We are less than two weeks away from the start of training camp, and naturally that means we need to start looking and previewing different areas. We start with special teams on a Sunday.
Punter and kicker:
The veteran pair of Jay Feely and Dave Zastudil are on the last year of their contracts. Feely has been very good, and has had bouts of inconsistency. Zasty had a historic year, having a record number of punts downed inside the 20. The team brought in Will Batson, who is working out both at punter and kicker. He is primarily a punter.
You wouldn't think that there will be a change in the Feely/Zasty combo, but Zastudil is 34 years old and is due to make over $1.4 million in 2013. I can see a scenario in which Batson or someone else overtakes him.
The incumbent is Mike Leach. He is due to make $1 million this season, which is a lot for that position. At the same time, he is very good at it. He is almost 37 years old. The team also brought in Alex Gottlieb, who also plays tight end. Whether for versatility or to save salary, it is not a sure thing that Leach is the guy. I expect he will be, but moving on to Gottlieb would not be shocking. At the same time, the fact that Gottlieb can long snap is also something that could help him make the team as a tight end, giving the team a second option in the event that Leach were to get hurt. That sort of thing happened to the Oakland Raiders, and it was ugly.
LaRod Stephens-Howling is out, but William Powell remains. As he is currently fifth on the depth chart at running back, it would seem that he will have to lock up the returner spot to make the roster. Competing with him will be rookie Andre Ellington, Javier Arena and rookie Ryan Swope, if he ever makes it on the field. This competition is wide open.
This is clearly still Patrick Peterson's job, but there is some depth. Rookie Tyrann Mathieu could be just as exciting to watch, and there may be some times when the Cards put both guys back there. Likewise, Javier Arenas has already been a successful punt returner in the league. Andre Roberts also has done it, but I don't expect him to get any reps this season.
Lorenzo Alexander is a Pro Bowl special teamer. He might be a starter on defense, though. Linebacker Reggie Walker was a special teams captain a season ago. He will need to prove his worth there again because at linebacker, it looks like he is on the outside there. With Michael Adams gone, there will be more expected of Justin Bethel and Jamell Fleming to fill that void. They signed Jonathon Amaya, who has piled up some special teams tackles over the years. Rashad Johnson has been a key special teams guy, but as he is expected to start at safety, his ST snaps are likely going to go down.
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