The free-agent defensive back was given Arizona’s kickoff-return duties when the team released William Powell, but Arenas had yet to have a return early in the season that showed everyone -- teammates and fans -- that he was the man for the job.
Then, with just under 3 minutes left in the first half Sunday in New Orleans, Arenas fielded a kick at the Cardinals' 5. He started left and then broke right, accelerating with every hash mark he passed. Forty-six yards later, Arizona had the ball inside Saints’ territory, and Arenas finally had his big run this season.
“I thought Javi did a nice job, popped out of there, made a great decision,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said.
Even though the Cardinals couldn’t capitalize on their prime field position, Arenas’ return helped more than the team.
He didn’t get to return any kicks the previous weekend, surrendering to four touchbacks. In Week 1 against St. Louis, he struggled, uncertain if he should take certain kicks out. Instead of downing one, Arenas ran it out from six yards deep, to the Cardinals 8. He fumbled another after bringing it from deep. A teammate recovered.
Arenas said there’s a rule of thumb: If he’s in the end zone, he typically takes the touchback. If the clock is within a few minutes of either halftime or the end of the game, he won’t run it out.
Of course, there are exceptions, as he’s learned.
“If I’m just feeling a type of way and it’s an in-between type ball, I might just bring it out,” he said. “I feel like I can get the offense more than 20 yards. If it’s deep enough where I don’t think it can happen, I've got to make a decision.”
Heading into last weekend, his poise was gone. He was second-guessing himself. He wasn’t taking chances.
Then he hit the 46-yarder in the Big Easy.
“Honestly, the confidence wasn’t all there,” Arenas said. “The blocks was there. Last week, I didn’t get an opportunity to return the ball. Was itching to get one, got one and they had it.”