Cards Tight Ends Blend Youth and Experience

Troy Bienemann & Leonard Pope (Jeff Gross/Getty)

Despite getting minimal production from the position last season, the Cardinals look for big things from their tight ends in 2008. Ken Whisenhunt added a familiar face to a group of young, talented athletes and believes the sky is the limit. James Jones breaks down Arizona's tight ends and compares how they stack up against their division rivals.

Even with two receivers who are threats to post at least 1,000 yards year after year, the tight end position is still an integral component in Arizona's offense. Unfortunately, the returns the Cardinals have seen from this corps has been lackluster to say the least.

Starter Leonard Pope has not played up to the potential the Cardinals saw in him when they made him a third-round pick in 2006. Playing in all 16 games that season yet starting only six, he caught just 16 catches for 161 yards and no scores.

Last year wasn't much better for the former Georgia Bulldog, as he was injured late in the season and finished with 23 receptions for 238 yards. To his credit, he did manage to get into the end zone five times.

Pope is more of a receiving tight end, which is why the Cardinals brought in run-blocking specialist Jerame Tuman in the offseason. Tuman played under Ken Whisenhunt for six years in Pittsburgh, so the Cardinals know what they are getting from this savvy 10-year veteran.

Second-year men Ben Patrick and Troy Bienemann round out the rotation. Both are young and unseasoned, although Patrick did manage to chip in two touchdowns in very limited action last season.

Steve Baylark and Alex Shor will be in training camp this summer but the chances of either making the team would appear to be remote.

The Rest of the West

The St. Louis Rams might have the best unit in the West, although that's not saying much. The Rams boast former Pro Bowl alternate Randy McMichael as their starter with Joe Klopfenstein, the 46th overall pick of the 2006 draft, backing him up.

Up in San Francisco, the 49ers might have the most talented tight end in the division. Vernon Davis is a workout warrior who has shown flashes of brilliance but has not been able to stay consistent or injury-free. He is backed up by Billy Bajema.

The Seahawks might have the "12th man" at Qwest Field but they would prefer to have a proven tight end on game days. Will Heller, who hasn't produced a great deal in his career, will battle for the starting position with newly drafted John Carlson, a second-round pick this year out of Notre Dame.

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