TEMPE, Ariz. – In terms of a touchdown-to-reception ratio, there are few tight ends with a better mark than new Arizona Cardinal Joseph Fauria.
Over parts of two seasons with the Detroit Lions, Fauria scored touchdowns on eight of his 24 catches, meaning on average, he reached the end zone one-third of the time he caught the ball.
The Cardinals certainly don’t expect that kind of production from the 25-year-old, at least not yet. No, what they hope to have added in the former UCLA Bruin is, quite simply, a healthy tight end.
Already without seventh-round pick Gerald Christian, who was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered in the preseason, the Cards learned Wednesday Ifeanyi Momah would also need to head to injured reserve with a torn meniscus.
In fact, the only healthy option at the position pre-Fauria was Darren Fells, as Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas have both been limited in practice this week with hamstring injuries.
The proverbial “next man up,” could Fauria’s time be as soon as this Sunday against the New Orleans Saints?
“Just get in here and try to learn,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said of what’s expected of Fauria. “He’s on a hurry-up deal, so to say, as far as trying to learn the offense.
“But you see a big body, a good looking big body, we know he can catch the ball and hopefully he can contribute on Sunday.”
Goodwin added Fauria has been working with tight ends coach Rick Christophel the last couple of days trying to get him ready, and Fauria said needing to learn a new team’s system is something he’s comfortable with.
“I’m no stranger to new playbooks,” he said. “Rookie year was a new playbook, second year with the Lions was a new playbook and now this is my third system in my third year. I’m no stranger to learning a new system, learning a new offense, and I’m ready for the challenge.”
That said, being ready to go less than a week after joining a team seems like a pretty tall order, but for the 6-foot-7 Fauria, it’s something that may be a necessity.
If healthy – he was waived by the Lions on Sept. 5 after playing in just seven games in 2014 due to a sprained ankle suffered while chasing his dog down some apartment steps — Fauria is expected to bring good hands, solid speed and that great size to a position that is not short on tall people.
Fauria, who caught three passes for 24 yards in the preseason, said he is a pro-style tight end who does not want to restrict himself to being just a red zone option or weapon in the passing game.
“I want to be out there as much as I can to help my team win,” he said.
A month ago, Fauria suiting up for the Cardinals against the Saints would have seemed like a ridiculous notion. Granted, he was a member of the Lions as recently as a week ago, but still, Arizona in no way was thinking it was going to have to add to what had become a pretty intriguing tight end room.
But injuries happen, and that’s why Goodwin says the tight end position being hit with a rash of ailments will not alter the game plan.
“One thing about us, even going back to last year, we can’t let injuries affect what we do,” he said. “We do what we do, doesn’t matter who’s in there. The expectation is the expectation, the standard is the standard.
“No matter who’s out there, we’ve got 11 guys on the grass and we’ve got to win for the Cardinals.”
That means while the team may be working with a group of tight ends who are either injured or new to the team, the game plan will not change much, if at all.
And if that means Fauria is one of the players asked to execute it, so be it. He’ll be as ready as he can be.
“There’s going to be a little difference between a guy that’s been in this offense for 10 years than a guy that’s been in this offense two days,” he said. “You’ve just got to be ready. I’m not going to be thrown into the fire by any means, but if I am I’ve just got to be ready.
“It wouldn’t be the first time in the history of the NFL this has happened before. Guys get traded, guys get moved around, guys get cut every day of the week and so there’s no excuse. If I do get out there and my name is called, I’ve got to be ready.”
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