Special teams can be broken into 4 main areas: Kicking, Coverage, Return, and Blocking. Special teams or, as Ron Wolfley would put it, "transition specialists" are an often overlooked but crucial part of the team. Fortunately for the Cardinals, special teams will be a strength for this season. The special teams units have multiple Pro Bowl special teamers and a few more that could be worthy of a nod this season. I will actually be disappointed if they score less than 2 touchdowns this season.
I feel the same about both the punting and kicking aspects of the team. Neither Jay Feely nor Dave Zastudil will blow anybody away, but they are solid veterans. There really is no reason to be concerned with the performance of either of the players. Feely is going to be about 28/31 in field goal attempts. Zastudil won’t be at the top of the punt yardage list, but he can change field position when needed and pin the occasional opponent deep.
This part of the game is often overlooked, mostly because teams are generally pretty good at this in general. The only plays that most fans remember are the long returns by the opposition. The Cardinals are lucky to have multiple Pro Bowl caliber players on these teams. Lorenzo Alexander has already made a Pro Bowl as a special teamer and Justin Bethel may well receive those honors this season. These players will help emphasize what the coaching staff has repeated all offseason: field position is key.
Patrick Peterson. Tyrann Mathieu. Javier Arenas.
Those are the names the opposing special teams coach will be highlighting when preparing to face the Cardinals. Each of these players has big play ability. No amount of superlatives can describe Peterson’s ability with the ball; he is electrifying. I expect him to return to the end zone this year as a returner after being shut out last season. Mathieu may not have many opportunities to return, but in the preseason he has shown flashes of those highlights we’ve seen of him at LSU. Javier Arenas does not have quite the home run ability of the other 2 players, but he should not be overlooked as a kick returner. In his 3 years in Kansas City, he had a good kick return average of more
than 20 yards per return. This group should be able to get to the end zone at least 2 times this season and will strike fear in the opponents’ hearts.
Over the last 3 seasons, the Cardinals are the best team in the league when it comes to blocking field goals. They have the best blocked field goal percentage, which is due in a large part to Calais Campbell. He has been a beast when it comes to penetrating the line and interfering with the kick. I see no reason why the team would not continue to be among the best in the league at blocking field goals.
Team Grade: A
Overall I am expecting big things from these transitions specialists this season. This is one great way that the Cardinals can gain an exercise an advantage over their opponents. This unit will not make great plays every week, but they will make the plays that you may not notice to help the team win. Be on the watch for part three of my season preview as I look at the offense.