Shortly after taking over the head-coaching duties of the Arizona Cardinals back in February, Jonathan Gannon made a sly move. Jeff Rodgers, the squad's special teams coordinator since 2018, was retained by the squad's new on-field leader. It was an incredibly smart decision by Gannon that is paying off handsomely for the Redbirds.
At the present time, Rodgers is presiding over a special teams group that is one of the NFL's best. There's not much to be impressed about during a 2-8 campaign, but this particular segment of the team has been truly special in 2023.
Of course, the star of Rodgers' contingent is Matt Prater, Arizona's 39-year old placekicker. The 17th-year veteran is enjoying one of the most productive seasons of his illustrious pro career, and has shown no signs of slowing down. Prater has made good on an exceptional 18 out of his 20 field goal attempts, and has banged home five out his six tries from 50 yards or more.
Every facet of the special teams unit has been productive for the Arizona Cardinals in 2023
Back in early October, the Cards replaced punter Nolan Cooney with third-year professional Blake Gillikin. As it turns out, the move enabled the organization to employ the NFC's top-ranked player at the position through 10 weeks. The 6 foot 2, 196 pound Gillikin is averaging a whopping 50.6 yards per punt, and has registered a net average of 40.8 yards per boot.
Arizona's kick-return job belongs to Greg Dortch, the team's fourth-year wide receiver. The 5 foot 7,175 pounder is averaging 10.7 yards per punt return, a number that currently has Dortch ranked fourth in the NFC.
Linebacker Ezekiel Turner remains one of the league's best gunners, racking up seven special teams tackles this fall. Wideout Zach Pascal, an offseason pickup from the Philadelphia Eagles, has chipped in five stops as a Cardinals wedge buster. Joey Blount, a safety who just arrived in the desert back on September 18th, has tallied four tackles for Rodgers' crew.
Gannon showed Rodgers a great deal of respect when he allowed the 44-year old to keep his assistant head coach responsibilities as well. That's a title that basically appoints Rodgers as the second-in-command of the Cards coaching staff. Based on what the well-respected assistant's special-teamers have accomplished thus far in '23, it's an honor that's well deserved.
(Statistics provided by Pro Football Reference and TeamRankings.com)