Throughout the years, the tight end position has taken on a mostly insignificant role with the Arizona Cardinals organization
For far too many seasons, the tight end has been a forgotten component of the Arizona Cardinals offense. No matter who the play-caller has been, the position has frequently played an insignificant role in the team’s passing attack. In fact, only a handful of tight ends throughout the Cardinals history have accumulated numbers that are worth mentioning.
One player who did excel at the spot for the Cards was the great Jackie Smith. The five-time Pro Bowler was a star performer with the squad for 15 campaigns (1963-77), back when the franchise made it’s home in St. Louis. Smith totaled 480 receptions for 7,918 yards and 40 touchdowns during his time with Big Red.
Doug Marsh, a second-round draft pick of St. Louis in 1980, is the second-most prolific tight end in the organization’s history. The one-time Michigan Wolverine hauled in 167 passes for 2,140 yards and 19 scores during his seven seasons with the Cardinals. Marsh spent most of his career playing the safety valve role for Pro Bowl quarterback Neil Lomax.
Robert Awalt was utilized heavily during the three years (1987-89) he spent with the Cards. The Landsthul, Germany native, like Marsh, also benefited from being in an offense that was led by the talented Lomax. In 44 appearances (39 starts) with the Redbirds, Awalt tallied 114 catches, 1,340 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
Jay Novacek was part of a lethal foursome of Cardinals pass-catchers that included Awalt, Roy Green and J.T. Smith during the late 1980’s. The University of Wyoming product was credited with 83 receptions, 1,054 receiving yards and eight scores during the five campaigns (1985-89) he spent with the club. Novacek will primarily be remembered, however, for the three Super Bowl rings and five Pro Bowl invitations he collected as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
Freddie Jones was an accomplished tight end who’s stay in the desert lasted for just three seasons. The former second-round selection of the San Diego Chargers signed a free agent contract with Arizona in 2002. Jones registered 144 catches for 1.301 yards and six touchdowns in 48 appearances (47 starts) for the Cards.
One other St. Louis tight end worth mentioning, J.V. Cain, was the seventh-overall choice of the 1974 draft. The Houston, Texas native racked up 76 receptions, 1,014 receiving yards and nine scores in 55 games (37 starts) for the Cardinals. Cain’s life came to a tragic end in 1978, when the 28-year old died of congenital heart failure brought on by the excessive heat of training camp.