Arizona Cardinals special teams unit was outstanding in 2019
Assistant head coach Jeff Rodgers has gotten outstanding production out of the special teams contingent of the Arizona Cardinals
Following the 2017 campaign, the Arizona Cardinals parted ways with one of the most unpopular assistant coaches in franchise history. To put it bluntly, Amos Jones was an utter disaster during his time as the squad’s special teams coordinator. Thanks to his replacement, that area of the Cards is no longer a problem.
Jeff Rodgers, a holdover from former coach Steve Wilks’ coaching staff, has done an excellent job of fixing a unit that was so glaringly broken when Jones was in charge. The decision to retain the special teams guru was one of Arizona’s best moves of the 2019 offseason. In fact, the newly-appointed Kliff Kingsbury showed his respect for Rodgers even more by giving him the title of assistant head coach.
One player who clearly benefited from Rodgers’ presence was placekicker Zane Gonzalez. The second-year Cardinal performed at a Pro Bowl level last fall, after being signed by the organization back in November of ’18. Gonzalez made good on 31 of 35 field goal attempts, and also managed to convert 34 out of his 35 PAT tries this past season.
Under Rodgers’ guidance, veteran Andy Lee continued his run as one the NFL’s best punters. The 37-year old finished second in the league last season when he averaged an outstanding 47.8 yards per boot. Lee had been voted to three Pro Bowls during his illustrious career, and just missed a fourth appearance in the all-star game for his efforts in ’19.
The Cards also fielded some of the best wedge-busters last year, thanks to Rodgers’ expertise. Dennis Gardeck led the team with nine special teams tackles, while Trent Sherfield was credited with eight. Joe Walker, Zeke Turner, Chris Banjo and Charles Washington were effective as well, chipping in seven stops apiece.
Pharoh Cooper averaged a solid 22.4 yards on kickoff returns last fall, and also served as Arizona’s primary punt-returner. Long-snapper Aaron Brewer‘s name wasn’t mentioned once during the ’19 campaign, which is a clear indication of how well he performed that underappreciated duty for the club.
The hiring of Rodgers was one of the few things that the Cardinals did right during the Wilks regime. Poor special teams play directly contributed to quite a few of the team’s losses when the beleagured Jones was running the show. With Rodgers now in command, those type of defeats are no longer a concern for the Cards.