The Arizona Cardinals are looking to improve both on offense and defense this season but the one area that may give them the biggest boost in 2012 is their special teams. Arizona looks to have one of the leagues’ most dangerous return games with Patrick Peterson and LaRod Stephens-Howling returning kicks and punts for them.
Peterson provided a very pleasant surprise for the Cardinals with his punt returning ability. They expected him to provide a spark their but never in their wildest dreams did they believe he would be that effective.
Peterson led the league last season returning four punts for touchdowns making him one of only four players that had multiple returns go for touchdowns last season. The other three were the Chicago Bears’ Devin Hester (no surprise there), the Green Bay Packers’ Randall Cobb and the San Francisco 49ers’ Ted Ginn.
Unlike those other guys though Peterson didn’t return any kicks, just punts. Stephens-Howling was in charge of returning kicks for the Cardinals which is a job he has held for the past three years. This was the first season he didn’t have a return go for a touchdown though.
Watch Patrick Peterson return a punt 99 yards versus the Rams:
Stephens-Howling was slowed last season by injuries and the one injury that hampered him the most was a strained hamstring. Not only did his return average drop by four yards because of his injury, his average yards-per-carry as a backup running back was down significantly also.
But opponents can expect Stephens-Howling to revert back to the explosive kick returner he was his first two seasons in the league. The Cardinals sure hope so because they will be depending on him to provide them with great field position for their offense to operate.
Watch LaRod Stephens-Howling return the opening kick for a score versus Raiders:
And in the critical moments of games, don’t be surprised to see the Cardinals also place Peterson on the field to return kicks. Nothing would be scarier for an opposing team’s kicker than to have to decide which of these two dynamic return men to kick the ball to.
These guys won’t surprise anyone this season though. Any team that faces the Cardinals this year will be well aware of what Peterson and Stephens-Howling can do. Too bad for those teams that knowing what these guys can do and stopping them are two entirely different things.
Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at RHall_TPFB@Yahoo.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.