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Cardinals Retain STC Rodgers, Add OLC Adams and PGC Terrell

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Mr. Rodgers Still in the Neighborhood

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Arizona Cardinals Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Rodgers is smiling like a Cheshire cat these days. It appears that no matter the changes to the coaching staff, he has nine lives with the Cardinals as their special teams coordinator.

With former TE turned OL coach Steve Heiden moving on to the Lions, Jeff Rodgers is now the longest tenured coach on the staff. Rodgers, Budda Baker, Markus Golden and Dennis Gardeck are the only remaining coaches and players under contract for this season who were on the infamous 2018 team under Steve Wilks. Although, that short list could also include Andy Lee, Aaron Brewer and Zeke Turner, three of Jeff Rodgers’ special teams stalwarts, if MOJO sign them up for another year.

I believe that over the past five seasons Jeff Rodgers was arguably the most consistently effective coach on the staff.

The proof of Jeff Rodgers’ coaching proficiency is in the team’s PFF rankings for special teams:

  • 2022 —- 89.7 —- 10th
  • 2021 —- 85.8 —- 13th
  • 2020 —- 90.1 —- 7th
  • 2019 —- 63.7 —- 23rd
  • 2018 —- 73.3 —- 11th

The one area of the Cardinals’ special teams that has been the most inconsistent is in kickoff and punt returns. Pharoh Cooper added a boost on returns down the stretch last year, advancing 9 punts for 117 yards (13.0 ave.). Perhaps the Cardinals will try to re-sign Cooper to pick up where he left off. Greg Dortch is an option as is Rondale Moore, but in light of his injury history, it might be wise to have Rondale stick strictly to WR.

The biggest question for 2023 is whether Jeff Rodgers elects to move on to younger players at punter, kicker and long snapper. Andy Lee is coming off another strong season (47.1 ave. —- although the 40.3 net is not ideal), thus it doesn’t seem like Father Time has caught up to him at age 40.

Matt Prater also had a strong season (22/25 FGs, 17/18 XPTs, but nagging injuries at age 38 and a high price tag may be concerns. One would imagine that assistant GM Dave Sears, formerly of the Lions, would pound the table for Prater. But, in light of what appears to be a limited kitty of free cap space, being able to afford Prater at his last average salary of $3.5M might not be possible.

Aaron Brewer has been Mr. Reliable as the team’s long snapper. But, he finished the season in the IR. There have been rumors that he might elect to retire, although at 32, he’s the youngster of the trio.

I have always wondered whether it was Steve Keim who was preventing the re-signing of Matt McCrane. Typical Cardinals to ignore perfection, as Matt McCrane did not miss a single FG or XPT for the Cardinals in his pre-season and regular season games (10/10, with two 50+ yard FGs).

Keim’s decision to go with Matt Amendola (2/2 FG and 2/3 XPTs) contributed to two agonizing defeats during the first half of the season, due to a costly missed extra point versus the Seahawks and a the late game missed FG vs.the Eagles. Rodrigo Blankenship (2/2 FGs, 2/3 XPTs) and Tristan Viscaino (2/2 FGs, 3/3 XPTs) were more reliable during their short stints and perhaps could be in consideration for the job this season. That is, if the Cardinals continue to overlook Matt McCrane.

Klayton Adams Jumps the Stanford Cardinal Ship to Land with the Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals’ signing of former Colts’ assistant OL coach turned TE coach as their new OL coach seemed to come out of left field. Many pundits and fans were hoping to see Mike Munchak fill this role, particularly seeing as Munchak and Jonathan Gannon worked on the same staff in Tennessee.

Yet, as Cardinals fans know, Mike Munchak, then with the Steelers, refused the Cardinals’ request for a second interview for head coach back in 2018.

Jumping ship has been a consistent theme for Klayton Adams throughout his young career. After Frank Reich was fired in Indy, Adams, who once a couple of years ago was on ASU’s staff for two weeks, jumped on an offer to be Stanford’s OL coach and running game coordinator —- and now he’s leaving Stanford to return to the NFL as the Cardinals’ new OL coach.

Jumping around to find one’s niche as a coach is why Kliff Kingsbury said on HBO’s Hard Knocks that some of the rooms in his house are spartanly adorned because, in the coaching business, one typically is loath to unpack all of their boxes in light of how quickly jobs can change.

Therefore, putting Klayton Adams’ sinuous coaching journey aside, when one peels back the layers of his work, one can see what an intriguing choice he is for MOJO and company.

In Indy, when he was the assistant OL coach and helping the Colts gallop for big yards each week on the ground, during the weekly film studies, he was instrumental at finding the opponent’s defensive flaws and run defense tendencies.

The fact too, that Adams has experience being a TEs coach, just like his new OC Drew Petzing, makes his hire even more fascinating. Monti Ossenfort grew his teeth in New England and, when one thinks about it, which NFL team seems to value the TE position more that Bill Belichick’s Patriots?

With Zach Ertz (perhaps an early to mid-season return from ACL rehab), Trey McBride, Berhard Seikovitz, Noah Togial (recently signed former PS player from PHI), Chris Pierce and hopefully a re-signed Maxx Williams (Nick Rallis’ teammate at Minnesota) —- the reading of the dots suggests that the Cardinals’ offense will be much more centered around their TEs, both in the running and passing games.

Heck, the next thing we know, MOJO will be signing a fullback or two!

As Jonathan Gannon said in his press conference, two of the qualities he values the most are versatility and adaptability. One can therefore see why Drew Petzing as OC with Klayton Adams as OLC appear to be a very good, well-conceived match.

A Warm and Happy Homecoming for Passing Game Coordinator Drew Terrell

The Cardinals interviewed Mesa native and former Washington Commanders’ WR coach, Drew Terrell for their head coaching position. Obviously, the Cardinals were very impressed. With Eric Bienemy landing the OC job in DC, perhaps that gave Drew Terrell an auspicious chance to return home as the Cardinals’ passing game coordinator.

During the three seasons that 31 year old Drew Terrell coached the WRs in DC, look at the yearly “receiving “ grade improvements, per PFF, the Commanders have made under his watch:

  • 2020 —- 66.6 —- 30th
  • 2021 —- 70.7 —- 24th
  • 2022 —- 75.1 —- 15th

These yearly incremental improvements are even more impressive when one considers the instability the Commanders have had at the QB position.

Take a look at how Terrell’s WRs graded this season in relation to the Cardinals’:

  • WR1 —- Terry McLaurin (79.9) —- DeAndre Hopkins (75.8)
  • WR2 —- Johan Dotson (70.5) —- Marquise Brown (69.2)
  • WR3 —- Curtis Samuel (70.5) —- Greg Dortch (64.2)
  • WR4 —- Dynami Brown (65.8) —- Rondale Moore (63.4)

Imagine, then what Drew Terrell can do to improve the Cardinals’ wide receivers and the passing game. As passing game coordinator, Terrell will also be working closely with the running backs and tight ends.

Moreover, seeing as Drew Terrell was an All-American caliber punt returner at Stanford, it would be wise to have him help coach up the team’s return men.

The three most recent hires by MOJO are:

  • OC —- Drew Petzing (TE/QB coach in CLE)
  • RGC/OL —- Klayton Adams (RGC/OL at Stanford, asst. OL/TE coach at IND)
  • PGC/WR —- Drew Terrell (WR coach in WAS)

Interesting that Klayton Adams comes to the Cardinals via Stanford, as does Drew Terrell, who was their star WR and punt returner in 2012 when the Cardinal went 12-2 and won the Rose Bowl 20-14 over Wisconsin.

Now that all three of the key offensive coaches are on board, Drew Petzing, Klayton Adams and Drew Terrell can start drawing up the 2023 Cardinals playbook.

I think the new Cardinals’ playbook is bound to be colorful —- like Cardinals themselves.

Now the focus may shift to hiring the new defensive line and secondary coaches.

How are you reacting to the hires?