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Camp K Report: Tight end a ‘vital role’ in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense

Arizona Cardinals HC Kliff Kingsbury looks on during the team’s practice Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019, at State Farm Stadium. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Much has been said about the quarterback, running back and wide receiver positions in the Arizona Cardinals’ speedy new offense.

But where do the tight ends factor in an offense tailored to getting the ball down the field?

According to head coach Kliff Kingsbury, the position is more important than most think.

“I think they have shown [they can have a decent role in the offense],” Kingsbury said of the tight end group. “I think it’s a group with each guy providing some different flexibility if you will.”

Looking at the group as a whole, it’s easy to see what Kingsbury means.

Excluding rookie tight end Caleb Wilson, the TE room is full of vets. And from the sound of it, the starting role could come down to four players.

Those four each bring a different skill set to the table.

While Maxx Williams is considered one of the better blocking tight ends on the team, Ricky Seals-Jones provides big-play ability. Charles Clay, who was activated off the PUP list Sunday, adds a more well-rounded style of play, and Darrell Daniels brings his quickness to the table.

“Maxx is a big, tough, physical, very contentious player,” Kingsbury said when asked about the variety of tight ends on the team. “He’s going to know [the offense] inside and out. He’s going to do his job each and every time. Ricky has some ability to separate, be a mismatch, go up and make plays on the football.

“Daniels is really fast, flat-out speed, physical, tough. We really like how he’s progressing, and obviously Charles can do a little bit of everything. So we think it’s a good group that provides a lot of balance in our offense. I expect there to be a vital role within that position.”

Kingsbury’s offense at Texas Tech didn’t typically favor the tight end position, but as the head coach of the Red Raiders in 2013, Kingsbury showed he could get a TE into the mix.

Leading the way for Texas Tech in receiving that season was tight end Jace Amaro, who exploded for 1,352 yards and seven touchdowns on 106 receptions. Kingsbury’s inaugural season as head coach proved to be his best year with the school, going 8-5. The following seasons, however, saw a steep drop-off in production at the position.

While there’s no telling how Kingsbury is going to use tight ends at the NFL level, if he can mix in some of his 2013 season with the pieces he has on Arizona’s offense, the tight end position could be a big factor to the team’s success down the line.

Cardinals players, coaches pay their respects to former WR coach Darryl Drake

While Sunday was viewed as another day to get reps in for the Cardinals, the team was struck by tragedy with the passing of former wide receivers coach Darryl Drake.

“Our condolences go out to coach Darryl Drake, his family and loved ones as well as the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Kingsbury said ahead of Sunday’s practice.

“I never had the pleasure of working with coach Drake, but listening to the stories about him and his time here, he was an amazing man, amazing coach. Anytime you coach 40 years in this profession you impact a lot of lives.”

Drake, who was a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff this season, played a big role in shaping players both on the Cardinals and around the league.

Especially All-Pro wideout Larry Fitzgerald, who was mentored by Drake during the coach’s tenure with the team (2013-17).

“I’m heartbroken for anyone who had the privilege to know Darryl,” Fitzgerald said in a four-tweet thread on Sunday.

“As a man, a coach, a husband, and a father, he was as good as they come. I can’t put into words the impact that Darryl had one me. … He was my position coach for five years, and he’s been one of the greatest mentors and friends in my life since we met.”

The magnitude of his passing was evident even for younger receivers like Christian Kirk, who wasn’t on the Cardinals during Drake’s time with the team.

“It’s very unfortunate when you lose somebody so impactful on the game, and especially talking to Fitz, their relationship that they had,” Kirk said of Drake’s influence.

“It’s an honor to say I got to spend some time with him in Pittsburgh when I was brought in for a top-30 visit last year coming out for the draft. I got to spend the whole day with him and just seeing how knowledgeable he was and how much he cared about the game of football. Definitely thoughts and prayers go out.”

EXTRA POINTS

– Kingsbury raved about safety Budda Baker on Sunday.

“He’s been fantastic,” Kingsbury said of the safety.

“I have always admired the way he played, even when I watched him in college, the physicality in the run game, things like that. But I didn’t realize how dynamic he was as a player and being able to play in coverage, down in the box and be physical and even play the post. He can do a little bit of everything and I know Vance [Joseph] really likes what he’s seen so far.”

Baker was a full participant in practice Sunday after being checked out for a foot issue on Saturday.

– Kingsbury on CB Brandon Williams:

“It’s too early,” Kingsbury said when asked about Williams’ role on the team.

“We do feel like Brandon excels in man coverage and that is going to be a big part of our scheme on defense. So we’re hoping that he excels when he gets his opportunity, but [he’s a] talented athlete and… has a done a nice job on special teams here.”

– Kingsbury on newly signed DE Pasoni Tasini:

“Obviously we were familiar with him in the spring and felt like to get us through camp we needed some help there,” Kingsbury said of the defensive end.

“He’s a guy that knows our system and we like what he’s about and excited to see how he fits into that group.”

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