One bad play should never define your career, but it is understandable that Dan Arnold was ”distraught” after not being able to haul in a potential touchdown pass in the first quarter of the NFC Championship Game — a game that was close enough it ended up going to overtime before it was decided*.
*well, you know ...
I’ve watched the play dozens of times and while Arnold did get both hands on it, that certainly wasn’t an easy catch by any means. Arnold was running up the seam and bending toward the middle of the field, while the pass was thrown up and behind him.
Mind you, that was perfect placement on Drew Brees’ part, because there were two Rams defenders positioned inside of Arnold. But, realistically, a lot of good tight ends might have dropped that one in the same situation. However, I also know Arnold will probably never give himself a break on that one because the Saints were so close to going to the Super Bowl, and it is true that a touchdown there might have changed the eventual outcome.
Some Saints fans on social media certainly haven’t been very forgiving. I do Twitter searches to try to keep up with the breakout candidates I plan to write about, and let’s just say it gets ugly at times.
The good news for Arnold is he now gets another opportunity to redeem himself.
He is going to have to fight for it, but if he continues to grow as a player this season, Arnold should have a chance to have a lot more production than the 12 catches he notched last year. I would expect him to score more than his one touchdown from a season ago, too.
Yes, I know the Saints signed Jared Cook and he is going to be the starter, but Arnold can still carve out a nice role for himself in the offense this year. The guy is physically gifted at 6’6 and over 220 pounds. In fact, Arnold is a converted wide receiver and you can see on film how natural he looks when he is running routes. And really, he is just beginning to tap into his potential.
While Arnold is technically heading into his third season after being an undrafted free agent in 2017, he actually missed his whole rookie season due to injury. It was after that wasted first season the Saints transitioned Arnold to tight end.
That is important to keep in mind when you are talking about a guy who was only active for 10 games during the regular season, starting one of them. Yeah, there are parts of his game at tight end that need some work, but imagine how much sharper he is going to look after having spent over a year at the position now.
I don’t have any problem saying Arnold wasn’t a very good blocker last season. However, that shouldn’t have been a shock to anybody. He is undersized for the position for now, and he hadn’t blocked as a tight end in a game until last season. I will say that any issues he had blocking didn’t appear to be effort related, so now he just has to work on technique.
As long as a guy is willing to bust his ass to try to block, eventually he is almost sure to improve at it.
The fact Arnold was a receiver in college means he is comfortable lining up anywhere and running routes.
That should make for some interesting formations and route combinations when he and the 6’5 Cook are in the game together. There are a ton of possibilities even just with red zone plays for the both of them. Do you play pass or run when they are both in the game?
Of course, Arnold isn’t just going to be given the backup tight end job. While Ben Watson moved on to the Patriots this season, the Saints still have Josh Hill and he started 11 games for them last season. New Orleans also drafted Alize Mack in the seventh round. Both of those guys can play well too. I will say I thought Hill was going to break out by now, but his best season overall continues to have been all the way back in 2014.
At this point, I would think you might as well see what Arnold can do rather than waiting for Hill to finally have a big year in his seventh season in the league. Mack is a wild card, but I believe Arnold has the ability to beat him out as well.
If Arnold gets that top backup spot, I can see him being a real weapon up the seams for Brees. One thing about that “drop” in the NFC Championship Game is Brees obviously had a lot of confidence in Arnold to throw that to him in the first place with two Rams defenders in the area. If Arnold can build strong chemistry with Brees, then even as a backup he could be a matchup nightmare this year.
Confidence level: Low