Arizona Cardinals special teams have improved dramatically
The acquisition of veteran assistant Jeff Rodgers has made the Arizona Cardinals special teams a force to be reckoned with
Just one year ago, the Arizona Cardinals were employing one of the NFL’s worst coaching staffs. Most of the assistants who had followed former head coach Steve Wilks to the desert were ill-equipped to do their jobs. There was one individual, however, who stood out amid all of that incompetency.
Last offseason’s hiring of special teams guru Jeff Rodgers will go down as one of Arizona’s most savvy acquisitions of the last few years. The coordinator has transformed a group that was once an embarrassment into one of the league’s best. Rodgers has been a vast improvement over Amos Jones, his ineffective predecessor who was a favorite of the now-departed Bruce Arians.
After parting ways with Wilks and most of his assistant coaches following the disastrous 2018 campaign, the Cards realized that there was one that they wanted to retain. Two days after being named the club’s new on-field leader, Kliff Kingsbury announced that Rodgers would be remaining on board. The Cardinals special teams had gotten significantly better last season, so Kingsbury wanted to keep that momentum going in 2019.
Keeping Rodgers around was anything but a slam-dunk for Arizona. ESPN’s Jeff Darlington was reporting that several teams were interested in the veteran coach. Fortunately for the franchise, Rodgers decided that staying put with the Cards was his best option.
Arizona ended up sweetening the deal for Rodgers as well. Back in May, Kingsbury revealed that his special teams coordinator would also be given another title. Rodgers was named the Cardinals assistant head coach, an honor which makes him second-in-command and allows him to address the team without getting permission.
The performance of the special teams during last weekend’s 27-27 tie with the Detroit Lions was outstanding. Placekicker Zane Gonzalez was perfect in the Cards season-opener, hitting on all four of his field-goal attempts and one extra point. Three-time Pro Bowler Andy Lee posted an extremely solid net average of 45.3 yards on eight punts.
Zeke Turner and Charles Washington both recorded two special teams tackles against the Lions. Dennis Gardeck‘s partially blocked punt in the fourth quarter led to a crucial Arizona touchdown. Trent Sherfield, who also registered two special teams stops, could very well be on his way to becoming one of the best gunners in the National Football League.
The Cardinals hiring of Rodgers was a brilliant one. The transformation of the special teams since he took the reigns has been remarkable. If the front office was smart, they’d make an offer to Rodgers that would keep him with the organization for years to come.