Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim spent the offseason remaking his roster.
According to AZCardinals.com’s Darren Urban, of the 90 players currently on the roster, 48 were not with the team last season.
The Cardinals added new quarterbacks, running backs, defensive backs, linebackers, linemen…really, they addressed every position.
However, one place ESPN.com’s Football Outsiders thinks the team could still stand to improve some.
In an Insider piece, it’s noted that they addressed needs along the offensive line and in the pass rushing game, but not at tight end.
On offense, there’s a far more troubling hole that Keim was not able to address at all: tight end. That’s a concern given that new head coach Bruce Arians runs a base scheme that’s built around two-tight end sets. When he was with the Steelers, Arians had a steady underneath pass-catcher and sound on-the-move run-blocker in Heath Miller. He also had a solid in-line blocker in Matt Spaeth. With the Colts, he had Dwayne Allen (a more athletic but less experienced version of Miller), plus a respectable young seam receiver in Coby Fleener.
In Arizona, Arians has middling eighth-year veteran Jeff King and underdeveloped third-year pro Rob Housler. The top backup is undrafted fourth-year journeyman Kory Sperry, who played all of 22 offensive snaps last year. King and Housler both struggled mightily in run blocking last season, and only Housler has the necessary athleticism to become a viable weapon in the passing game. (And there’s no guarantee that he will.)
The good news is the arrival of Carson Palmer at least brings some stability to Arizona’s quarterback situation, which should help both tight ends. Also, it’s unlikely that Arians will ask King and Housler to win unfavorable one-on-one matchups as often as the previous regime did. But just because Arians will be more willing to schematically hide his tight ends’ weaknesses doesn’t mean those weaknesses won’t still hinder this offense. There will be parts of Arians’ playbook that will have to go untouched this season. Ultimately, in order for his system to be fully maximized, more talent must be infused at the tight end spots.
Of the team’s options at the position, Housler is easily the most intriguing. A third-year pro out of Florida Atlantic, he has shown flashes of pass catching ability but has yet to make a great impact. Now, some of that can be attributed to poor QB play, as there were times over the last two seasons where he was open for big plays only to see the ball sail over his head, but even still the 25-year-old is largely unproven.
He should get his chance this season, as Arians is known for involving the tight end in the offense and quarterback Carson Palmer has a reputation for looking for his in the passing game. And Housler, who is coming off a 45 reception, 417-yard season, could be the main beneficiary.