Cardinals GM Steve Keim has never seen ball jump off foot like it does Matt Prater’s

Sep 24, 2021, 3:20 PM
Arizona Cardinals kicker Matt Prater (5) celebrates his go-ahead field goal with punter Andy Lee (1...

Arizona Cardinals kicker Matt Prater (5) celebrates his go-ahead field goal with punter Andy Lee (14) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A decision to find a new kicker to replace Zane Gonzalez following the 2020 season was warranted.

Gonzalez had missed a series of late-game kicks in key situations for the Arizona Cardinals, and despite his past resume and leg strength, it appeared his departure was written on the wall.

But upgrading depended on what the Cardinals had to sell to any free agent kicker. It turns out their roster makeup, indoor home field and a connection to Matt Prater’s wife — she used to be a Cardinals cheerleader — was enough to convince the veteran to join Arizona this offseason.

The former Denver Broncos and Detroit Lions kicker didn’t take long to make his boss feel good about the decision.

Asked by Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo if the 37-year-old’s leg has impressed, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said it didn’t take Prater’s franchise-record make from 62 yards out last Sunday to figure out he made the right move.

“The first day he was here in practice with us — I’ve been in the National Football League for 24 years, seen a lot of kickers come and go — but I’ve never seen a guy that the ball jumps off his foot and makes the sound it makes when he kicks it,” Keim said Friday as the Cardinals ready to face the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“Early on saw the quick height, the velocity and the power that his leg demonstrates. Not only that, but the accuracy beyond 50 (yards).”

Prater has gone 3-of-4 on field goals through Arizona’s 2-0 start, but his 62-yarder at State Farm Stadium before halftime in Week 2 stood out.

He last made a 60-plus yarder, an NFL-record 64-yard attempt, back in 2013 with the Broncos.

Extra points

— Keim on the issues he saw during Arizona’s 34-33 win over the Vikings: “I think the first half, there’s no doubt that I don’t feel like our front-seven played its best football. Obviously, that back (Dalvin Cook) is a heck of a back and they came out with an aggressive mentality.”

— Whether the Cardinals should look to get the ball to lead receiver DeAndre Hopkins as the veteran is second to rookie Rondale Moore in targets (12 to 13) and yards (182 to 137): “I think we’d all like to see the ball go to D-Hop a little more. That I’m sure would be the first thing Kliff (Kingsbury), Kyler (Murray) and D-Hop would say.

“But at the same time, we all know this is a team sport and when you have other weapons on the field like Rondale, like A.J. (Green) — Maxx Williams was able to have probably one of his best games as a Cardinal. You don’t want to take away your opportunities to make big plays downfield because you’re trying to force the football.”

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Cardinals GM Steve Keim has never seen ball jump off foot like it does Matt Prater’s