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An Emphasis On Special Teams Standouts

Posted Aug 6, 2013

Notebook: Taylor has worked way into fourth WR spot; Tackle competition ongoing

Pro Bowl special teamer Lorenzo Alexander looks to mesh with the Cardinals' holdover special teams cogs.

Bruce Arians didn’t think twice about the number.

“Four guys,” said the Cardinals’ coach, “will make the team strictly on special teams.

“They may not be the fifth safety but they will take the fourth safety’s job because they are that good. They may be the fifth linebacker and take the fourth linebacker’s job. Those 25 or 30 plays on special teams those guys will play, that backup isn’t playing. You’ve got to bite the bullet and make sure your special teams are solid.”

The Cardinals have some core special teamers that should feel better about that assessment. It’s possible, maybe even probable, that tight end Jim Dray or inside linebacker Reggie Walker or outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander were all going to be on the roster anyway. But their abilities on special teams might completely erase those doubts.

Young cornerback Justin Bethel is still learning his position but he is so good in coverage “he’s going to be here,” Arians said. Jonathon Amaya has a leg up as a backup safety because of his abilities on special teams.

“It’s like a help-wanted sign,” Dray said. “No matter what camp we’re in, the coach always says that, but he doesn’t say it just to say it. It’s true. You need core special-teams guys.”

The Cardinals do need to play in a preseason game or two to truly sort out who qualifies. Special teams gets relatively little work in training camp, especially coverage teams, partly because it’s difficult to get better in that area.

“You can go through the schemes and the techniques in practice, but you can’t replicate what will happen in the game on the practice field,” Dray said.

Newcomers like Amaya and Alexander, though, will need time to mesh with holdovers like Walker, Dray and Bethel.

“There’s definitely a chemistry that needs to be there,” Alexander said. “Obviously when you play with guys and know how they will read plays and come off of different blocks, you can make more plays. It’ll be interesting when you get together because guys like Rashad and Reggie and Jim all have great special teams abilities. Bethel as well. Once you get next to them a couple snaps and watch it on film, it’ll allow me to play better.”

INJURY BUG, ESPECIALLY IN SPOTS

First the Cardinals were dealing with a rash of tight end injuries. Now some of those guys are healing up, only to have the Cards losing defensive linemen at a rapid rate with their first preseason game just a few days away.

The Cards signed rookie defensive tackle Jonathan Mathis Tuesday because Ricky Lumpkin and Dan Williams are both hurt. Everrette Thompson was also hurt, but he was waived-injured to make room for Mathis.

Sometimes, a certain position gets hit with injuries. Arians said all you can do is deal with it the best you can.

“You don’t know how many times I was coaching Matt Spaeth (in Pittsburgh) to play left tackle and he was our third tight end, because in the second quarter we were down to five lineman,” Arians said. “It’s a scary thought, but usually someone pushes through the ballgame.”

TAYLOR’S RUN AT RECEIVER

Arians had mentioned a lot of receivers who have stood out over the offseason and the beginning of camp. One name that hadn’t come up was Arizona State product Kerry Taylor, who was with the Cards’ practice squad last season.

Then the depth chart came out and Taylor – who has read all the stories about the other wideouts -- was listed as Larry Fitzgerald’s backup, the fourth receiver on a team looking for one. The fact he hasn’t gotten a lot of publicity “isn’t a huge deal to me.”

“I try to go out and do what I do, but yeah, it’s funny. I read stuff and see everyone else’s name and I’m thinking, ‘I’m from here. Y’all should at least know my name a little bit,’ ” Taylor said with a smile. “But I guess when the final roster is made and hopefully my name is on it, people will realize a little bit.”

Arians said Taylor is smart and versatile, and Taylor knows that plays in his favor.

“I feel like I have been pretty consistent with everything and I’m one of the guys who can play every position,” he said. “I can do things that I know coaches can count on me. You try and do all the little things right.”

LEVI AND THE BATTLE AT TACKLE

Arians said left tackle Levi Brown has had “a real good week” and that he is anxious to see Brown in live action against the pass rushers of Green Bay Friday night. Arians added he is enjoying the competition he is getting at both tackle spots.

Brown is trying to fend off Nate Potter. Eric Winston is the No. 1 on the right side, with Bobby Massie behind him.

“We could flip those guys daily if we wanted to,” Arians said. “It’s that close. What will separate them are the live bullets.”


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