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Quietly, Leach a backbone on special teams

Posted by Darren Urban on December 18, 2014 – 10:56 am

The ball came down basically directly above Mike Leach’s head, and much like Smokey Brown did against the Eagles, Leach played it perfectly. Of course, Brown caught the long pass, while all Leach — the Cardinals’ long snapper — had to do was smother the Drew Butler punt, which he did perfectly. The Cards won the game of field position in St. Louis, and the punt team was a big reason.

As for Leach, the 38-year-old veteran who never makes a snapping mistakes and who still covers punts like he’s 28, it was a fantastic play. It was one of the reasons the Cards have him around. Sure, he costs a little more than a young long snapper might, but you cannot put a price on near perfection at that spot. Leach will be there for you. He will do his job and do it well. And you can forget about it and worry about other stuff, like who will play quarterback or who contain Russell Wilson.

“I want to go out and not be noticed, to be honest with you,” Leach said. “It’s the nature of our position. Do your job and keep your head down and hope nobody sees you and Cat (Chandler Catanzaro) keeps making his kicks and winning his awards and Drew keeps doing great and Justin (Bethel) keeps making all the plays and those guys can get the attention. Then I can just kind of slide back into the bricks and not be noticed, that’s fine. If something happens, and if your teammates kind of give you a pat on the back, that’s good too.”

Leach, who has played in 198 consecutive games, is able to serve as an experienced mentor for the Cards’ two young kickers — a change from last season, when kicker Jay Feely and punter Dave Zastudil gave the Cards a much more experienced special-teams trio. Leach’s years playing tight end or wide receiver (he came into the league as a tight end) has given him the background to track the ball in the air like he did on that punt in St. Louis.

(Leach does a lot in the community too, although he’s usually shying away from the attention doing those things as well.)

It’s those little things Leach stays on top of, like at the end of the punt. Leach did the great job batting it down, but the ball was still loose near the goal line when reinforcements arrived. Wide receiver Jaron Brown was the one to jump on the ball to officially kill it — and while Brown was still a couple of yards from the end zone, Leach made sure to push his prone teammate in the back, away from the goal line. Those are the things that can possibly ruin a play. This, Leach knows.

“I’ve been around a little while,” Leach said.

It’s served the Cardinals well, too.

Leach1forblog

 


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19 Responses to “Quietly, Leach a backbone on special teams”

  1. By Scott H on Dec 18, 2014 | Reply

    Seems like the just the kind of player who embodies what the 2014 Cardinals are and have been about all season. We don’t have a lot of Pro Bowlers, we don’t have a lot of guys leading the league in…anything. Yet, as a TEAM? They lead the league in WINS!!! Give me a team like this with a coach like ours ANY DAY.

    A lot of people would look at the Saints, Steelers, Texans, 49ers, Chargers, Bengals, maybe a few others and say they are more talented teams than the Cardinals – talented in terms of the names on the roster. They would say those teams have more recognizable talent than the Cardinals do. And depending on how you chose to define “recognizable,” they might even be right.

    But who cares??? Look where WE are with all of our no-name players and look where THEY are with all their talent! That HAS to start in the front office, come down through the coaching staff, and then be taken into the mindset of the players. Whatever IT is, the Cardinals have it. Many other teams do not.

    It the Mike Leach’s, Tommy Kelly’s, Frostee Rucker’s, Kerwyn Williams’, and Drew Stanton’s who have truly defined who the Cardinals are this season. It has to be because with all of the recognizable talent that we have lost before / during the season, it’s not possible that the FEW recognizable guys left standing could have done it by themselves.

    Seems very similar to the way the Patriots have been built over the years. Coincidence that the Pats and Cardinals have the best records in the NFL right now? I think not.

  2. By krehbieo14 on Dec 18, 2014 | Reply

    Leach is the consummate professional who performs at a high level without the fanfare. He’s a major asset to the team and has mentored both Butler and Catman. In the world of football, he is one of life’s unsung heroes!

  3. By LadyBird04 on Dec 18, 2014 | Reply

    Kickers and punters both are totally dependent on the ball being where it is supposed to be exactly WHEN it’s supposed to be there. Mike Leach has been such a blessing for our two rookie kickers who not only are learning about the NFL but also about themselves. They will develop good habits because of the dependability of Mike Leach and his consistency at getting the ball when and where it is supposed to be. His play enables them to succeed – and they have.

    Thank you Mike

  4. By Patrick Hoog aka Don't Take Losses on Dec 18, 2014 | Reply

    Keeping Leach sample of keen personnel decisions.

    ” Lindley played against the Seahawks once before in his rookie year of 2012, entering the game long after the outcome was decided in a 58-0 victory for Seattle. “I just remember mopping it up,” said Lindley…”

    Forgot he was part of The Debacle… One time Ryan: do you got it in ya? I say yes…

  5. By rod on Dec 18, 2014 | Reply

    Thank God 84 didn’t get to the ball, who knows what would have happened.

  6. By John The Draft Guy on Dec 18, 2014 | Reply

    Love the film room section here on the website. I just watched this weeks.

    Back when I coached in Texas, one of my jobs was to break down the film of the opponent and turn in a scouting report to the Head Coach. I spent hours in the film room watching thousands of plays.

    So, I love that someone breaks down at least one play a week. This weeks play was the big 21 yard run by Taylor. Watching that play, you see 4 offensive lineman doing a great job.

    But can any of my Cooper fans tell me what he is doing on that play. He starts up field then turns around realizing his guy is in the back field and then jogs behind Taylor, hitting no one.

    Please go watch the film room and can anyone at all tell me what he is doing?

  7. By CreditCard on Dec 18, 2014 | Reply

    Mike Leach is the definition of the meaning of professional. I’m dreaming, but I have posted before, that I believe Mike Leach s/b in the ring of honor. Unfortunately, it is not a glamour position with stats. Hopefully, the Card Org brass will read this article and posts. Hopefully they will reflect his consistency of snapping, and then research on how many other long snappers get a dozen tackles in a season, or cover kicks etc… Not many throughout the whole NFL.

  8. By Big Ken on Dec 18, 2014 | Reply

    ‘Drew Stanton Practices’ Oh let the chess game begin! I love it.

  9. By georgiebird on Dec 18, 2014 | Reply

    Leach is a 6-2 235lb guy from William & Mary. And he’s not good enough to have a regular job as a Cards TE- a position where he was an All America player in college.
    But from the neck up, Leach is an All-Pro player. It’s a shame he can’t play another 5 years until age 43. Or can he? Hope the Cards have an understudy in the wings.

  10. By krehbieo14 on Dec 18, 2014 | Reply

    JTDG

    This article was supposed to be about the value of Mike Leach However, if you can smear Jonathan Cooper enough times, you believe you can prove that Coop was a Keim draft bust and you are justified in your brilliant prediction ( after all, being a former coach). I am a fan of the Cardinals team and EVERY player. With that in mind, I rechecked the film on that play. Cooper blocks to the left to seal off that area with Valdeer. The play goes away from him as Larsen does a masterful job of blocking as the announcers indicate. Now, what was your question? Get over it.

  11. By Coach K on Dec 19, 2014 | Reply

    KEYS TO THIS GAME

    Two great defensive teams. To get off to a good start and give Lindley a short field, the Cardinals MUST defer and kickoff to begin the game if they win the coin toss. The crowd energizes our defense.

    Seattle is a slow starting team. Our defense gets a three and out and Lindley gets a short field perhaps from our 40 yard line to begin our first drive.

    B.A. has great opening drive scripted plays. This will give us a great opportunity to get the early momentum and give Lindley great confidence.

    If we lose the toss and Seattle defers, we must have a big play on special teams to get a great run back. We don’t want our offense starting the game at our 20.

    This is crucial and sets the tone for the entire game!

  12. By Richard L on Dec 19, 2014 | Reply

    Darren, Have you seen this ESPN article that says the Cards are the luckiest team in football since the 2012 Colts. Seems to me luck is made through hard work, skill and quality coaching. I guess its luck the Cards hired Arians since he was coaching Indy that year. (No pun intended Andrew Luck!) ESPN doesn’t respect the Cards even with the best record in the NFL.

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/the-arizona-cardinals-have-been-the-luckiest-team-in-the-nfl/

  13. By mal on Dec 19, 2014 | Reply

    JTDG

    I’ve rooted for the Cards since about 1960, thru all those 4-12 / 5-11 seasons where they were not just bad but were a laughing stock to the rest of the league.

    Now we’re getting set to play in a game which — if we win — would mean that we’re only 3 homefield victories away from being Super Bowl Champions!

    And the best thing you have to talk about at this incredible moment is to tear down one of our own players? So we can know you are “John the smarter draft guy than Kiem” cuz you would not have drafted Coop?

    Come on.

  14. By John The Draft Guy on Dec 19, 2014 | Reply

    krehbieo14,

    Wrong. He is lost, turns around and hits no one. I guess this is why people think Cooper or Lindley are good. You don’t know what you are looking at.
    BTW, if you are a fan of all the players, you might want to know how to spell their names. Veldheer.

    mal,

    Wow, I have had season tickets since 1991. I have sat at the stadium and watched all those 4-12 teams also, but in person, while the other teams fans talked all kinds of trash in 110 degree weather.

    I also ran on the field after we beat the Chargers in 98 and went to the playoffs. I was there when the cards knocked off the Falcons and Eagles to go to the super bowl. I was there when the cards had the crazy shootout in the playoffs with GB also.

    If we host playoff games this year, I will be there too.

    Does that make me a better or worse fan than you? Who cares.

    But you are right. Cooper was awesome. He blocked everyone. Sorry for tearing him down.

    Also, I give Keim lots of credit. We wouldn’t be in the playoffs without him.
    But I am sure I am smarter than that Kiem guy you mentioned. I bet he was hired by the other owner Bidwell.

  15. By Kevin S Mesa on Dec 19, 2014 | Reply

    Richard L —

    I don’t think there’s any question that, in terms of things happening on the field in a given game, the Cardinals have been pretty lucky this year. The Eagles game could easily have been a loss if Foles threw that last pass just a little better (granted, he was being heavily pressured and backpedaled). We probably lose to the Giants if Ginn doesn’t happen to break free after an initial hit on a punt return and a Giant doesn’t fall down on his own and fumble without even being hit. I’d say we’ve had more bounces go our way. For once, a controversial call at a key point (the Kelce fumble in the KC game, which even the referee analyst on the network said would not be overturned) went our way.

    But the flip side of that is how we’ve dealt with key injuries. 18 NFL teams have been fortunate enough to play their #1 QB in all 14 games. Of the rest of the teams, the majority have had a guy just miss one or two, or they actually made a switch not for injury but for performance reasons (e.g., Orton in Buffalo). More to the point, of the 12 teams in strong playoff position (9 wins or more), 9 of them have played the same QB in all 14 games. One, the Cowboys, was missing their QB for one game (the one against us). Of the teams with 9 or more wins, only one other team besides us has had their season-starting QB go down for any significant period, and that’s Philly. And honestly, Foles wasn’t even playing that well (81.4 passer rating through 8 games); Sanchez is actually doing just as well (84.5). Whereas we had Palmer at 95.6 dropping down to Stanton at 78.7.

    Calling the Cardinals “lucky” because they’ve won close games could be viewed as insulting. They don’t blow people out because they don’t have an explosive offense and have played now over half their games with a backup QB and many other injuries. But they’ve been winning nonetheless. If people want to call us lucky, let them. We know the real story.

  16. By clssylssy on Dec 20, 2014 | Reply

    I’m not a big fan of Facebook, so, I can’t leave a comment on the main home page…I suspect, I’m not the only one. Nonetheless, I want to say how much I enjoyed the “Opposing View” segment, and what great interviews by Richard Sherman and Pete Carroll. It’s obvious we’ve come a long way and have earned the respect of the players, coaches and even some fans of our opponents–very classy! I’ve had many friends across the league (fans of different teams) call me to let me know they are cheering for the Cards and admire what this team has done through the season, which feels pretty darn good since some of these folks have always thought I was wasting my time and money on the Cards, and “must be nuts”.
    Something I do find disturbing is the way our own fans feel the need to devalue and deskill our players and staff, past and present. If these players are on the roster, then there is a reason and they have earned the job. We all have our favorites but this is a team, and certainly we are living proof of what can be accomplished by drawing on the strengths of many.This team has had some ups and downs but this isn’t our first experience dealing with success and we should be able to handle it.I simply don’t understand why anyone calling themselves a “fan” would bring in negative energy at this exciting time to bash a player…or coach, or former coach; it’s trashy,counterproductive, and not the behavior of true winners. If we don’t respect our own history and the people doing the work, how can we expect to be respected by anyone else?
    I think the team will miss Coop this game when we need him to help protect Ryan and everyone else is going to have to work that much harder; hopefully we’ll have him going forward!. This game is going to be monumental on so many levels, we have to close out our season strong, but as fans we need to do it with grace and class and not be “those fans” nobody can stand because they are such bad winners! Respect the game and win with class but most of all, Support the Team and honor their work getting us here! Good Luck Everybody!

  17. By mal on Dec 20, 2014 | Reply

    JTDG

    Never did I remotely imply that one of us is a bigger fan than the other.

    And I’ve never said one word defending Coop. Actually, I agree with the substance of your assessment. Alot of the time the poor kid has looked pretty lost out there — just blocking air.

    But I dont get why youre such a junk yard dog with this stuff. You havent let go since he was drafted. You just keep hammering away at the kid, even now on the eve of such a huge game.

    After all these decades of futility, to me this is a magical moment — a win this weekend leaves us only 2 homefield victories away from playing in a Super Bowl, also at home.

    This is storybook stuff. Our team is a beautiful bunch of over-achieving underdogs — an assembly of undrafted rookies, back-ups, and cast-offs, playing their hearts out, winning only becuz the sum is greater than the parts. Winning only as a team.

    But with all the inspirational stories out there on this team, instead you choose to just keep ragging on the rookie, cuz he’s a weak link. Maybe chill a bit.

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