Cardinals’ Elijah Higgins’ rookie season of transition between teams, positions

Dec 23, 2023, 11:34 AM

Elijah Higgins...

Elijah Higgins speaks to the media during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 03, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Arizona Cardinals tight end Elijah Higgins has had to manage a rookie season between two franchises while adapting to life at a new position.

A receiver at Stanford, Higgins was selected in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins, but his tenure there was short. Miami waived him on Aug. 29 in the cutdown to 53 players, and he was a Cardinal the following day. In Arizona he was reunited with his college teammate, wide receiver Michael Wilson.

Higgins is starting to play more after he was inactive for the first six weeks, and he had a career day in Week 15 against the 49ers with four catches, 44 receiving yards and his first touchdown.

“It definitely hasn’t been the smoothest road,” Higgins told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Friday. “I think more than anything, coming from Miami to Arizona, I’m just very grateful for the team and the coaches, they were very welcoming. I felt very comfortable here from day one. I felt like I could go on the field and just play my type of ball and enjoy it and have fun. Big shout out to the team and organization and the culture here, because it’s really allowed me to progress as an individual and as a football player at this level.”

Higgins is listed at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, making him the smallest tight end on the roster but bigger than any receiver. Jumping into the NFL from the Pac-12, especially as a Day 3 pick, is a challenge without changing position groups, and it took a while to acclimate.

He said landing on waivers came as a surprise, and he was not sure another team would pick him up.

“Obviously just the jump from college to the NFL, honestly, I think it’s a mindset thing more than anything,” Higgins said. “So, just cultivating that throughout the course of the season has allowed me to be where I’m at today. Just (I’m) cultivating that mindset, cultivating confidence and playing my game.”

The Cardinals lost veteran tight end Geoff Swaim (calf) for the season after he was carted off the field last week. Arizona picked up tight end Travis Vokolek, so three of the four tight ends on the 53-man team are rookies with second-year Trey McBride the elder stateman.

There is opportunity alongside McBride over the final three games, and Higgins is the next-most experienced tight end on the active roster.

“If you watch the game, and you really pay attention to what’s going on, Geoff is a game changer for us,” Higgins said. “He does an amazing job in the run game, in the pass game as well blocking and helping us with protection. … But we still have him in the room, and that’s probably been the most important part in my growth and I know a lot of guys on our team, too.”

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