This week the ROTB offseason award will be for players that often go unnoticed to the casual fan - the Cardinals special teams. Special teams is one of the most crucial aspects to a game and can often help decide the outcome. It can range from kickoffs, to punts, to field goals, and solidifying all three phases of the unit is hard to do. The Cardinals had the pleasure if showcasing one of the best special teams units in the league in 2009, and that leads to our list of nominees:
LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB: LaRod Stephens-Howling wouldn't be a member of the Arizona Cardinals if it weren't for special teams. The most notable preseason game that Stephens-Howling shined in was at home against the San Diego Chargers. LSH returned two big kickoffs and that alone sealed his roster spot with the team. For the larger part of the season he provided the Cardinals with solid kickoff returns, but against the Tennessee Titans, he showed his worth by returning a kickoff for a 99-yard touchdown at a critical point in the game. Howling was also one of the leading special teams tacklers and had a knack for downing Ben Graham's punts inside the 20-yard line.
Neil Rackers, K: During the regular season Neil Rackers became one of the most versatile kickers in the league. He made 16 of his 17 field goals and didn't miss one for a stretch of eight games. However, Rackers made his money on kickoffs. He's got a heavy leg and can boot most kickoffs into the endzone, but he also has an amazing pooch kick, which was performed perfectly week six at Seattle when the Cardinals recovered a kickoff. He's never feared diving into a pile, which can certainly be one reason why the Cardinals didn't allow a kickoff for a touchdown all year.
Ben Graham, P: 42 punts downed inside the opponents 20-yard line - that's a feat that punter Ben Graham achieved in 2009. Not only did he consistently land them in the 20(he didn't have a touchback all season since week five), but he was also third in the league with a 47.0 punting average. Graham was signed in 2008 as a midseason replacement for the horrendous punting the Cardinals had before him, but his addition proved to be a steal as Graham was one of the best punters in 2009.
Sean Morey, WR: Most of Morey's accomplishments this past season went unnoticed. Morey provided his typical outstanding special teams coverage, and was often the first defender to make contact. He was a runner up in Pro Bowl voting and could've easily made it two years in a row. Morey registered 17 special teams tackles in just 13 games, and even at the age of 33, he still provided fearlessness on coverage that made the Cardinals units one of the best in the league.
Special teams usually doesn't get the consideration it deserves, so now's your time to vote. Who did you pick and why?