Cardinals breakout candidates: NFL Twitter loves Dan Arnold for a reason

Jul 17, 2020, 7:12 AM | Updated: 4:18 pm

Arizona Cardinals tight end Dan Arnold celebrates after scoring during first half of an NFL footbal...

Arizona Cardinals tight end Dan Arnold celebrates after scoring during first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Heading into the Arizona Cardinals’ expected start of training camp on July 28, let’s take a peek at the team’s potential breakout candidates — the guys who could come out of nowhere to give the team something surprising as we project their 2020 season.

The list, which we’re rolling out in no particular order, will include players yet to solidify themselves as NFL starters. While that is mostly made up of second-year pros, there are older vets included. We won’t touch on rookies because, well, they’ve yet to set expectations for themselves as pros.

Kyler Murray gets what Kyler Murray wants. Those are the perks of being the franchise quarterback.

Smart teams note their star players’ preferences. In this case, we are working off 10 throws in the entire 2019 season, Murray’s social media accounts and his words about “Big Dan.” That’s Dan Arnold, the midseason waiver claim and 25-year-old tight end who went to UW-Platteville and toiled for the New Orleans Saints for two-plus seasons.

He’s the guy that hardcore NFL nerds want to see more of.

How legitimate is he as a breakout candidate?

For an Arizona passing attack that wants to improve in 2020 and didn’t make a move at tight end this offseason, all eyes are on him. Maxx Williams will continue to excel as the pass-blocking specialist, but coach Kliff Kingsbury wasn’t shy about throwing Arnold into the fire thanks to the big man wowing his teammates soon after arriving mid-year.

Arnold earned playing time 10 days after he joined the Cardinals.

“I’ve never had a guy that big that can do what he can do,” Murray said following Arnold’s performance against the Cleveland Browns. “It’s pretty nice.”

During that game, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound tight end high-pointed a ball in the back corner of the end zone. Based on analytical tracking data you can read more about here, NextGenStats ranked that play — and not anything thrown to and caught by Larry Fitzgerald — as the Cardinals’ most improbable completion of the year.

“He was going up and Moss-ing people,” Kingsbury said of what Arizona saw of Arnold’s first few practices.

There is trust from his head coach and from his young quarterback. There’s evidence in just three games with Arizona that Arnold fits this offense.

Murray targeted him 10 times, resulting in six catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Five of those plays were first downs.

The real value is putting Arnold in red zone packages after Arizona ranked 29th in the NFL by converting red zone trips into touchdowns just 45% of the time in 2019.

The addition of DeAndre Hopkins should help there, too, but there’s nothing like a 6-foot-6 tight end out-jumping DBs for footballs and catching low-risk throws at the back pylon.

Arnold needs to do more traditional tight end things, too, if he wants a larger role. He has to show well in camp to earn that.

We watched Murray speak so highly of Arnold less than two weeks after knowing him, target him six times in a season finale against the Rams, utilize “Big Dan” during offseason Madden sessions and then feature the tight end in his offseason Instagram workout highlights. It’s just hard not to think Arnold will be a key piece of this offense in 2020.

Even if much of the hype comes from NFL Twitter, which has no say in the matter.

Presented By
Western Governors University

Arizona Cardinals

James Conner of the Arizona Cardinals against the Pittsburgh Steelers...

Arizona Sports

Cardinals RB James Conner wins FedEx Ground award, ‘Angry Runs’ scepter

James Conner got his hat-tip in a few different forms for his play that helped his Arizona Cardinals beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.

2 hours ago

Cardinals celebrate in Pittsburgh...

Tyler Drake

Victory over Steelers a blueprint for Arizona Cardinals to follow

The Steelers have been a model of consistency for quite some time. On Sunday, though, it was the Cardinals looking like the complete team.

24 hours ago

Naquan Jones...

Arizona Sports

Cardinals sign DL Naquan Jones to 53-man roster from practice squad

The Arizona Cardinals promoted defensive lineman Naquan Jones to the 53-man roster from the practice squad, the team announced on Tuesday. 

1 day ago

Arizona Cardinals DT Jonathan Ledbetter...

Tyler Drake

Jonathan Ledbetter named Cardinals’ 2023 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year

The Arizona Cardinals named defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter as their Walter Payton Man of the Year for 2023 on Tuesday.

1 day ago

Presented By...

Arizona Sports Video

Video: Jonathan Gannon talks Arizona Cardinals win over Steelers, team dancing through weather delays

Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon joined Burns & Gambo to talk about the team’s Week 13 win over the Steelers in Pittsburgh and shared how the team stayed ready throughout the various weather delays. Video: Felisa Cárdenas and Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports Presented By

2 days ago

Monti Ossenfort helps out during practice...

Tyler Drake

2024 NFL Draft order: Cardinals enter bye week in possession of No. 3 pick

The Cardinals enter the bye with the No. 3 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. A look at Arizona's road ahead and the draft implications it brings.

2 days ago

Cardinals breakout candidates: NFL Twitter loves Dan Arnold for a reason