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Cardinals Earn A Top-10 Ranking In Special Teams Play

Unit has several key performers scheduled to be restricted free agents

For all the debate over what the Cardinals should/could do on offense and/or defense in 2021, the special teams unit -- under assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers -- remains pretty special. A group that struggled for a few years has been solid since Rodgers arrived, and long-time NFL writer Rick Gosselin, who has for years ranked each team's special-teams unit through a system he devised, pegged the Cardinals at No. 10 in 2020.

The Patriots were ranked No. 1.

In Gosselin's rankings, the Cardinals were fifth-best in kickoff coverage, fifth in fewest penalties (only seven, for 31 yards), tied for first with three takeaways and first in opponent's starting point (the 23.3-yard line.)

It wasn't perfect. The Cards still are looking for some consistent production at punt returner, where Christian Kirk averaged only six yards a return, and of course to figure out what to do with free-agent-to-be Zane Gonzalez, who had a great 2019 but obviously had his struggles with some important field-goal tries in 2020.

The Cardinals have developed some good special teams players over the past few years. Charles Washington was picked up on waivers, and Ezekiel Turner, Dennis Gardeck and Trent Sherfield are all home-grown from the undrafted rookie class of 2018. Turner and Gardeck even each earned an All-Pro vote for special teams in 2020.

Turner, Gardeck and Sherfield are all restricted free agents-to-be, but I would think all three are on track to be re-signed.

Trent Sherfield (16) and Ezekiel Turner (47) chase a fumbled punt against the Rams during the 2020 season.
Trent Sherfield (16) and Ezekiel Turner (47) chase a fumbled punt against the Rams during the 2020 season.