Arizona Cardinals position grades: Tight ends aced the 2023 season thanks to a pair of players

The Arizona Cardinals tight ends finished the 2023 season strong, but it wasn’t all the Trey McBride Show as one more player made his presence felt.

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals
Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals / Christian Petersen/GettyImages
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The Arizona Cardinals may be set at the tight end position, which wasn’t much of a theme during the Steve Keim era. But initially, that trend looked as though it would continue early in the Monti Ossenfort era, as head coach Jonathan Gannon and offensive coordinator Drew Petzing rolled with Zach Ertz over Trey McBride early in the year, and the production was stagnant. 

Ertz showed us he was well past his prime, catching just 27 passes on 43 targets for 187 yards, 6.9 yards per reception, and a touchdown through seven games. No, these numbers weren’t awful, but given how well Ertz played earlier in his career, they weren’t up to his standard. When he sustained an injury, however, Trey McBride stepped up and performed better than most of the Red Sea figured he would. 

With 81 catches on 101 targets, 825 yards, 10.2 yards per, and a trio of touchdowns, McBride assured us the Cardinals will enter 2024 having solved their tight end woes. But they also found another solid piece in Elijah Higgins, who ended up with 14 catches on 19 targets for 163 yards, 11.6 yards per, and a touchdown. Higgins is the No. 2 tight end going forward, and he, along with McBride, gave this group an A+ on the year.

Arizona Cardinals tight ends were the best position group in 2023

Despite McBride’s Pro Bowl-caliber play, he looked solid but didn’t wow many in the NFL universe throughout Year 1 of his NFL campaign in 2022, and Higgins looks as though he’s following the same career path. Sure, McBride posted better numbers as a rookie, but only because Ertz went down with a knee injury, which forced the young tight end into the starting lineup. 

Therefore, if Higgins evolves and even puts up a 2024 season halfway to what McBride did productivity-wise, then this dynamic duo will evolve into one of the NFL’s best, not just at tight end, but overall. The Arizona Cardinals still may not be finished adding talent to the group, as Blake Whiteheart enjoyed a fine preseason and ended up on the final roster, so he’s also a name to keep an eye on. 

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(Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference)