Tight end Rob Housler breaks loose for his long pass play against the Dolphins.
All Rob Housler needed was a chance this season.
He entered training camp behind two veteran tight ends, Todd Heap and Jeff King, and started the season as a student, watching them operate from the sideline.
But Housler, a second-year tight end, didn't have to wait long to get his chance. Against New England in the second week, Heap left the game late in the third quarter with a knee injury. Four plays later, Housler caught a seven-yard pass.
Off he went. Housler was thrust into the starting lineup against Miami and St. Louis, and through five games, he's 15 receiving yards away from matching his total of 133 from last season. Housler was given an opportunity and the Florida Atlantic product has taken advantage of it.
"That's what it comes down to in this league," Housler said. "(The coaches) just want to have confidence in you. I worked hard in the offseason with the coaching staff and in camp. I just want to take advantage of the chance."
Both of Housler's mentors have been impressed with their understudy as he continues to grow into his position with the Cardinals. Heap and King spend time talking with Housler at practice and in the film room, and they understand the expectations that come with being a third-round pick.
"We all have to prove we're worthy of what we're paid," King said. "He's no exception.
"He's getting better every week, kinda like all of us. You get better the more you play."
The scouting report on Housler out of FAU centered around his athleticism. He's put his speed on display this season with 28 of his 118 yards coming after the catch. Against Miami, he took a short pass and stretched the play for a 33-yard-gain, which helped set up a Cardinals' touchdown.
"I think we all got an opportunity to see him in space, see what kind of speed he has," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "As with a lot of young players, as he gets more thrown into the fire and more experience, you see him growing up and making some of those plays."
The more Housler makes plays, the larger role he'll play, Heap believes – even when Heap returns to the field after a three-game absence. Part of Housler's success can be credited to his receiving catching ability.
Unlike King, who's primarily a blocking tight end, Housler has been used in passing situations more than blocking.
"That's what's going to keep him in the league, being a pass catcher and being in that role," King said.
Housler is taking the last three games in stride. He's starting to understand the fluidity of the NFL. Nothing's guaranteed. Nothing's handed out. He's learned to be ready for whatever comes his way, and if that means waiting behind two men who have played for a combined 19 years, so be it.
"It's been exciting to be out there and be a part of everything and just trying to make something happen," he said. "It's just about taking advantage of the balls that come your way and making plays. You're on the field to make plays and move the chains.
"It's nice to sit there and say every time I catch ball it's going to be a first down. I have to take pride in trying to do that and help our offense move down the field."