With the 53-man roster having to be determined by Saturday, Sept 3, the Arizona Cardinals have many difficult decisions to make. 27 players will have to be cut from the team. At some positions, the decision is fairly straight forward while other make it a little harder.
The tight end position is pretty easy at the top, a little less so at the bottom.
The position has been a huge weakness for years. The talent and the offensive schemes made it so that in 2009 41 percent of plays were without a tight end in the game. Last year was 36 percent without a tight end. To keep things in perspective, no one else in the league was over 25 percent.
It is different now. 10-year veteran Todd Heap signed with the Cardinals. He becomes automatically the best player at the position that the team has ever had. Jeff King was another signing that is solid. They will be on that final roster and will get significant playing time.
Rookie Rob Housler was drafted in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft and has been impressive. He is still a bit of a project at the position, but Ken Whisenhunt has been pleased and surprised at the grasp he has had with everything. He will be on the roster and figures to play at least a little as his size and speed will create mismatches.
The question regarding the position that remains is how many tight ends the team will keep. Azcardinals.com writer Darren Urban told me that he believes that the team will keep four. In that case, the final spot is a battle between veteran Stephen Spach, second year player Jim Dray and undrafted rookie Stephen Skelton, who is also QB John Skelton's younger brother.
Whisenhunt loves the type of player Spach is. He is edgy, plays hard and blocks well. He has had a few injuries. Dray is still developing in blocking and can catch the ball okay. He is a contributor on special teams. Skelton has the build and some talent there.
Skelton will not make the squad, but could return on the practice squad. The decision will be tough, but the final spot will go to Dray, if for anything else because he plays on special teams. That will leave Spach on the outside.
Heap, King, Housler and Dray. Those will likely be the tight ends that will start the 2011 season with the Arizona Cardinals.