Arizona Cardinals may have unearthed a gem in Blake Gillikin

The Arizona Cardinals made a change at punter, cutting Nolan Cooney and signing the unheralded Blake Gillikin to try and bolster the special teams unit.
New Orleans Saints v Pittsburgh Steelers
New Orleans Saints v Pittsburgh Steelers / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages

I thought Nolan Cooney was the answer for the Arizona Cardinals at punter after they decided to get younger at the position. Cooney was so good in the preseason, the Redbirds cut Matt Haack after two games and put their trust into the unproven but intriguing Syracuse product. 

But after four weeks, Cooney played some uninspiring football, landing just 15.4% of his punts inside the 20-yard line. Cooney also shanked one badly in the Cardinals Week 4 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, and that punt likely sealed his fate. 

On Tuesday, it became official, as the Cardinals cut Cooney and signed Blake Gillikin, who spent the 2021 and 2022 seasons with the New Orleans Saints. Gillikin’s numbers were decent, but the 25-year-old found himself out of a job when the Saints went in a different direction. 

Arizona Cardinals may have a gem in Gillikin

Last season, Gillikin landed 41.6% of his punts inside the 20, which ranked 11th in the league. The number of punts he landed deep in his opponent’s territory, 32, ranked fourth. However, 9.1% of his punts also landed in the end zone, which put him near the Top 10 in a statistic he would not want to be near the Top 10 for. 

Meanwhile, Cooney’s two punts and the 15.4% of all kicks inside the 20 rank him in the metric’s Bottom 5. His 45.5 yards per punt also put him in the Bottom 10, and this number is particularly disappointing considering the leg strength Cooney showed off during the preseason. 

It appeared the Arizona Cardinals had a star in the making at the position, but inconsistencies crushed Cooney’s game, and he will now be forced to continue his career elsewhere. Gillikin had a successful stint with the Saints, and there is a strong chance he will bring stability to the special teams unit.


Source: Cardinals release P Nolan Cooney, sign 2 to active roster by Tyler Drake, Arizona Sports

(Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference)