Tight ends don’t get the respect they deserve. The Arizona Cardinals are going from a run-heavy scheme, to an offense named the “Air Raid”. In the traditional pro-style offense, the tight end is an important tool for both running and passing the football. How much of that changes under head coach Kliff Kingsbury, and how what happens to the current tight ends on the roster? Today we take a look at an often over-looked position. Today we preview the Cardinals 2019 tight ends.
TE1: Ricky Seals-Jones
TE2: Charles Clay
Know Your Role
Kingsbury’s offense can be described as “non-tight end heavy” in its philosophy. Seals-Jones played in a wide open passing attack during his time with Texas A&M. Similar to how the Aggies ran their offense, Texas Tech utilized the tight end position more as a big bodied receiver. Officially, Kingsbury’s Red Raiders listed players similar to Seals-Jones’ build as a wide receiver. In practice, they were often flexed just off the line of scrimmage, similar to what has been done with players such as Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce.
Each of the tight ends on the roster fit the body type that Seals-Jones brings to the table. Wilson, the rookie out of UCLA, is a pass-catching tight end who has above average hands for the position. Clay has made a career of being an effective target in the passing game, averaging 42 receptions and 10.7 yards per catch. Belcher put together a solid senior season with 46 receptions, just two years removed from switching positions from quarterback to tight end. Williams and Daniels haven’t received much playing time thus far, but in limited action, Williams is averaging a 76 percent catch rate.
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As discussed in the running backs preview, it is highly probable the Cardinals add a fullback to the roster. Texas Tech rarely operated in heavy sets, and when they did, a combination of an extra lineman or tight ends were used for blocking purposes. Expect that to continue for Kingsbury with the Cardinals. For non-goal line plays, the Cardinals offensive alignment could feature 11 personnel (1 TE, 1 RB), with the quarterback under center or in shotgun. The tight end would be the de facto lead blocker if put in motion across the line or re-positioned in the backfield.
A successful ground game is something the Air Raid thrives off of. Averaging four yards a carry creates shorter distances on later downs, keeping the playbook fully open. The tight end will be key in helping the ground game develop and become successful. Becoming a solid run blocker is paramount for the tight ends currently on the roster. If they are to secure a spot heading into the season, their ability to help in the run game will be a major boost.
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There are six tight ends currently on the roster. Additions and subtractions could easily happen and likely will occur, given the Cardinals own the top waiver claim. It would be surprising for the Cardinals keep more than three tight ends on the 53-man roster. Wilson and Belcher are practice squad candidates, but it’s easy to see Wilson getting claimed prior to that happening. In the end, training camp and preseason games will shed light on the players who can best fill the role. Expect surprises, the league is full of them. We’ll find out what’s in store in just a few weeks.