For the Arizona Cardinals, the offense has a lot of question marks, but really in two areas -- quarterback play and offensive line -- are the culprits. The defense is expected to be solid and perhaps very good to elite (that is the hope). However, one area that does not get mentioned as much happens to be a group of players that you might argue could become the best collective unit in the league -- the Cardinals special teams.
Most will equate that with kicking and punting, but across the board, Arizona has a unit that can be impactful in every way.
The team has a great kick returner in LaRod Stephens-Howling. Yes, the kickoff return team is not as valued because touchbacks are the norm, but he is one of the very good returners.
We all know about Patrick Peterson and punt returns. He is arguably the best in the game now.
In Jay Feely, the team has a very consistent kicker, based on his career. He does not have the biggest leg, but can hit from 50+ yards and, while he doesn't do much in the way of touchbacks, I believe that is more by design than leg strength. He is able to do all sorts of kickoffs.
For the punting game, Dave Zastudil is not elite by any means, but he is more than adequate. Plus, at least during the preseason, he has shown greater leg strength to flip field position if necessary.
One thing the Cardinals happen to be quite good at is field goal defense, if there is such a thing. They block kicks with regularity. This causes kickers to think about it and they tend to miss unblocked kicks more than against other teams. Now the team has three real threats to get their hand on a field goal attempt -- Calais Campbell, Patrick Peterson and now Justin Bethel. Bethel also can get to the punter as well.
The team also has standout special teams players. O'Brien Schofield had 12 special teams tackles in 2011, among the most in the league. Anthony Sherman seems to be in the middle of every play on special teams. Michale Adams (if he makes the team) and LSH are great gunners for punts. Reggie Walker is recognized as one of the best special teams players in the league. DeMarco Sampson, Jim Dray and Rashad Johnson play big parts.
There are better punting teams and better kickers. But if you look at special teams from top to bottom, you might be hard pressed to find a more complete unit that can affect a game in so many ways, whether it be a big return, a made kick, a blocked kick, or kick coverage.
How special do you think this year's special teams unit will be?
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