Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  By CRAIG MORGAN  |  Last updated 8/27/13
TEMPE, Ariz. Scroll through the litany of preseason stories on Cardinals tight end Rob Housler and youre likely to encounter some version of this statement: Dropped far too many passes in 2012. Then you remember the dropped touchdown on Saturday against San Diego and the dropped ball on the only pass thrown his way the previous week against the Cowboys and you nod your head; a willing member of the congregation. The problem with this sermon? The stats from 2012 simply dont back the notion that Housler had a case of the dropsies. According to the web site sportingcharts.com (and two other sites that posted the same stats), Housler finished 119th in the NFL last season in drop percentage at 7.35 percent. Housler was targeted 68 times, catching 45 balls while dropping just five. Granted this stat can be a bit subjective, but with such a large sample size its still instructive to note that Houslers drop percentage was better than Packers tight end Jermichael Finley (8.05 percent), New Orleans Jimmy Graham (10.37 percent) and New Englands Aaron Hernandez (10.84 percent). I dont get upset. People are entitled to their opinions, Housler said, when asked about his reputation. All I care about is understanding what happened on the play, understanding youre better than that, and you cant let those balls slip through your fingers. Thats a literal and a metaphorical kind of statement for me because of the opportunity I have this year. Youve probably heard this could be a breakout year for Housler. Coach Bruce Arians said recently that he can envision Housler catching 80 balls in this offense, which would be nearly double the amount he had last year and would also be the most ever by a Cardinals tight end. Arians can be prone to hyperbole, but backup QB Drew Stanton, who played for Arians last season in Indianapolis, said its not a stretch considering Houslers physical talents and the way Arians wants to use the tight end. He creates mismatches, Stanton said of Housler. What we want to be able to do is run our entire offense out of multiple personnels and he has the flexibility that you can split him out wide and do stuff, but you can also bring him into the backfield and run our running game. He can also help you dictate what coverage youre seeing because if you split him out wide, the safety goes out with him, and you know you have man, Stanton said. Houslers size (6-5, 250) makes him an awfully inviting target for quarterbacks. But, unlike the Cardinals other tight ends -- Jeff King, Jim Dray, Kory Sperry, DC Jefferson, Alex Gottlieb and Tuesday's roster addition, Richard Quinn -- Housler has rare speed. In 2011, his draft year, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds, the fastest time of any tight end at the NFL Scouting Combine. What do you do with him? Stanton asked. Do you put a corner, a safety or a linebacker on him. Any of those matchups were going to like for different reasons, whether its his size advantage or his speed advantage. If recent history is any guide, it also helps that quarterback Carson Palmer has developed a liking for check-down routes as hes aged, matured, and perhaps lost just a shade of that deep arm strength. In Palmers one season in Oakland (2012), Raiders tight end Brandon Myers caught 79 passes for 806 yards. He had never caught more than 16 passes in his three previous seasons. Obviously, I have to take advantage of my opportunities by getting open and executing the pay, but I do think the play-calling is going to be there, so its a matter of if the defense is going to give it to us, Housler said. We have a bunch of options, so its going to be tough to focus on one position. There were a number of factors that held Housler back the past two seasons. The Cardinals had poor quarterback play that led to multiple missed connections, and the pass protection wasnt good, but Houslers personal stumbling block has been blocking, not catching. He came out of Florida Atlantic and admits now that the jump to the NFL from a small school was a big one. You get to this level and everyones at the top of their crop. You have to be extremely precise, he said. But its been good to be thrown into the fire. I wasnt just sitting in the background watching. I was out there getting experience and that really helped me in every facet of my game. I think Ive made a lot of progress. Its just, in the blocking department, I had a longer way to go, and Im still trying to close the gap to where I need to be. Arians likes what hes seen from Housler. Hes had a heck of a camp other than dropping that touchdown, he said, noting that there have been times we wanted to feature him, but theres some things you just dont want to show in preseason. The Cards are hoping theyll be able to showcase Housler when the regular season starts Sept. 8 in St. Louis. Hes currently nursing a high-ankle sprain suffered against the Chargers. While he is listed as day to day, that type of injury can linger a point not lost on Housler. Im hoping for a speedy recovery because I want to put my best foot forward, said Housler, immediately recognizing the play on words with his injury. Its good for me to hear how they want to use me, and that they have such confidence in me. It shows what kind of expectations they have. If they have the same as I do, thats a good thing. Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter
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