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The Battle of the Longsnappers

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Mike Leach retired, and the Cardinals had to go find someone to replace him.

Daniel Dillon prepares to run
Daniel Dillon prepares to run
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals are currently is a situation they rarely face. In the last twenty years the Cardinals have employed only three long snappers. There was Trey Junkin from 1996-2001. Junkin was a Linebacker turned Tight End turned Long Snapper. He played for six teams in his 19 year career, with his longest stints being in Seattle and with the Cardinals.

Nathan Hodel was signed in 2001 shortly after the Panthers released him from their Practice Squad, and was on the Cardinals Practice Squad for six games, and active for two. Hodel took over the job in 2002, and spent the next six seasons snapping to Ben Graham and Scott Player. Hodel was released in 2009 in favor of Mike Leach.

Leach came out in the 2000 NFL Draft as a Tight End from William and Mary (He also punted there too). Leach joined the Cardinals in 2009 after being released from the Broncos. He went on to be a fan favorite for his hustle down the field and his consistency on the field. He announced his retirement following the Cardinals loss to the Panthers  in the Conference Championship Game.

That lead the Cardinals to ponder the future of that role. Do they use some of the young guys they experimented with in the 2015 Preseason? Or do they go out and find someone new? Well they answered that question when they went out and signed two following the draft, Daniel Dillon (6'3 235) out of Campbell, and Kameron Canaday (6'4 245) out of Portland State.

Jess Root was told that the Long Snapping competition is very close, with it going back and forth between the two prospects, and it's clear to see why. Both are built similarly, and both had nearly identical numbers at their pro days. Dillon is slightly stronger, pushing out 20 reps at 225, compared to Canady's 12. Dillon also is slightly faster, running a 4.98 to Canady's 5.16. Canaday was the #13 Long Snapper coming out of college, whereas Dillon was #22.

But the job won't be won by who's faster, or who has more bench press reps, or even who was ranked higher. It will be one by who has the most consistent snaps.

Dillon is a self proclaimed "Self-Taught Long Snapper" who has been snapping since the seventh grade. His kickers, punters, and Coordinators spoke highly of him, labeling him a leader on and off the field, and the glue to the entire Special Teams unit. During summers he would volunteer as an EMT at the local Fire Department. He has a number of different trick shots uploaded on Youtube, such as this one, where he knocks a bell off a guys head, or this one where he snaps the ball through a car to someone on the other side. He has a talent for long snapping, and after long snapping for nearly 10 years prior to being drafted, you would assume he has become proficient at it. The only question is, does he have what it takes to snap at the NFL level? He clearly fits the mold off the field, as a leader, and a volunteer, but it comes down to what he can do on the field.

Canaday was the #4 long snapper coming out of High School, and was a 2015 Preseason FCS All-American. He long snapped for a two time FCS All-American Punter in Kyle Loomis, and started in all 29 games during his tenure at Portland State. Canaday was a big reason that Portland State was able to upset Pac-12 Washington State in early September last season. Following a three and out, Marcus Kinsella punted the ball to the Washington State 11, where Kyron Priester would fumble the ball, and Canaday would be right there to recover the ball, and set his offense up at the 10 yard line for the game winning touchdown. He showed the reason why he was a First Team All-American, helping his team win their third game against an FBS team, and their first win against a Pac-12 team.

On paper they both show the heart necessary to be an NFL Long Snapper. Both are leaders, both have what it takes to help their team win games. We all know there will only be one winner in this battle. It's my preference that it is Canaday, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to less rookie mistakes and mental errors, and who shows more upside, and ability to be the next Mike Leach for the Arizona Cardinals.