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Unique Versatility

NFL: Arizona Cardinals Rookie Minicamp Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Background: May 13, 2022; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals linebacker Myjai Sanders (41) and tight end Trey McBride (85) perform a drill during Rookie Minicamp at Dignity Arizona Cardinals Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale

In 2020, the Arizona Cardinals used their first draft pick to acquire one of the most uniquely versatile defensive players imaginable in Clemson’s OLB/ILB/SS/CB/FS Isaiah Simmons. Depending on the down and distance, the Cardinals’ defensive coaches can employ Simmons as their queen of the chessboard, by lining him up virtually anywhere on the field.

Outcomes of today’s NFL games have become largely dependent on an offense’s ability to exploit mismatches in the running game and in pass coverage —- and a defense’s ability to thwart the offense’s attempts to take advantage of the matchups they think they can win.

In this year’s draft, what the Cardinals were able to accomplish by acquiring an uber-flexible TE/WR/H-Back in Colorado State’s Trey McBride was essentially adding their queen of the chessboard on the offensive side of the ball.

Tight ends who can deliver/sustain blocks (both in running game and in pass protection) while being high volume receivers at the same time are a rare breed. It is amazing to think that as Trey McBride matures as an NFL player, he has the ability to become a golden amalgamation of Maxx Williams and Zach Ertz combined.

While watching Trey McBride run pass routes and snatch passes out of thin air with sheer ease and precision during the team’s rookie mini-camp, the thought occurred to me that in 11 and 12 personnel, at times, Kliff Kingsbury could use the ultra-flexible McBride in DeAndre Hopkins’ “X” WR spot. I mean, why not?

Pre-Draft Measurables:

  • DeAndre Hopkins: 6-1, 214, 4.57 40, 33.4” arms, 10.1” hands, 36” Vertical, 115” Broad
  • Trey McBride: 6-4, 246, 4.54 40, 32.5” arms, 10.2” hands, 33” Vertical, 117” Broad

Lining up Trey McBride at “X” WR creates a matchup conundrum for defensive coordinators —- do they risk putting a smaller CB on McBride? Do they send their best linebacker or safety to cover him? Do they risk trying to play press man coverage on McBride with his size and strength? Right from the get-go, no matter who is covering him, Trey McBride has the innate ability to gain immediate leverage.

Trey McBride is no stranger to playing the X receiver because he lined up there on numerous occasions at Colorado St. Therefore, Kliff Kingsbury will have the opportunity to line McBride up at the “X”, as an in-line TE, as an H-Back whom he can put in motion, as the flexed “Y” receiver in the slot and as an off-set FB in the backfield. Defenses are going to have to adapt to wherever McBride lines up on each play —- as they will also have to do with TEs Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams. Imagine the 3 TE sets that the Cardinals can employ this year, with Williams as the in-line TE, Ertz as the “Y” and McBride as the “X”.

What should be a highlight of practice each day is to see how Trey McBride and Isaiah Simmons can help each other in man-to-man matchups. McBride will rarely have to face off against the kind of length, size and speed that Simmons provides (thus making his actual game day matchups potentially easier), and Simmons can use his experience in covering McBride and Zach Ertz each day in order to help him win matchups against the NFC West TE trio of Tyler Higbee, George Kittle and Noah Fant, plus some notable TEs outside of the division this year in Travis Kelce, Darren Waller and Kyle Pitts.

Simmons on McBride in practice as the battle of chessboard queens can serve as the ultimate quid pro quo which could help the Cardinals win pivotal matchups on game days.