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Rob Housler Hangs Tight

With Arians set to use tight ends more in his system, the third-year pro expected to excel


Tight end Rob Housler runs after the catch during a game against Seattle last season.

Last week, Bruce Arians said he doesn't like to look back. That when he was hired in January as the Cardinals' new head coach, everyone started with a blank slate.

But don't let him fool you.

Arians knew exactly what Rob Housler did last season.

"I see a wideout playing tight end," Arians said. "A guy that's very versatile, (can) play in the backfield, at tight end, can split out wide. I think the sky's the limit as far as where he can get talent wise. I really like the way he plays football."

Housler is expected to play a more featured role in Arians' down-field passing attack. But the third-year tight end can't rest on his receiving laurels.

He has to master the running schemes as well as learn a new passing offense.

In a bit of foreshadowing at the NFL's annual owners meetings in March, Arians expressed his preference for having a tight end on the field over a fullback.

"I'm not a fullback guy. I never have been," Arians said in March. "I want tight ends who are multiple. If you are a defensive coordinator and I send a fullback in and take out a tight end, I will get your best call for that. If I have two tight ends, and you don't know if one will play fullback or one could split out wide, you're going to give me a down and distance call. You don't have a specific call.

"The more flexible tight ends can be, threats at a receiver or dual in-line backfield blockers, the more pressure you can put on the defense."

Less than six weeks later, Anthony Sherman was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs, leaving the Cardinals without a fullback and placing even more responsibilities on the tight ends' collective shoulders. And that's another place where Housler fits in. Arians has raved about his versatility and ability to stretch the field from the line of scrimmage, and new quarterback Carson Palmer gushed about his speed, but Housler has also improved on his blocking.

The more Housler can do in in the new offense, which is more complex than in years past, the more he'll see the field.

"I'm sitting here and I'm looking at it and I just got to understand what my role is on every play, that may be blocking and that may be running," Housler said. "It's not specified and it's not that one thing so I can't concentrate on one thing. I have to concentrate on my job and a play."

Tight end Jeff King said there will be more two tight end sets in Arians' offense, which includes lining up the position in the backfield, out wide, in the slot or in motion.

"The more tight ends we can get on the field, the better," said King, one of seven tight ends on the roster during minicamp, of which about three or four will make the final roster. Arians added to his cache in the draft, selecting D.C. Jefferson in the seventh round in April.

As last season progressed, Housler's comfort level with the professional game increased as he saw the field more often because of injuries to Todd Heap and King. Housler finished with 45 receptions for 417 yards – 284 more than his rookie season.

Using that experience as a springboard for 2013, Housler is already seeing a difference during OTAs and minicamps. He's grasping the new routes and schemes Arians has been installing quicker than a year ago.

"You understand the concepts, you understand what the defense is trying to do," he said. "That on-field experience really helps."

Even with King, Jefferson and Jim Dray getting reps in practice, Housler has emerged as the featured tight end in a vertical passing game that drew praise from around the league during Arians' last year in Indianapolis.

It helps that Housler is 6-foot-5, 250 pounds and can run a seam route one play and come across the middle the next.

"The more you can do," Arians said, "the more you get featured."

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