Trey McBride’s upped usage among Cardinals wrinkles to watch moving forward

Oct 17, 2023, 10:28 AM | Updated: 3:30 pm

Trey McBride runs the rock...

Trey McBride #85 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the ball against Jordan Fuller #4 of the Los Angeles Rams during the first quarter at SoFi Stadium on October 15, 2023 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

TEMPE — Arizona Cardinals tight end Trey McBride has spent the majority of his NFL career behind Zach Ertz on the depth chart.

But in the Cardinals’ Week 6 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, it was McBride — not Ertz — pacing the tight ends room in offensive snaps (44). His receptions (four) and receiving yards (62) were also tied for the team lead.

“The jumps that he’s made since OTAs, training camp and throughout these first set of ballgames, I think just consistency,” head coach Jonathan Gannon said Monday.

“He’s an explosive player, he’s a pretty good blocker, which we kind of challenged him on that to improve that part of his game, which he’s done. He’s a fast guy that gets open and catches the ball. I like where he’s trending.”

For McBride, it’s all about continuing to move the needle in whatever role he’s thrust into, whether that’s as a pass catcher or blocker. And above all else, just staying as ready as he can for when his number is called.

“Sometimes it’s a little surprise, sometimes you don’t really know,” McBride said Monday. “This game I kind of knew I was going to get a few more reps than I had been. I didn’t know how many, but they did tell me to be ready to go into 11-personnel and to able to play in this whole game. Every week I come in ready to play. I know the whole gameplan, whether I’m playing one play or I’m playing every play.”

And while blocking — specifically in the ground attack — isn’t the most glamorous part of the game, it’s an important one to McBride.

It’s also pretty fun if you ask the young tight end.

“I try to help in every aspect,” McBride said. “It’s always cool when you’re a huge part of the run game when the running back’s having a great game and you know you’re a huge part of that. That’s something I always love to do.”

For a team that loves to run the rock, that’s music to offensive coordinator Drew Petzing’s ears.

The Emari Demercado conundrum

Entering Week 6, rookie running back Emari Demercado looked like a legitimate candidate to take over the ground game with James Conner on injured reserve with a knee issue.

But when Arizona took the field on Sunday, it was Keaontay Ingram getting the starting nod and the bulk of the carries, followed by Damien Williams in his first game as a Cardinal.

As for Demercado, he was held to just three offensive touches for 17 total yards after pacing the team just a game prior in place of Conner.

Outside of Rondale Moore’s negative yardage, Demercado was at the bottom of the totem pole from a statistics standpoint.

That’s not to say that Demercado still didn’t make an impact in other areas.

Despite his yardage, the undrafted rookie out of TCU paced the running backs in offensive snaps with 33 (43%) as he continues to be counted on in third-down passing situations. it was five more snaps than Ingram.

“He’s a guy we feel real comfortable with,” Gannon said of Demercado. “We feel comfortable with the other guys too, but he’s shown he’s done a really good job of that. … He’ll keep getting his touches.”

It’s safe to say Demercado has the market cornered when it comes to pass protection. He has gobs of trust from the coaching staff and players.

Behind that, though, it seems like Ingram and Williams have a step or two on him.

That look in his eye

Keeping on the running backs, Gannon liked what he saw out of Williams in his first showing as a Cardinal.

“I liked the look in his eye,” Gannon said. “You can tell he’s played a lot of football before. He banged some runs in there and created some extra yardage. I look forward to continue working with him.”

Williams was effective with limited snaps, recording 36 yards on eight carries for a 4.5-yard average. He also caught a pass for eight yards.

As for if Williams or any of the other running backs did enough to separate themselves from the pack, Gannon kept the cards close to the vest.

“We continue to evaluate that as we go in and start working on the Seattle game plan now,” Gannon said. “You might see it tilted one way or the other. I thought (Ingram, Williams and Demercado) did a good job when they went in.”

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