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Time To Shine For Dan Arnold

Young tight end aiming to secure prominent role on offense

TE Dan Arnold makes a catch over LB Isaiah Simmons in a training camp practice in 2020.
TE Dan Arnold catches a pass over LB Isaiah Simmons during a recent training camp practice.

Dan Arnold chuckled as he sat down in the press conference room at State Farm Stadium on Monday morning.

The Cardinals' tight end was participating in his first virtual media session over Zoom, and the setup was a big departure from the face-to-face interactions of the past.

"This is so different," said Arnold as he peered toward Mark Dalton, the team's vice president of media relations.

It may not be the only big change for the 25-year-old in 2020.

For years, Arnold has been the underdog. He didn't receive a scholarship offer out of high school. He played collegiately at Division III Wisconsin-Platteville. He had a bit role for the Saints during most of his first three professional seasons.

But after an impressive three-game debut with the Cardinals last year and a promising start to camp, opportunity awaits for Arnold to seize a prominent role on offense.

"I plan on pushing myself as much as I can," Arnold said. "I want to be the best player that I know that I can be. In my head I'm thinking, 'You can do some great things.' But it takes a heck of a lot of discipline."

Maxx Williams is the team's starting tight end when healthy – he's been dealing with an unspecified injury the past week – but Arnold has quickly proven to be the top pass-catching threat at the position.

The Cardinals' pro personnel department identified him as a player with potential last season, and when New Orleans waived him on Dec. 4, the team pounced.

"From the first day we brought him in and he was running scout team -- because we were trying to work him into the offense -- he was making plays all over the field," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "It didn't take us long to get him caught up to speed. He was all about learning the offense. We were able to put him in fairly quickly and start utilizing him. He's a talented player.

"We're hoping he can build with us, build with Kyler (Murray), and be a valuable target for us."

Arnold had a pair of touchdown catches in his three contests with the Cardinals last season, and had four receptions for 76 yards and a score in the season finale against the Rams. Even though that game was meaningless in a team sense, Kingsbury said the uptick in playing time would have happened in any scenario.

"He earned those snaps," Kingsbury said.

At 6-foot-6, Arnold is bigger than most safeties, and as a former wide receiver, is faster than many linebackers. It took him some time to adjust to Kingsbury's spread system, but it seems like a fortuitous coupling.

"This offense, it allows athletes to have a lot of free range on getting open and finding green grass," Arnold said. "That really helps."

Arnold is far from a known entity, but is starting to generate some buzz. NFL Network's Peter Schrager recently talked him up, guard Justin Pugh raved about a recent catch and, apparently, Reddit loves him.

Arnold appreciates the praise, but with only 20 career receptions to his name, realizes there is a long way to go.

"I got some college buddies that sent me (the NFL Network clip)," Arnold said. "I saw it on Twitter and everything. It's pretty cool, pretty awesome to have some recognition from the outside world. But I think one of the nice things about doing training camp here at State Farm (Stadium) is that we're kind of locked in to what we're doing. It's nice to have some of that recognition, but at the same time, we've got to go in and practice each and every day no matter what, and it doesn't change anything what we've got to do on the practice field."

Kingsbury and Murray are the engines that make this offense go, and both have been lavish in their praise of Arnold since his arrival. With a continued ascent, the young tight end could hitch his wagon to coach and quarterback for the foreseeable future.

"The nice thing about being close with a young quarterback like this is you can both grow together, both understand each other and learn the game together," Arnold said. "I think it will be a really fun run."

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