Rookie Chandler Catanzaro off to perfect start for Arizona Cardinals
TEMPE, Ariz. — It almost seems silly that the Cardinals even considered not going with Chandler Catanzaro as their kicker.
The undrafted rookie out of Clemson earned the job after winning a training camp battle with veteran Jay Feely, but even then there were some who wondered if coach Bruce Arians was making the right choice.
After all, over the course of 12 NFL seasons Feely had made 329 field goals and was coming off his highest scoring campaign since 2009.
But go with the rookie Arians did, and the early returns have been more than anyone could have expected.
The rookie has connected on all nine of his field goal attempts, which is a number that is tied for the NFL lead with Buffalo’s Dan Carpenter. He is also 3-for-3 on extra points, and has consistently placed his kickoffs deep into the end zone.
“That’s my job, and I’m just doing my job to the best of my ability and trying to help my team win games,” Catanzaro said. “That’s all I’m here for, and luckily we’ve won three in a row and hopefully will keep it rolling in Denver next week.”
That’s the idea. However, until then, Catanzaro will spend his first bye week as an NFL player back home in South Carolina, spending time with his family and taking a breath after all that’s gone on for him over the last few months.
“It’s definitely time to relax, but not relax, really,” he said. “It’s almost like a reloading week. Got to keep my legs feeling fresh. I’m going to kick back at home a little bit just to stay fresh and get ready to go to Denver and play well next week.
“So it’s definitely a reloading phase, it’s nice though having a week off and getting to kick back and relax with the family a little bit.”
It’s safe to say Catanzaro has earned it. Obviously Arians and the Cardinals tabbed him for a reason, but there was still some mystery surrounding him. While every great kicker was a rookie at some point in their careers, many are nervous about going with a first-year pro, especially when the outcome of big games could rest on their feet.
Three games into his career, Catanzaro has yet to make a game-winning kick. However, in wins over the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers he did convert from 33 and 35 yards out, respectively, to essentially put the games away. So while he hasn’t had to make a kick with the game on the line, it is not as if he has yet to face a pressure situation.
But chances are a few will arise over the next 13 games, and when they do, the 23-year-old will be ready.
“You can’t shy away from that, I’m looking forward to that,” he said. “Luckily I’ve had a couple kicks that you would refer to as clutch kicks, just to seal the deal, but I’m looking forward to that first game winner where I can go out there and win the game for my team.”