Who should return kickoffs for the Arizona Cardinals in 2013? Well, it is obviously a question that will only be answered in training camp and preseason by production.
But we must start by looking at the candidates for the task, and before you start to think the obvious candidate of Patrick Peterson, think again. Peterson did not return one kickoff for the Cardinals in his two years with the team.
Coach Bruce Arians said, “Patrick Peterson will continue to take punts, he is too dangerous with the ball to stop doing that. And who knows — it might even go beyond that. Offensive snaps aren’t out of the question,” so Peterson’s role so far does not have kickoff return in it. However, after looking over the roster, I found four other worthy candidates.
They are, Antoine Cason, Javier Arenas, Tyrann Mathieu, and Andre Ellington. Antoine Cason had one kickoff return his entire five years with the San Diego Chargers. So why is he a candidate?
His ability to return after an interception can be used in the kickoff return game. Cason’s years playing in the same defense with the ball hog Antonio Cromartie, has established him the mentality of “take it to the house” on turnovers. That is the attitude that will excite fans and bring enthusiasm to the stadium, and increase Cason’s chances of getting a fair look on kickoffs in Preseason.
The two rookies Mathieu and Ellington have college kick return production, with Ellington career stats at the University of Clemson totaling 26 returns for 642yrds with an average of 24.7 per return and 1 touchdown.
That should be enough to get him a shot in the preseason, and should it not work out at running back his rookie year, perhaps he makes his impact in the return game. Mathieu is coming off a one-year suspension from LSU, where he posted return numbers for two years of 25 punt returns for 429 yards and two touchdowns.
Yes, these are punt return numbers and I am sure we will see him help spell Patrick Peterson on punts or perhaps join him at times to give the opponent a scary sight to cover. But Mathieu‘s ability and relentless attitude will earn him the right to compete for kick off duty as well, the more the ball is in his hands in open space the better for the team.
The candidate with the most kickoff production experience is Javier Arenas, who with the chiefs recorded 50 kickoff returns for 1,048 yards (21.0 average) which will surely get him an opportunity to be a starter on kick returns. Arenas have also 105 punt returns for 1,029 yards (9.8 average) and can also be potentially paired with Mathieu and Peterson with gadget plays. Arenas only scored one touchdown and that came on the offensive end, but he is more than capable of being a consistent kick returner.
Nevertheless, the answer to the question will only be answered on the field at training camp and preseason but one thing is for sure. All of these candidates are more than capable to give the Cardinals the thing that is most coveted in the return game; field position.
If I had to choose this early who would return kickoffs, my guess would be Javier Arenas and Tyrann Mathieu sharing the duties when the regular season begins, based on the flare of Mathieu and the experience of Arenas.