With returning starters Rob Housler and Jeff King back in the fold to go along with veteran Jim Dray, seventh-round pick D.C. Jefferson and Kory Sperry, Bruce Arians seemed to have plenty of depth at the tight end position going into training camp.
Yet five days in, the once-versatile group has already been depleted by injury, making it hard for the Cardinals head coach to evaluate a staple position in his offense.
“The injuries are really hurting us right now,” Arians said Tuesday. “Rob [Housler] is looking really good. D.C. Jefferson is making the best of the opportunities, and Jim Dray is as steady as they get. So, we’re finding out about those guys.”
The other guys — King and Sperry — not so much.
King, who missed all of OTAs after undergoing offseason surgery, continues to sit for precautionary reasons on the sidelines at University of Phoenix Stadium with fluid on his knee.
And Sperry, who played one game with Arizona last season, was one of camp’s early surprises before going down with an ankle injury Monday.
“I was really ticked, because Kory was having a heck of a camp,” Arians said. “Finding that he can play fullback, move around and block — because I already knew he could catch — I was really pleased. So, I hated him having a setback because he was really coming on.”
Arians noted that while he knows what King can do on the football field, he was encouraged by what Jefferson and Sperry bring from a blocking perspective. In his eyes, both ‘help the picture’ on offense.
In the interim, though, there is a small bit of good news on the tight end front. The team claimed Mickey Shuler off waivers Sunday, and the former Penn State standout will take the field for the first time during the Cardinals’ afternoon practice Tuesday.
“We’ve got Mickey Shuler going today,” said Arians. “It adds another body, and we’re anxious to see him join the fray a little bit. But this always happens at one position.
“We’re still looking [for other options], but unfortunately there’s not much available this time of year. We were fortunate Mickey came across the wire. He was with a couple of our coaches down in Miami, and they think he has a chance.”