Sean Morey pulls off the lone blocked kick the Cardinals posted in 2007, but special teams coach Kevin Spencer has some plans to up the production in 2008.
Eventually, the Cardinals believe Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Calais Campbell will emerge from their status as the team's top two 2008 draft picks into two of the team's top defensive players.
But in the immediate future, the two could become game-changers in a much more specialized part of the game.
With Rodgers-Cromartie using his athleticism to block eight kicks during his college career and Campbell able to use his 6-foot-8 frame to cause a ruckus on field goals and extra points, special teams coach Kevin Spencer has two potential weapons.
"It's something I enjoy doing," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "Whenever the game was on the line, I always asked my coach, 'Let me go get 'em.' Sometimes he would. Sometimes he wouldn't."
The thought has certainly crossed Spencer's mind. The Cardinals blocked one kick last season, when Sean Morey got his hand on a Seattle punt in the second game of the year. The team would like to increase that number, and Spencer acknowledged "you always try and take advantage of that stuff and maybe I didn't do it as much as I should have last year."
Spencer has multiple options, beyond just the influx of Rodgers-Cromartie and Campbell. While in Pittsburgh with the Steelers, Spencer at times used star linebackers Jason Gildon and Joey Porter to rush kickers. It's not something a coach would want to employ often, but in spots, using the most athletically gifted players could be a boon to special teams.
So Spencer will look at rushing new linebackers Travis LaBoy and Clark Haggans. Chike Okeafor is a candidate, as is Antrel Rolle. Adrian Wilson could end up as a secret weapon. On the field-goal rush, Spencer said he likely underutilized Alan Branch in 2007 and 6-8 tight end Leonard Pope is another possibility on the field-goal/PAT block team going into 2008.
"You have to try and be creative with those guys," Spencer said.
Spencer's philosophy is that it is difficult, for instance, for a smaller safety or running back to block someone like Okeafor, who not only is quick and athletic but is also used to beating a huge offensive tackle most plays – in theory making it easier to beat a smaller man's block.
"Blocking kicks in the NFL is one of the hardest things to do," Morey said. "The (kicking units) are so good. You have to beat a guy just to have a chance … and then you have to have the right technique. And then you have to have a little luck."
For a rookie like Campbell, who just wants to find a way on to the field, the idea of kick blocking is intriguing. At Miami, Campbell said he just missing blocking a field goal in a rivalry game against Florida State – "I felt the wind of the ball as it went past my hand," he said – and understands the momentum change a blocked kick could bring.
"Being a defensive end and a pass rusher, you are used to rushing in and getting your hands up," Campbell said. "You try and mess with the quarterback's vision and (with a kicker) it's almost the same thing."
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 7/8/08.