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Friday, March 15, 2013
Cardinals, 49ers looking for special boost

By Mike Sando

The San Francisco 49ers hope the linebacker they signed from the Cincinnati Bengals can positively impact their special teams.

Dan Skuta led the Bengals in special-teams tackles.

The 49ers suffered a drop in special-teams performance last season. The chart shows a few areas where the 2012 team slipped in relation to the 2011 season. It includes information on where drives started on average following kickoff returns.

Adding a linebacker known for special-teams abilities isn't going to reverse negative trends by itself, of course. Some variance from year to year could be entirely random. A dynamic return specialist can flip a team's averages in some cases.
The second chart shows a few areas where the Arizona Cardinals' averages slipped.

I've included these stats after Arizona signed linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who went to the Pro Bowl as a specialist for the Washington Redskins.

The Cardinals suffered from an unusual number of injuries last season, affecting depth on special teams. Punt returner Patrick Peterson wasn't nearly as effective in breaking long returns.