Here's a candidate for the understatement of the year: The Arizona Cardinals have struggled to defend opposing tight ends in 2013.
Through seven games, opposing tight ends have caught 48 passes for 710 yards and eight touchdowns. Interestingly, if one player was responsible for that production, he would lead the league in all three categories.
That doesn't bode well for the Cardinals' defense as they get ready for a home game against the Atlanta Falcons -- a team that boasts Tony Gonzalez, the second-leading receiver in the history of the National Football League.
Facing great tight ends is nothing new for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
"It's like every week," he said Thursday. "We'll try to wear them down slowly but surely and hopefully by the end of year, we'll shut them out.
"He's a great player, he's a Hall of Famer and you've got to pick your spots. He's seen it all -- doubles, triples, two high, one high -- he's seen everything."
Gonzalez, who has stated this is his last season in the league, is still productive. The 17-year veteran has 35 catches for 369 yards and three touchdowns. Over 74 percent of his receptions this season have resulted in first downs for the Falcons.
Despite playing against good tight ends seemingly every week, Bowles knows that some of the damage is self-inflicted.
"There have been some coverages that have had one or two busts here or there and schematically, there's been miscommunication, so we're going to try and figure that all out this week and try to control him a little bit," Bowles said.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson agrees that the Cardinals' on-field verbal synergy could be improved upon.
"Tight ends have been giving us hell lately," the two-time Pro Bowler said. "It's all going to come down to communication, understanding where guys are in certain points of the down and distance and making sure we're trusting the guy next to us.
"We definitely don't want to let the tight break our back this week, especially being the caliber of tight end he is."
In the process of trying to shore up the defense on opposing tight ends, Bowles wasn't ready to boast that his defense has everything figured out just yet.
"I can tell you at five o'clock on Sunday evening," he said with a chuckle.
Peterson was a little more confident in his prognosis.
"Now that we have probably the best coverage linebacker in the game in Daryl (Washington), I believe we have a pretty fair opportunity to match up pretty well."
Opposing tight ends vs. Arizona Cardinals - 2013
|Jared Cook||St. Louis||7||141||2|
|Lance Kendricks||St. Louis||3||25||0|
|Jimmy Graham||New Orleans||9||134||2|
|Ben Watson||New Orleans||1||14||0|
|Timothy Wright||Tampa Bay||5||41||0|
|Vernon Davis||San Francisco||8||180||2|