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.
Tags: Mike Leach
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Sometimes, even the punter builds a fan base.
Dave Zastudil is in the middle of one of his best seasons, averaging 40.4 net yards per punt (45.3 overall) and dropping 32 of his 70 kicks thus far inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. He has plenty of fans inside his locker room, between teammates and coaches, but elsewhere? Especially Tennessee? But Zastudil had quite the experience.
It started when he was checking Twitter last week and one of his mentions featured a picture of some guys in a family room holding a giant head shot of someone. “I looked closely and thought, ‘Damn, that’s me,’ ” Zastudil said. He showed the picture/giant head — which featured the tagline “Punting ain’t easy” — to long snapper Mike Leach and kicker Jay Feely, they all had a laugh, and Zastudil thought that was the end of it.
But when Zastudil got out to the field pre-game last Sunday, he looked behind the Cardinals’ bench and there, standing in the front row going crazy and holding up the Ain’t Easy Zastudil head were those same fans.
“Somebody gave me a pen and said, ‘You gotta go sign this,’ ” Zastudil said. “These guys went nuts. Every time I got near them during the game, they went nuts. It was like a funny dream.”
Zastudil said he sensed some “fun sarcasm” in the “punting ain’t easy” message but noted they were just some good Cardinals fans having fun. “I’m just happy the covered up the top part of my head (on the picture) so my hairline was covered,” he said. “It looked like I was a little younger.”
“It’s hard,” Zastudil said, tongue firmly in cheek. “I’m expecting this every game now.”
Tags: Dave Zastudil, Jay Feely, Mike Leach
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Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Mike Leach, NFL
Posted in Since1898 | 3 Comments »
I will stay til each and every person who would rather get an autograph from a real player gives up & settles for one from me.
— Mike Leach (@MikeLeach82) August 22, 2013
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Cardinals, Mike Leach, NFL, Twitter
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Two former William & Mary University Alums – Alex Gottlieb and Mike Leach – full circle as teammates
— Alex Gottlieb (@ae_gottlieb) August 7, 2013
Tags: Alex Gottlieb, Arizona Cardinals, Cardinals, Mike Leach, National Football League, NFL, Twitter
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A few days before Karlos Dansby made his first appearance at University of Phoenix Stadium after leaving the Cardinals – this past season when the Miami Dolphins visited – the veteran linebacker was asked his opinion of the man the Cards had drafted to replace him: Daryl Washington. Dansby replied in classic Dansby fashion.
“He’s a dynamic player, what more can I say about him,” Dansby said. “He’s very athletic, very fast. He reminds me of myself. They did a great job of getting the guy to fill that void.”
It was that moment when there was a little Dansby-envy swirling for those of us listening who had covered Los when he was in Arizona. He was always energetic and always could give a good quote. (One of the all-time favorites was when I was doing a story on teammate Sean Morey agreeing to donate his brain to science right at the beginning of the concussion talks first exploded. I asked Karlos what he thought: “That’s huge, man.” That was always one of his go-to expressions. Trust me, you had to be there.)
The man could play some football too. The Cards never wanted to let him go — they thought they had an extension ironed out before the 2009 season but that fizzled when Dansby changed agents — and his price tag got too high. His price tag might’ve been too high again (there was a reason he wasn’t signed yet) but Dansby’s chance to return home where he still has a home was too important. “I told my agent to bring (the salary) down,” Dansby said to me this morning, motioning his hands down like he was doing a version of his old dirty bird celebration. Dansby couldn’t stop smiling. Regardless of what the contract is, he is happy.
— He doesn’t have a jersey number yet. He won’t get 58. That’s Daryl Washington’s.
— No, his return doesn’t mean Washington is on his way out. Actually, you have to think the Cards have some decent plans to play them together. That would make sense, and Los could be a rusher from the outside if needed. He is versatile.
— DC Todd Bowles knows Dansby, because Bowles was in Miami in 2010 when Dansby was there. Bowles understands what Dansby can do.
— Between the addition of Kevin Minter in the draft and Jasper Brinkley and Dansby, the linebacker corps looks pretty decent right now, when it was a huge question mark back in early March.
— Only eight players remain on the roster that played with Dansby the first time around: Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Leach, Reggie Walker, Rashad Johnson, Calais Campbell, Levi Brown and Lyle Sendlein.
— It’d be great if Dansby comes full circle and could end his career here, but let’s remember this is a one-year contract. Right now, he’s in the same boat as guys like Rashard Mendenhall, Antoine Cason and Matt Shaughnessy. They all want to be getting paid more money, and are counting on good years to improve their stock and earn them that kind of contract. Dansby will be trying to do the same. We’ll see if Dansby-the-sequel has a long run in Arizona the second time around.
— That said, did I mention he was pretty happy?
Tags: Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Jasper Brinkley, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Minter, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Leach, Rashad Johnson, Reggie Walker, Todd Bowles
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It didn’t take long before Bruce Arians made it known he was going to be comfortable playing young players after doing it last season in Indianapolis. Then, as March played out, the Cardinals either didn’t bring back older players who were free agents and released others who were on the wrong side of 30. Now, with the offseason roster nearly set, the numbers emphasize just how much younger General Manager Steve Keim has made his team.
The team’s 53-man roster by the end of last season — and that means younger players were on it in place of IR’d vets like Levi Brown, Kevin Kolb and Lyle Sendlein — had an average age of 29.7 years. The Cardinals’ current extended offseason roster (subtracting the 16 long-shot undrafted rookies who would obviously bring down the average age by their sheer numbers) features an average age of 25.8 years.
The Cards had 12 players 30 and older on their final 53. As of today, they have eight: Carson Palmer (33), Yeremiah Bell (35, pictured below), Daryn Colledge (31), Darnell Dockett (31), Jeff King (30), Jay Feely (36), Mike Leach (36) and Dave Zastudil (34). Take out those three specialists and the Cardinals’ current average age is 25.4.
The age could rise depending on how the roster is shaped going into the season, because of those 30-year-olds, I don’t right now see any of them being let go. But while Keim’s overhaul was in part about clearing salary cap room this offseason, it was also about an infusion of youth after a Ken Whisenhunt era that relied heavily on veterans.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Darnell Dockett, Daryn Colledge, Dave Zastudil, Jay Feely, Jeff King, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Leach, Roster, Steve Keim, Yeremiah Bell
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The defense is dominant. But before we get too far away from one of the key storylines from today’s game, here’s a nod to Kevin Kolb. The quarterback keeps downplaying what it meant today to beat the Eagles, but the man is human. You can only imagine, with everything he’s been through – the guy wasn’t even going to be playing two weeks ago.
“We wanted to come out and play hard for him because we knew what it meant for him,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “He made the throws, he scrambled when he needed to and he did a great job commanding the huddle. In the huddle, he was very demonstrative. He really wanted it. He was calling guys to reach down and dig deep and make plays. He really doesn’t talk all that much in the huddle, but today, you could tell he was actually trying to motivate.”
Someone wanted Kolb to reflect on the past three games. He wouldn’t bite. “I want to stay focused,” Kolb said. “Because I’ve done it in the past, you know, tried to foresee the future and every time it comes up and knocks my legs out from under me.”
The questions are going to be there and no, I don’t know what happens at quarterback. You’d have to think Kolb will stay as the starter even if John Skelton’s ankle is healthy. I don’t anticipate any big announcement – that’s not really coach Ken Whisenhunt’s style – but that’s my guess tonight.
— There was a lot of preseason concern about how much pressure the Cards could get with their outside linebackers. O’Brien Schofield and Quentin Groves each had a sack, Sam Acho had a play that would’ve been a sack if Michael Vick hadn’t decided to intentionally ground the ball, and the three totaled six QB hits. Not a bad day’s work.
— Safety Kerry Rhodes has had two excellent games in a row. Played well in New England, and then today he looked like, since Adrian Wilson was sitting out, he was going to suddenly take up the mantle as the guy who drilled everyone. He did it back-to-back plays on tight end Brent Celek, and later tagged Vick for the James Sanders fumble return.
“Everyone else is making plays, so why not me?” Rhodes said. “I have to make a couple myself.”.
— James Sanders and Rashad Johnson stepped up in Wilson’s absence. Reminded me of last year when Johnson and Richard Marshall filled in well for Rhodes
— Daryl Washington won’t win NFC defensive player of the week, I don’t think, because Calais Campbell won it last week. But he’d have an argument after his two sacks and the way he harassed Michael Vick all day. So I’ll say this: Has a team ever looked better in a two-week stretch of re-signing two players to big contract extensions. No worries about either one flaking out after getting paid.
— The PatCat got a snap Sunday. Four-yard Patrick Peterson running loss. It can’t always be productive, I guess.
— Kolb has played two games plus the end of the other without an interception. “With our defense and our style of play, not turning the ball over is a big key,” Kolb said. “It’s OK to punt. We don’t like it, it’s never been in my game, but to have that mentality, sometimes it’s OK.”
— It was so important for Ryan Williams to bounce back like he did. Not only did his 83 yards on 13 carries look good, but it softens the blow if Beanie Wells is out. We’ll see how Wells’ toe is this week. Williams does, as Whisenhunt noted, need to grab that 3rd-and-1 pitch and just drive upfield and make sure he gets the one yard, rather than look for a big play and get stuffed.
— Speaking of stuffed, I felt back for LaRod Stephens-Howling. He was in the game with Wells down and Williams suffering from cramps, and the Eagles knew the Cards just wanted to run it into the line late and burn clock, and the Hyphen’s stats took a beating. Eight carries, minus-14 yards. Talk about taking one for the team.
— Darnell Dockett said his hamstring will be OK, but jeez, that would be a tough loss if he were to miss a game. Dockett shrugged. “Every now and then, even the Hulk gets wounded.”
— Long snapper Mike Leach recovered the Eagles’ fumble punt today, which is why you need someone athletic enough to get down in coverage at that position. It’s not just about putting your head between your legs and throwing.
— Michael Floyd, welcome to the NFL. A highlight-worthy TD catch and drawing a 15-yard penalty on DRC? Nice production.
— Fitz had a good game, but what does he tell Andre Roberts about the 50 yards Roberts lost on Fitz’s block in the back penalty that Roberts may not have even needed. Roberts ended up with a 29-yard reception instead. “I cost my closest friend on the team a 70-yard play,” Fitz lamented. Ah, after all that time Roberts spent with Fitz’s jet skis on the lake this summer, I’m sure Roberts will forgive him.
I had just turned 4 the last time the Cards were 3-0. I wasn’t living in Arizona yet, even though I’ve lived here most of my life, and their move to the Valley was a long way away. At some point, the Cardinals were going to get to 3-0 again. Raise your hand if, on Sept. 8, you thought it was going to be this season.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Beanie Wells, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Eagles, James Sanders, Kerry Rhodes, Kevin Kolb, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Michael Vick, Mike Leach, O'Brien Schofield, PatCat, Quentin Groves, Rashad Johnson, Ryan Williams
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Every NFL team must have it roster cuts in by Friday afternoon. To be exact, by 6 p.m. Arizona time. I expect the Cardinals – and coach Ken Whisenhunt – to have announced them before, since Whiz will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. that day. Until then, though, this is a guess at how this 53-man roster shakes out.
Whisenhunt made it clear the other day that this last preseason game does matter when it comes to a spot or two on the roster, and I believe that. It means trying to approximate who will be on the roster before that last game is somewhat fool’s gold. I’m certainly not Nostradamus here. Last year, for instance, I had Ben Graham holding off Dave Zastudil for the punter job. I was very wrong. And this only holds for as long as it might take for the Cards to claim/sign a guy or two over the weekend, which would obviously change things. That always happens.
But it’s fodder to chew on until Friday, speculation upon which this time of the NFL schedule is built around. So with apologies to those I miss on, and with a nod to old school Letterman, this is only an exhibition and not a competition, so please, no wagering.
QB – (3) John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley. No, we don’t know the starter yet. But it’s hard to believe that with everything Lindley has shown as a rookie he doesn’t get the nod over Rich Bartel (who is one of the best guys you’ll meet and someday will be a very good coach.)
RB – (4) Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams, LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell. This is one of the sticking points. Powell has had a good preseason, but as I have mentioned many times, I think Alfonso Smith has as well. It may come down to how Powell looks Thursday night. Will I be shocked if Smith is the choice instead of Powell? Nope.
FB – (1) Anthony Sherman. The Sherminator running unopposed. It’s like a boring political “race.”
WR – (6) Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Early Doucet, Michael Floyd, DeMarco Sampson, LaRon Byrd. This is a close one, in my mind. The top four are obvious. I think Sampson has had a good camp and he can play special teams. Byrd versus Stephen Williams may just be about Byrd’s upside. I’m not sure Byrd would make it to the practice squad but — given some other positional issues, like, at say, offensive line – I’m not sure either if the Cards may try and keep just five receivers and use the practice squad for relief.
TE – (4) Todd Heap, Jeff King, Rob Housler, Jim Dray. Given the injury history of, well, all of them, I think the Cards play it safe and keep four guys around again.
OL – (8) D’Anthony Batiste, Daryn Colledge, Lyle Sendlein, Adam Snyder, Bobby Massie, Rich Ohrnberger, Jeremy Bridges, Senio Kelemete. This is a very difficult one from the outside looking in. The Cards might keep nine linemen, given their . Has Kelemete shown enough, even as a draft pick? Would Nate Potter be possible given the tackle issues? Where might a free agent or waiver claim fit in? I could see Potter, D.J. Young and/or center Scott Wedige as practice squad material too.
DL (6) – Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Vonnie Holliday, David Carter, Nick Eason. Seems fairly cut and dried at this position, one of the few like that.
LB – (8) Sam Acho, Paris Lenon, Daryl Washington, O’Brien Schofield, Stewart Bradley, Reggie Walker, Clark Haggans, Brandon Williams. This is another spot that might come down to the Denver game. The backup outside linebacker spot figures to have two places for three guys: Haggans, Williams, Quentin Groves. Groves made some plays early. Williams plays some special teams and has been higher on the depth chart.
DB (10) – Patrick Peterson, William Gay, Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, Jamell Fleming, Justin Bethel, Rashad Johnson, James Sanders, Greg Toler, A.J. Jefferson. Usually, the Cards wouldn’t keep more than nine defensive backs, and that’s still possible. With 10, Bethel is a special teams keeper despite being a raw DB. Michael Adams is the odd man out there, but it will not shock me to see Adams stick around either and maybe someone like Jefferson out. Watching the reserve defensive backs closely in the finale, because I think that will be part of the equation.
ST – (3) Jay Feely (K), Dave Zastudil (P), Mike Leach (LS). Never should have doubted Leach’s return.
Tags: A.J. Jefferson, Adam Snyder, Adrian Wilson, Andre Roberts, Anthony Sherman, Beanie Wells, Bobby Massie, Brandon Williams, Calais Campbell, Clark Haggans, D'Anthony Batiste, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Daryn Colledge, Dave Zastudil, David Carter, DeMarco Sampson, Early Doucet, Greg Toler, Jamell Fleming, James Sanders, Jay Feely, Jeff King, Jeremy Bridges, Jim Dray, John Skelton, Justin Bethel, Kerry Rhodes, Kevin Kolb, LaRod Stephens-Howling, LaRon Byrd, Larry Fitzgerald, Lyle Sendlein, Michael Floyd, Mike Leach, Nick Eason, O'Brien Schofield, Paris Lenon, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Reggie Walker, Rich Ohrnberger, Rob Housler, Roster, Ryan Lindley, Ryan Williams, Sam Acho, Senio Kelemete, Stewart Bradley, Todd Heap, Vonnie Holliday, William Gay, William Powell
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The Cardinals continued to take care of free-agent housekeeping Monday, getting long snapper Mike Leach and linebacker Reggie Walker to agree to new three-year and two-year contracts, respectively. Both have been key players on special teams. Leach becomes the second of the three free agent specialists to return (kicker Jay Feely was back last week) and is a good component both on the field, in the locker room and in the community. Punter Dave Zastudil remains the unsigned specialist.
Walker was second on the team with 16 special-teams tackles (O’Brien Schofield had a team-best 17) and continues to be a contributor after arriving as an undrafted free agent, although he played little at linebacker most of last season.
Tags: free agency, Mike Leach, Reggie Walker
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