Cardinals roster questions, wild cards: How big a step can TE Trey McBride take?
Jul 13, 2023, 6:01 PM | Updated: Jul 14, 2023, 5:08 pm
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
The Arizona Cardinals look very different than they did at this time a year ago.
And with a reset in culture, coaching and the front office comes a reset in the roster.
Each position group has undergone change this offseason, from quarterback to special teams specialists.
There’s still plenty of time for personnel tweaks between now and training camp next month. But until then, let’s take a deeper dive into how the Cardinals’ roster is currently constructed.
From one pass-catching group to the other, it’s time to dive into the tight ends room.
The Arizona Cardinals’ biggest roster questions: TE
1. When is Zach Ertz back to full strength?
Much like quarterback Kyler Murray, there’s no telling when exactly Ertz will make his return to action in 2023.
Ertz has been on the mend ever since tearing both his ACL and MCL in a Week 10 win over the Los Angeles Rams. His work during organized team activities and minicamp was done on the side with senior reconditioning coordinator Buddy Morris.
Ertz is hoping he can get back on the field by Week 1, but given the severity of the injury, isn’t about to rush things.
“Week 1 is obviously the goal, that’s about 10 months almost post-injury,” Ertz said back in April as he was transitioning to the next phase of rehab. “Unfortunately, rehabs aren’t linear progressions, so you can’t make bold statements of, ‘I’m going to be 100%. I’m going to be my old self come Week 1.’
“But I’m doing everything I can to put the best version of myself on the field each and every day and hopefully that ends up with me being ready to go Week 1.”
Once back, there’s no denying what Ertz brings to the table.
Before going down with his injury, Ertz was among the top pass-catching options on the roster, recording 47 catches (69 targets) for 406 yards and four touchdowns. Despite missing a good chunk of the second half of the season, the tight end still led Arizona pass catchers in touchdowns, was fourth in receptions and fifth in yards.
2. How big of a step forward can Trey McBride take in Year 2?
Former General Manager Steve Keim shocked more than a few when he used a second-round pick on McBride in 2022, making him the highest drafted prospect of Arizona’s class.
The tight end certainly got his feet wet as a rookie appearing in 16 games (13 starts). His usage offensively only increased in the latter half of the year with the loss of Ertz.
After seeing just three catches for 24 yards in his first eight games as a pro, McBride caught 26 balls for 241 yards and a touchdown across the final eight matchups of the season.
But despite the added opportunity and a few flashes of his future potential from time to time, McBride left a lot to be desired. It wasn’t all on him, especially given the quarterback carousel, injuries throughout the unit and a lackluster game plan, but there’s definitely room for growth as both an NFL pass catcher and blocker.
With what is expected to be a run-oriented offense under coordinator Drew Petzing in addition to the unknown surrounding Ertz’s return, an uptick in both categories could go a long way in McBride becoming a key cog.
And while it’s hard to gauge just how much improvement he’s already made from last season to now, it’s clear he’s taken a clear step forward in another avenue: leadership.
Multiple times throughout organized team activities and minicamp, McBride was seen lending a helping hand to this year’s batch of rookies and other newcomers to the franchise.
“He seems like he’s a little more relaxed,” Ertz told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke in June of his fellow tight end. “He’s not so anxious about doing so well. It seems like he’s had a really good offseason.”
The wild Card
When you look at Arizona’s tight ends room, it’s Ertz and McBride, then everybody else.
But with what we’re expected to see out of this offense and where Ertz is at health-wise, having someone who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty could go a long way for what Petzing and Co. want to accomplish.
Enter newcomer Noah Togiai.
“He’s a guy that is more of a blocking tight end, but I think he could be a really good player in this league,” Ertz said of Togiai, whom he spent an offseason with in Philadelphia.
Togiai has been in the league for three seasons, though has seen just seven games played. If he can crack a roster spot, there’s a chance he surpasses that in 2023.