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An Option At Tight End

Notebook: Gandy practices; Linebackers Hayes, Okeafor doubtful for Seattle

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 Tight ends Anthony Becht (left) and Ben Patrick share a laugh during the Cardinals' victory in Chicago last week, when both had touchdown catches.
 
 
With wide receivers like Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston and an emerging running game with both Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells, the Cardinals will never need a lot from their tight ends.

But the team is finally getting the production they do need from the position, highlighted by a touchdown catch each from Anthony Becht and Ben Patrick in Chicago. Patrick, since coming off his four-game suspension to begin the season, has two TD catches in four games (and three in five, counting the Super Bowl) and is developing into a legitimate red-zone target. Becht has become the blocker for whom the Cards have been searching since coach Ken Whisenhunt arrived.

"I'm not going to get too many opportunities a game," Becht said. "I'm a realist. I wasn't a primary target on that play, but you run a good route, Kurt has a way of finding you. You just have to be ready. We have a lot of star receivers and they are going to get the ball. But when it's our opportunity, we have to take advantage."

Both touchdown throws to tight ends against the Bears were originally scripted to go to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. In both cases, Fitzgerald wasn't open and Warner was given enough time from the offensive line to find secondary receivers.

"Kurt sprays the ball around, and any given day could be your day," Patrick said.

The last time the Cardinals had two different tight ends score touchdowns in the same game was when Patrick and Troy Bienemann each caught scoring passes from Warner in New Orleans, Dec. 16, 2007.

For now, it looks like Becht and Patrick have taken hold of the two tight end spots Whisenhunt likes to have active on game days. Former starter Stephen Spach has returned to health from an ankle injury, but he was hurt right as Patrick returned and will have difficulty getting Patrick out of the lineup. Dominique Byrd, the team's fourth tight end still hasn't been active.

But the position will probably continue to have an impact, especially now with the improving running game. A tight end is necessary to run the ball in the red zone.

"The first thing is that they are in there (on the field)," Whisenhunt said. "Being able to run the ball allows you to have those guys on the field and then when you have receivers like Larry, it presents a problem for coverage. That, in theory, is how it is supposed to work."

GANDY QUESTIONABLE; HAYES, OKEAFOR DOUBTFUL

Starting left tackle Mike Gandy returned to practice on a limited basis Friday, and while he is officially listed as questionable, the offensive line is expected to start its 25th straight regular-season game together as a unit.

Defensively, there are bigger issues. Two starting linebackers – Gerald Hayes and Chike Okeafor – missed the week with back problems, and both are listed as doubtful for Sunday.  If they can't play, Ali Highsmith and Bertrand Berry, respectively, should replace them in the lineup.

If Patrick (knee) can't start – he's also questionable – Spach should return to the active roster.
 
Whisenhunt said special-teamer Sean Morey (concussion), who was officially limited Friday, should be cleared for contact Saturday and his situation will also be a game-day decision.

GAME SELLS OUT

As expected, the Cardinals used their 24-hour extension to sell their remaining tickets for Sunday's game, meaning the game is officially a sellout and will be broadcast locally on Fox (Ch. 10).

FOOD DRIVE SUNDAY

The Cards and Gila River are conducting their annual holiday food drive for St. Mary's Food Bank. Fans can bring their non-perishable food items and/or money to donate to the volunteers working at entry points around University of Phoenix Stadium.

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