Tight end Ben Patrick hauls in a touchdown reception in the Super Bowl. (AP photo)
Ken Whisenhunt was a tight end.
He played in 74 NFL games, made 62 receptions and carved out a nice career that got him on to rosters eight times. Until he became Pittsburgh?s offensive coordinator in 2004, the vast majority of Whisenhunt?s coaching career was as tight ends coach.
It is little surprise the position gets closer inspection with the Cardinals, and is viewed through slightly different prism by the head coach.
?It?s only human nature,? Whisenhunt said.
It?s also the one position that has basically remained in flux since Whisenhunt arrived, despite his best efforts to solidify the spot. One of the first free agents the Cardinals chased after Whisenhunt was hired was a tight end ? Reggie Kelly, who decided to stay in Cincinnati as opposed to taking the Cardinals? reportedly more lucrative offer ? and now, the Cards have a quartet of players already on the roster trying to earn Whisenhunt?s trust: Ben Patrick, Stephen Spach, Leonard Pope and Anthony Becht.
?We have some talented players who have shown at times they can productive,?
The topic is popular once again going into draft weekend because of the instability. At one point, a popular first-round guess for the Cards was Oklahoma State?s Brandon Pettigrew, regarded as the top tight end in the draft class.
That talk has cooled (although the rumor mill has the Cards possibly getting Ravens tight end Todd Heap if an Anquan Boldin trade comes together). Whisenhunt said any tight end help that would come in the draft ?would be a bonus.?
For the holdovers still trying to create a foothold as starters, they just want another chance.
?I am sure (Whisenhunt) is looking for a complete tight end,? Patrick said. ?Last year, a lot of us were banged up, including myself, and I am sure he wants someone reliable. But I thought we came together at the end when it counted.?
Injuries did rip apart the position in 2008. All four tight ends ? Becht wasn?t in Arizona, but veteran Jerame Tuman was ? spent significant time hurt. By the time the Cards reached the playoffs, Spach had emerged as the starter, even though he didn?t sign until midseason. Then Spach blew out his knee in the postseason, making his availability at the start of 2009 a question.
Patrick stepped up after that, catching an important two-point conversion in the NFC Championship and then making a circus-like touchdown reception in the Super Bowl.
?To go through some of the things I went through last year because of injuries and to know the finger was being pointed at our group, including myself, (the Super Bowl TD) was a play I needed for my confidence,? Patrick said. ?It was good to show when I am in the game, I am capable of making plays.?
That potential is what makes Whisenhunt believe the Cards can still find their tight end.
?As a group, I think we have a lot of potential,? said Spach, who hopes to be ready by training camp. ?I think we have shown we can do our job.?
If anyone would know that, it?s the head coach.
?People say address it in the draft, well, that?s one of the harder positions to find in the draft,? Whisenhunt said. ?Where we are right now, I feel good with what we have.?
Contact Darren Urban at email@example.com. Posted 4/23/09.