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No "Backseat" For Special Teams And Jeff Rodgers

Posted Jan 30, 2018

New coordinator has long background coaching transition game

Cardinals special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers speaks to the media Tuesday.

Evaluations of players are still to come, but given the stumbles of the Cardinals’ special teams the past couple of seasons, it was noteworthy that aspect of the game has the full attention of new head coach Steve Wilks.

“Special teams is just as important as offense and defense,” Wilks said during the press conference to introduce special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers. “(Someone) asked the question about the history of special teams around here – it’s not going to take a backseat to what we are trying to do. It will be a major part of our success.”

Rodgers, 40, spent the past three seasons as special teams coordinator for the Chicago Bears, and also coached the transition game for Denver, Carolina and San Francisco. His early days with the 49ers brought him together with a young punter named Andy Lee – now the Cardinals punter – but Rodgers declined to talk much about individuals because he has yet to study the video.

He also wasn’t going to get into the struggles the unit has had, only that each team has its own philosophy about special teams and with Wilks’ proclamation, it’s clear where the Cardinals will stand.

“There have been teams that win championships in this league largely ignoring fourth down, because they are so dominant on offense and defense,” Rodgers said. “There are also teams that have led the league on offense and defense that don’t make the playoffs because they have been deficient on fourth down.”

The son of a college coach who played high school football with Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Rodgers has some good pieces with which to work. He noted that he had seen Pro Bowl special teamer Budda Baker’s work on some “cross tape” when preparing for games this season. Lee and kicker Phil Dawson also finished strong after slower starts – most notably Dawson, whose eight field-goal misses tied the most he had in a season during his 19 NFL seasons. Dawson, however, converted 22 of his last 24 field goals, and one of those was a block.

Asked about T.J. Logan – who had been on track to return both punts and kickoffs as a rookie before suffering a season-ending wrist injury in the first preseason game – Wilks said everyone on the roster will be evaluated.

As for the annual question of Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson getting chances to return punts, Wilks would not rule it out.

“Special teams is going to be important and I want every player on this team to understand that,” Wilks said. “Do I want him in that situation each and every time? No. We had the same with (all-pro linebacker) Luke Kuechly (in Carolina). He was involved in special teams but he wasn’t a major part of that. We have to be very selective and most importantly smart about our decisions”

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