In the past, the tight end on the Arizona Cardinals roster rarely received any recognition or credit in victory. They weren't the center piece of the offense and teams didn't scheme against them. In 2010 however, the offensive philosophy is changing, Kurt Warner is no longer throwing in the Cardinals pass-happy offense, and Matt Leinart will run a more balanced attack. With five tight ends all fighting for a roster spot, the Cardinals' tight end competition is one to keep an eye on.
Starter: Ben Patrick
- Patrick will be entering his fourth season in the league and brings the best combination of hands and blocking out of the five current tight ends on the roster. He's clearly the most athletic and will serve as a solid security blanket for Matt Leinart in passing situations. He's increased his reception and yardage total each year he's been in the league despite missing four games last year serving a suspension. Patrick is humble but hungry, and shouldn't have a problem securing the starting spot next season.
2nd String: Anthony Becht
- Becht is a Whisenhuntplayer - i.e. a very good blocking tight end. The Cardinals swayed him away from the Raiders this offseason, offering him a better contract. It would seem unlikely to part ways at this point. Last season Becht paved the way for Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower on more then one occasion. 2010 will be no different, as he should hear his name called in rushing situations.
3rd String: Stephen Spach
- Spachwill get his second chance with the team and should be entering 2010 fully healed. After suffering a torn ACL in the 2008 playoffs, Spach began the 2009 season on the PUP list. He clearly struggled to return to complete form most of last season, and will challenge for a roster spot again this season. Seeing how Spach wasn't 100% heading into camp last year, it's hard to imagine a fully healthy Spach not making the roster again. He showed glimpses of greatness when he joined the Cardinals late in '08 andin the first round of the playoffs against the Falcons. Should he return to that form and retain his abilities, Spach will likely challenge Becht for more playing time.
On the bubble: Dominique Byrd
- Although Byrd was an interesting prospect when he was signed last season, he doesn't necessarily provide new production to the team. He has solid hands and average blocking - a skill set that one Ben Patrick already brings to the table. He experienced a solid preseason but didn't see any playing time last year, and with the amount of depth along the offensive line, it would seem uncanny to keep four tight ends on the roster. Count out Byrd for now, but should a current tight end suffer injury, he'd get the call to provide depth.
Out of the mix: Jim Dray
- The Cardinals are already jam-packed at tight end, with little wiggle room for a new-comer. Dray's skills coming out of college are intriguing, but considering he's also coming off a knee injury, it's safe to say he won't make the cut. Ken Whisenhunt's plans do seem obvious however; Becht is nearing the end of his career and Spach needs to step up this season or he'll likely see the writing on the wall and will be released. Dray will be assigned to the Cardinals practice squad for now, where he can learn under the Cardinals offensive system and step in when he's needed.
The Cardinals will likely carry the same three tight ends from the 2009 roster into 2010. Do you think Byrd or Dray can challenge for a roster spot and go for the upset?