TEMPE, Ariz. – Typically, the position goes unnoticed.
In fact, that’s part of the job description and, really, how success is measured.
An exception to the above is being made this weekend.
The Arizona Cardinals are putting the spotlight, so to speak, on long snappers.
Portland State’s Kameron Canaday and Campbell University’s Daniel Dillon were among 16 rookie free agents signed for minicamp, which began Friday.
Head coach Bruce Arians hadn’t had to worry about a long snapper since arriving in 2013; and the Cardinals hadn’t for four years prior to Arians being named coach.
That all changed when Mike Leach announced his retirement on Jan. 27, ending a 16-year career, including the last seven with the Cardinals.
Leach, 39, never missed a game with the Cardinals. More importantly, he hardly ever had a bad snap.
“The biggest thing is with a guy like Mike you can’t replace him because of the leadership but just the dependability and the thing that he did so much is he really was a great influence on (punter) Drew Butler and (kicker) Chandler Catanzaro. He was almost like a father-figure to them,” special teams coordinator Amos Jones said.
“Hate like heck we got to replace him but wish him nothing but the best.”
The Cardinals will miss Leach’s reliability. They hope, though, to find his replacement, possibly with either Canaday or Dillon.
Both were their school’s long snapper for four seasons.
Canaday, 6-foot-4 and 245-pounds, played in 41 games at Portland State and was named an FCS third team All-American following his senior season.
Dillon, 6-foot-3 and 235-pounds, saw action in 43 career games at Campbell University, where he was honorable mention All-Pioneer League in 2015 and four times selected to the conference’s academic honor roll.
“These two, specifically, were kids that we identified in the scouting process. Worked them out, went back and worked them out again. Just felt like they fit our criteria of a guy that can snap, protect and has some coverage ability,” Jones said.
“We were very fortunate. Other teams probably wanted them, but we were fortunate they realized that there was a heck of an opportunity here.”
Long snapper is one of just a handful of starting jobs believed to be open with the Cardinals.
“They were extremely accurate,” Arians said of Canaday and Dillon. “Amos has had the pulse of these guys for awhile. They were the two guys we targeted, and they’re just going to fight it out.”
Arians couldn’t recall either having a missed snap during Friday’s 80-minute on-field session.
The real test, however, comes later.
“Once you put the pads on and get under the lights—because they’re both from smaller schools—and all of a sudden there’s 80,000 out there, we got to see (how they perform), that’s what we got to see,” Arians said.
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