On the first day of August, quarterback Kyler Murray commiserated with a lonely Cardinals’ position group from the press conference room at State Farm Stadium.
“Do I feel sorry for the tight ends?” Murray said. “A little bit. … Right now, they don’t touch the field as often as they’d probably like to. It’s kind of tough. I feel for them.”
That was early in training camp, when the Cardinals regularly used four-receiver formations and turned the tight ends into well-paid spectators. Murray predicted it could change, and he was right.
The Cardinals used plenty of 11 personnel – one tight end, one running back -- in their preseason opener against the Chargers, and while the position group isn’t expected to be a focal point in 2019, coach Kliff Kingsbury pledges not to forget about them.
“We think it’s a good group that provides a lot of balance in our offense,” Kingsbury said. “I expect there to be a vital role within that position.”
Ricky Seals-Jones was a wide receiver in the Air Raid at Texas A&M, and he knows this type of offense can favor that particular group of pass-catchers. However, Kingsbury plans to meld college and professional principles, which gives the tight ends more of a chance for playing time.
“If we just come out and do what we’re asked to do whenever we get in, I think it will work itself out,” Seals-Jones said. “I’ve been in Kliff’s offense a little bit in college, and we didn’t have any tight ends. It was just ‘10’ personnel. But he’s finding a way to put us in. We watched (Texas) Tech film when they had a tight end, so he’s using them. If we just go out there and do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll get on the field.”
Charles Clay (knee) was activated from the physically unable to perform list on Sunday morning, and while he didn’t practice in the afternoon, he figures to be back soon. When that happens, Kingsbury will have his full complement of tight end options for the first time.
Clay is a versatile piece, a former fullback who can be used in a variety of roles. Seals-Jones has a height and speed combination that can be tough on defenses. Maxx Williams is making a positive impression as both a blocker and receiver. Kingsbury likes the skillset of Darrell Daniels , who is making strides.
“It’s a group with each guy providing some different flexibility,” Kingsbury said.
Former coach Bruce Arians would regularly use two or three tight ends on the field during his stint with the Cardinals. That type of usage seems unlikely in 2019, but Williams said the tight ends aren’t intimidated by the track record of the Air Raid.
“I look back to where I was in Baltimore,” said Williams, a former second-round pick. “My first year, we weren’t that featured in three tight-end sets, and by the time I was leaving there, we were all in most of the plays. So I think all of us strive to go out there and play our best and show we deserve to be out there all the time.”
Seals-Jones, Williams and Clay all said the key is to be ready when called upon. That could ebb and flow during the season, but Clay said the big-picture view is the most important.
“If we rolled out ‘10’ personnel and we’re winning, and you talked to the tight ends, I think they’d be perfectly fine,” Clay said. “At the end of the day, everybody on offense wants the ball, but if you’re winning, that softens everything. We’ve got a pretty unselfish group.”
Images from Saturday's work following the preseason opener against the Chargers