Cards' Tight Ends Produce Beyond Numbers

Production at the tight end position will be crucial to the Cardinals' success in 2010.

As a former tight end, head coach Ken Whisenhunt knows what to expect from the position. That doesn't mean gaudy receiving statistics and an inflated ego to match. It means picking up the speed rush, springing the running back for a first down and providing a safety valve for a young quarterback.

Arizona has plenty of tight ends on the roster with ability, but keeping that ability multi-faceted and consistent will be the challenge. With a mix of veterans and youth, the tight end corps should be an area of interest come training camp.

At the moment, Ben Patrick has a firm grasp of the top spot on the depth chart. Despite being suspended four games in 2009, Patrick led all Cardinals tight ends with 12 catches for 146 yards and two scores. The Georgia native has reliable hands and is steadily improving as a blocker. Don't expect Patrick to get a Pro Bowl invite any time soon, but he has a ton of talent and is in a great position to build on his rapport with QB Matt Leinart.


Anthony Becht
(Getty)

Anthony Becht is the most experienced tight end on the roster and arguably the most balanced. Arizona signed Becht prior to the 2009 season to be a leader and a positive presence on and off the field. The Pennsylvania native did just that and was a dependable blocker.

Additionally, Becht produced in the receiving game with seven catches for 61 yards and one touchdown. Becht's role will likely stay the same in 2010, as the Cardinals need his steady blocking to take pressure off their young offensive tackles.

When healthy, Stephen Spach is another viable option at the tight end position. The Cardinals received a big boost from Spach when they signed him halfway through the 2008 season, where his blocking and timely catches aided Arizona's playoff run before a torn knee ligament ended his season. The Fresno State alum bounced back in 2009, starting five games and catching four balls for 38 yards. However, injuries kept him out of the majority of the season. Spach will be counted on to provide quality production in all facets of the game once again this season.

Jim Dray and Dominique Byrd will also be in the mix come training camp. Dray showed himself to be a weapon as both a receiver and blocker at Stanford. Meanwhile, Byrd is an accomplished receiving tight end, but his blocking has been suspect since coming out of USC in 2006. The coaches love his hands and work ethic, so he will get every opportunity to succeed during training camp in Flagstaff.

Given the loss of Anquan Boldin and question marks at quarterback, expect more passes to the tight ends with hopes of taking pressure off Leinart and the offense. The Cardinals will need at least one tight end to step up as a legitimate receiving target, especially in the red zone.


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