There is a logjam at the tight end position for the Arizona Cardinals.
There are currently six tight ends on the depth chart for the Cardinals as they prepare for their preseason opener against the Houston Texans Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
There’s one that stands out from the rest — and not because of what he’s done on the football field.
Darren Fells stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 281 pounds. The former Cal-Irvine basketball player is still getting used to his role as a professional football player, and after spending 2013 on the Cardinals practice squad, it appears the light bulb has gone on.
“Oh, 90 to 100 percent better,” Fells responded with a smile when asked how much better he’s grasping things this season. “Last year, it was like a foreign language to me. Now I’m starting to learn the football language and just getting the grasp of everything.
“It’s funny, I was just talking to teammates about how I can understand the whole play now instead of just my spot. It’s coming to me.”
His head coach has noticed, too.
“He could always run and catch — he has unbelievable ball skills being a basketball player,” Arians told Bickley and Marotta Monday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “The physicality of the game was the one thing missing. When he left (last year) I said ‘look, you can make the team, but you’ve got to be able to block defensive ends.’
“He went and he worked. It’s obvious right now, his pad level is low, he is striking people, he’s rocking heads back. When you see that light go on you say, ‘we might have found something here.'”
So how does one ‘get physical’ in the offseason if that’s what you’ve been assigned?
“It’s just a mentality. It’s just coming out there and saying you’re not going to be afraid of contact, no matter who’s in front of you. Whether it’s the third-string or a Pro Bowler, you’ve got to go at them,” Fells said. “You’ve got to make the contact.”
Fells admits that he’s surprised some of his teammates during camp with his newfound physicality.
“They see me as a basketball player not a football player, so I’m trying to get that mentality out there,” he said. “I’m a football player now.”