After the drafting of Robert Housler and the free agent signings of Jeff King and Todd Heap, the tight end position is in good shape. The Cardinals traditionally have not been a team to utilize the tight end much, either because of personnel or philosophy.
I hypothesized that with the addition of Heap and King that the 2011 season would feature greater use, with more formations with two tight ends, or with one and perhaps two backs. In my memory from 2010, it was not common to use those formations, even when almost half the season was played with rookie quarterbacks Max Hall and John Skelton.
I pulled up formation data for 2010 and was actually a little surprised.
The Cardinals had 1011 offensive plays in 2010. The tight end was used in the majority of plays. That surprised me. In "normal" formations, Arizona had at least one TE on the field 580 times, or 57 percent.
However, removing the three wide, one back, one TE formation (usually not a formation designed for protecting the quarterback), that percentage goes down to 36.6 percent.
There were 204 plays with two receivers and two tight ends. There were 166 with two receivers, two backs and one tight end.
Interestingly, the two games in which the team used the two back formations the most were when Max Hall started for the first time on the road in Seattle and John Skelton's first start against Denver.
While I was surprised that the tight end was used as much as it was, the most common formation was four receivers. They ran that formation 278 times, 27.5 percent of the time. With both Heap and Housler, I expect this year to see this formation diminish greatly, and of those formations, I would expect the majority of them to have either Heap or Housler lined up wide as a receiver.
This does not necessarily mean that the Cardinals will be a power running team. I just believe that the threat of balance will be greater and that it will give Kevin Kolb a little more protection, in addition to the fact that the second best receiver on the team is a tight end.
It would only make sense to have him on the field more that was the case for the Cardinals in 2010.