The tight end position has been yet another area that the Cardinals have always seemed to struggle finding talent in. Last year was supposed to be the season where that all changed. After picking up Todd Heap and Jeff King in free agency, while drafting Rob Housler in the third round, the tight end corps was completely transformed.
As a whole, the position did turn out better, but they did not live up to the expectations that many had for them.
Heap was supposed to be the acquisition that completely revitalized the position for the Cards and allowed them to make their offense more diverse. He would have provided a great third down and red zone option had it not been for the slew of injuries that found him sidelined for six games. In all, Heap started just 4 games in 2011 and caught 24 passes, just one of them for a touchdown. If he does not improve this season, he will not be receiving another contract from Arizona.
Rob Housler was not as good as expected either. He has all the tools to be a great wide receiver/tight end mold much like Jimmy Graham or Aaron Hernandez, but his blocking and route running must improve. If the quarterbacks can get in better sync with him, he should be fine in his sophomore season.
Jeff King was truly the biggest surprise for the team. Many assumed he would be brought in solely for a blocking role, much like Jim Dray, another tight end currently on the roster. Instead, King provided a blocking and solid receiving option. He had 27 receptions and three touchdowns in 2011.
Another name to look out for is Steve Skelton, a tight end and brother of quarterback John Skelton. Steve Skelton will try and push Dray for that fourth spot (the expected number of tight ends on the roster).
Staying healthy, creating targets and helping to spark the run game are all things that the Cardinals' tight ends need to do in 2012 for the team to be successful. That all begins off the field and in training camp, which begins today.