demanding and very precise with what we ask these players to do,” Horton said.
The University of Washington alum has some work to do off the field as well. Filling out the rest of the defensive coaching staff is first on the list. Whisenhunt said that a coordinator deserves to bring in his own coaches and newcomers should be expected and have already commenced.
Donnie Henderson and Rick Courtright were fired upon the hiring of Horton with Louie Cioffi and Deshea Townsend taking their place. Cioffi previously spent time with the Bengals while Townsend was a long-time player and coach with the Steelers.
Horton will be the third defensive coordinator to serve under Whisenhunt in Arizona, following Clancy Pendergast and Billy Davis, who each lasted two seasons in the position.
“We’ve at times been successful defensively and other times we haven’t,” Whisenhunt said. “The goal for us is to become more consistent, be a better defensive football squad. I definitely believe that Ray gives us the ability to do that.”
Players who played under Horton in Pittsburgh know the measure of the man who will be leading them in 2011.
Cardinals’ linebacker Clark Haggans, who played under Horton in Pittsburgh, praised him as “a great coach” and is excited to get started with the new regime.
This past season, the Steelers ranked second in overall defense, 12th in passing defense and first in points allowed. The Steelers’ secondary totaled 21 interceptions this season under Horton.
To sum up his philosophy, Horton put a concise exclamation point on his welcoming address: “Our model is going to be, ‘Go get ’em.’”
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