Cardinals breakout candidates: NFL Twitter loves Dan Arnold for a reason
Jul 17, 2020, 7:12 AM | Updated: 4:18 pm
(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 dare you suggest not making Dan Arnold an every down player. pic.twitter.com/mOCv0PP8ZH
— Adam (@RAdamKern) July 14, 2020
No as I have said Dan Arnold this year will have the greatest year a Tight end has ever had in the National football league.
— Nate Black (@NathanB1842) July 14, 2020
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.
5. Red zone accuracy on touchdown to Dan Arnold against the Browns pic.twitter.com/z84aG6mAJI
— Johnny Kinsley (@Brickwallblitz) March 7, 2020
“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.
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) May 15, 2020
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.