Most of the questions about the Arizona Cardinals for 2013 have been about their ability to compete in maybe the toughest division in pro football, and with good reason; the additions the division rivals have added to their arsenals have almost boosted them to an untouchable level.
But are they really untouchable? Where can the Cardinals attack to gain an advantage? There is one area that may play a big factor.
Newly acquired quarterback Carson Palmer has gotten most of the attention when it comes to upgrades, and after last year’s inept group at the position, he is indeed a major upgrade.
The offense will be able to improve in areas like Red zone touchdowns, and scoring off turnovers.
But there may be one element that has not gotten much talk and plays a critical part to winning games, and that is special teams.
Over the course of the last three years, the Cardinals have been good on special teams, which allowed them to stay in some ball games and win a few as well.
Of course we know of the incredible heroics of gifted athlete Patrick Peterson’s breakout rookie year on special teams, where he recorded 44 returns for 699 yards and four of the most amazing touchdowns (with the longest of 99 yards).
We also can not forget about the blocked field goals and punts from the 6’8″ Calais Campbell and the speed off the edge of Justin Bethel, who can make a special teams impact in 2013 as well.
The team has had a fantastic kicking game for the last few years lead by placekicker Jay Feely and punter Dave Zastudil.
Adding the addition of Lorenzo Alexander via free agency, who made the pro-bowl last year as a member of the Washington Redskins because of his relentless attitude and tackle machine mentality on special teams.He will be solid and will help prevent the opponent from scoring on kick and punt returns.
The Cardinals have dynamic athletes returning punts in Peterson and Mathieu and a host of players to compete for the kickoff return duty.
I love the saying “you still have to play the game” and special teams can play a big part in an upset win over a division foe, one timely kick or punt return, or a punt landing the opponent inside the five or ten yard line with little time remaining, not to mention field goals which always play a big part in the outcome of a division game.
Special teams coach Amos Jones along with veteran experienced assistant coach Tom Moore will head up the special team unit.
Jones was the special teams coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers last year and an assistant for special teams at Alabama University where he has ties with head coach Bruce Arians.
Tom Moore, who also has ties with coach Arians with the Indianapolis Colts staff, as the Cardinals assistant head coach/offense will assist Jones on special teams because of his football mind and experience.
Arians, in an interview upon hiring the two coaches to his staff said, “You come to practice and watch us, he’s not going to be the only guy out there coaching special teams,” speaking of Jones.
“We’re going to have five or six coaches assigned to different specific areas, teaching fundamentals, teaching drills, and Amos will coordinate. … It’s not a one-guy job.” Arians added.
If it resembles anything like Alabama and the Steelers on special teams, than I think the Cardinals are in good shape to be that havoc causing special team unit they have been for years, with the potential of putting up game winning plays on special teams alone.
The Cardinals are stacked with potential talent on special teams and this element will indeed allow the opportunity to win games that they are not expected to win.
With the experience of this coaching staff, I believe they will put this talent in the right positions to make plays that will have this team in the top-10 on special teams early in the season, and perhaps add two more wins to the already projected seven by the experts.
If that can happen, the Arizona Cardinals will be the surprise team of the 2013 season.