The first week is over, and what stuck with me after today’s Red-White practice (while I thought about it on my drive home to see the family) was John Skelton’s comment that there was a long way to go. Cliche, sure. But it’s truth. Take away walkthroughs, which are limited in their value, and the Cards had exactly three practices before today. Did the offense or the quarterbacks wow today? No. But we’re a week away from the first of five preseason games. There’s a long, long way to go.
— I know everyone wants to make assessments of Skelton and Kevin Kolb after today. Coach Ken Whisenhunt even said Friday he expected that to happen. But Whiz also said today there would be no snap judgements. He talked about dropped passes, about missed assignments. Bottom line, and I’m sure I’m sounding like a broken record, but this will come down to preseason games. Something tells me no one is going to reference Red-White whenever the regular-season starter is named.
— I thought Michael Floyd looked pretty good today. It’s early, but that would be nice to have him emerge. He made a couple of catches and you can see why his big body works in tight coverage, blocking out the defensive back.
— Cornerback A.J. Jefferson got a lot of action today. He gave up some catches but made some other plays. He’s intriguing. He’s kind of been lost in the CB discussion with William Gay signing and Greg Toler coming back and Jamell Fleming getting drafted.
— With the NFL in the middle of using replacement officials while contract negotiations go on with the regular officials, one possible replacement would be a woman, who was working today’s Red-White practice. I didn’t get her name, but Mike Jurecki got a picture.
— The abductor injury to running back Javarris James could cause some roster movement. It’s not that I thought James necessarily was going to make the roster, but James now won’t play against the Saints in all probability, and Beanie Wells was already going to miss that game. I’m not sure they’d want to use Ryan Williams either, given their desire to be conservative. So that leaves just LaRod Stephens-Howling, Alfonso Smith and William Powell. Not that Powell can’t do it — remember, when the Cards lost Williams and wanted to protect Wells last year, Powell had an astounding 29 carries in the final preseason game (and then was cut the next day.)
— A crowd of 14,500. Simply amazing. I ran into former Cardinals wide receiver and kickoff returner MarTay Jenkins (1999-2002) who looked over the throng for autographs and said, “Damn, it was never like this for us!” Which I can say since I was covering the team back then, it wasn’t.
— Finally, there seemed to be a difference of opinion between Williams and Patrick Peterson about whether Peterson would have made the tackle on Williams during his 44-yard run. I managed to get a shot of the moment of contact. You make the call.
Tags: A.J. Jefferson, Alfonso Smith, Beanie Wells, Greg Toler, Jamell Fleming, Javarris James, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, LaRod Stephens-Howling, MarTay Jenkins, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Ryan Williams, training camp, William Gay, William Powell
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In 2002, the Cardinals signed tight end Freddie Jones as a free agent. He had a good start to his NFL career while in San Diego, and he was an upgrade at the position. Turns out he was necessary that season too, because starting receivers Frank Sanders and David Boston each suffered injuries (as did MarTay Jenkins and Bryan Gilmore, the No. 3 and 4 guys) and with green wideouts like Jason McAddley and Nate Poole forced to play, a tight end was incredibly important.
So, for the one and only time since the Cardinals moved to Arizona, a tight end – Jones – was the team’s leading pass catcher in a season. Jones had 44 receptions for 358 yards and one touchdown that season. Jones was even better the next season, with 55 receptions for 517 yards (that was Anquan Boldin’s rookie year, though, with 101 catches). And in 2004, Jones had 45 receptions for 426 yards.
By 2005, though, Jones was gone. And the Cards have been searching for a tight end since.
As of now, that hope rests with third-round pick Rob Housler out of Florida Atlantic, a speedy 6-foot-5 H-back type who should be able to stretch the field. His blocking needs work, something he admitted already, but it would help to have a quality receiving option in that spot.
Since Jones left, it’s been a lot about hope unfulfilled. The undrafted tandem of Eric Edwards and Troy Bienemann was the first attempt. Then Leonard Pope was drafted, and while he flashed a couple of times, it was clear after 2007 and coach Ken Whisenhunt’s first season he wouldn’t be the answer. Ben Patrick – whose contract is expiring — also flashed a few times as a seventh-rounder (especially with his TD catch in the Super Bowl) but he never has made a huge impact and never had more than 15 catches in a season.
Granted, in the Warner years, using three- and four-wideouts made more sense, especially when the wideouts had the talent that the Cardinals did. Whisenhunt made clear Housler could be split wide at times and create mismatches, however. And, as many fans have pointed out, when you are breaking in a younger quarterback, the safety valve of a quality tight end can help with the learning curve.
Housler will get a chance to show what he has, and there is a chance the Cards also look in free agency. Jim Dray should be back, and Stephen Spach could be too; Patrick may be more iffy depending on who else is signed. The Cards will have at least four tight ends in training camp.
We’ll see if any of them can, at the very least, echo Freddie Jones.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Ben Patrick, Bryan Gilmore, David Boston, Eric Edwards, Frank Sanders, Freddie Jones, Jason McAddley, Jim Dray, Ken Whisenhunt, Leonard Pope, MarTay Jenkins, Nate Poole, Rob Housler, Stephen Spach, Troy Bienemann
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