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Special Emphasis From Amos Jones

Posted Feb 8, 2013

New special teams coordinator intrigued by talent on roster

Special teams coordinator Amos Jones (right) and head coach Bruce Arians share a laugh at Jones' press conference Friday.

Amos Jones knew what he had in Patrick Peterson two years before he got the chance to coach the Cardinals’ multi-dimensional playmaker.

Then an assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jones attended Louisiana State’s pro day in 2011 and watched Peterson, then a junior in college, snag balls along the sidelines with the grace of a receiver.

“I’m glad (the Cardinals) drafted him,” Jones said with a laugh. “Shoot, he’s an offensive guy on defense as far as we’re concerned. I’m just glad coach told me I could use him. Wouldn’t y’all?”

But that doesn’t make Peterson, a two-time Pro Bowler, exempt from Jones’ unit-wide review. Despite the Cardinals having among the best special teams in the league the last few seasons, Jones, in his southern drawl, made it clear no one can rest on their laurels.

Jones, who was introduced as the Cardinals’ special teams coordinator Friday, will inherit a unit with a growing reputation for “splash” plays. Last season, the Cardinals blocked three kicks, including one that led to an 82-yard touchdown return by Justin Bethel.

With Calais Campbell pushing up front, Bethel coming off the edge and Peterson back to return, the foundation is already there for Jones to build on.

“Well, the biggest thing guys like that afford you is you don’t have to scheme,” he said. “You don’t have to go in the drawing board every week and say, ‘Hey, here’s the scheme of the week.’

“It’s, ‘Line up and get off the ball.’ ”

It’s not just the blocked kicks or return game that has Jones excited. He’s inheriting a kicking unit that was the backbone of last year’s team. Punter Dave Zastudil set an NFL record for punts inside the 20-yard-line, a feat Jones wants to better by aiming for most punts inside the 10. Kicker Jay Feely surpassed 100 points for the eighth time in his career. And both men relied on long snapper Mike Leach to get them the ball.

But just because they’ve had success in the past doesn’t mean the Cardinals are free to roam as they please under Jones.

The former high school history teacher will set parameters in place for everyone, including Peterson, but he’ll also have his own limits.

“You can’t second-guess them,” Jones said of his players. “If you do, you take the aggressiveness away from them and we want aggressiveness as long as he’s got good catch procedures, which (Peterson’s) shown. We’ll live with some things but he’ll have parameters on what he’s got to do.”

A University of Alabama product, Jones spent most of his coaching career in the college ranks before joining Bruce Arians and the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2007 as a special teams assistant. He was promoted in the middle of last year’s preseason to special teams coach.

This will be the first time in Jones’ career he will be calling all the shots with his players in his system. Among all the changes Jones is going through right now, the biggest is working with a crop of younger players – with the exception of Feely, Zastudil and Leach. Jones will dig through his own history book for a lesson from Arians to help get him through the adjustments.

“They’re our guys so we’re going to make them be our guys,’ Jones said. “We’re going to coach them up, love them up and expect big plays out of them.”

On Friday, Arians gave Jones a history lesson. When Arians coached Temple University in the early 1980s, he became one of the first college head coaches to implement a specific coach just for special teams – Jones. Now Jones will have five or six other coaches under him who are designated to work on various areas of the unit, and Arians plans on starting each practice with special teams.

“We need more sets of eyes and hands,” Arians said. “The smaller the class, the better the learning.

“(Amos) is a great teacher. He knows how to get it taught, how to get it done. It’s one thing to have knowledge and it’s another thing to be able to teach it. And he can flat teach it.”

 

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