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New kicker Phil Dawson ‘thrilled’ to join Arizona Cardinals

(AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

TEMPE, Ariz. – Special teams needed to be addressed this offseason.

The unit struggled in 2016, to say the least.

Of the Arizona Cardinals’ nine losses, a handful was directly attributed to failures on special teams, especially the kicking game.

Enter Phil Dawson, a veteran of 18 NFL seasons.

“You know people have asked me that: what are my reasons (for signing with the Cardinals). I think the better question is why not?” he said, during his introductory press conference on Friday. “Great organization, one that I’ve played against for awhile; have a lot of respect for. A head coach that I’ve worked with before who I love. Great team who’s ready to win now. Tremendous environment to play in. Great fans. Great city. Great weather. The list goes on and on, so it really is, the better question is why not.”

Dawson said he’s had his eye on the Cardinals for quite some time.

Finally, the two parties cross paths nearly two decades into Dawson’s pro career.

“This has been a destination that has been attractive to me. Just couldn’t be more thrilled to be here,” he said.

Dawson’s arrival means the exit of Chandler Catanzaro, who in his three seasons made 84.8 percent of his field goal attempts and 93.2 percent of his extra-point attempts. Decent numbers overall, but last year’s numbers (75.0 and 91.5 percent) had him ranked in the bottom third among kickers.

Only Tampa Bay rookie Roberto Aguayo finished with a worst percentage (71.0) on made field goals.

Dawson, meanwhile, was good on 85.7 percent of his kicks, and he only missed one extra-point try in 34 attempts. In fact, since 2006, Dawson has misfired only four times on PATs, including twice in the past two seasons combined.

By comparison, Catanzaro missed four extra-points last year alone, including two at Miami, one of which was blocked and returned for a defensive two-point conversion.

There were also failed game-winning field goal attempts against New England and Seattle.

Catanzaro had 11 missed kicks total in 2016.

Catanzaro handled kickoffs for the Cardinals, as well. That’s now a role Dawson is ready to assume, if asked, despite what his stats suggested last season.

“Last year I was asked to place the ball (in the field of play) all but four times. I saw someone write the other day, ‘Phil only had four touchbacks.’ I’m like, yeah, I was only asked to kick four touchbacks,” he said. “I can do different things with the ball. I’d like to think I can still bang it deep when the team needs that, so I’m going to prepare to be able to contribute in that way and when the coaches make their decision, I’ll support that 100 percent.

“I love kicking off, though. It’s a part of the game I love.”

Dawson spent the past four seasons in San Francisco—he was named the 49ers team MVP in 2015—so he’s more than familiar with the NFC West. Before that, there were 14 seasons in Cleveland, including three with then-offensive coordinator Bruce Arians during Dawson’s early years in the league.

“He plays to win instead of playing not to lose, and he would put me in situations that I really appreciated for a young guy in this league trying to prove myself,” Dawson said of his new head coach. “I was fortunate enough to make some kicks in some big moments, so I credit a lot of my early years to him putting me in those positions.

“To be back with him now, to see that he’s still the same guy, it’s pretty cool.”

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