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Saints' Dan Arnold: Converting to tight end 'one of hardest things' I've done; but he's impressing

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Old 08-06-2018, 03:19 PM   #1
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Old 08-06-2018, 03:26 PM   #2
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Re: Saints' Dan Arnold: Converting to tight end 'one of hardest things' I've done; but he's impressing

(excerpts)

During a recent practice, Dan Arnold found himself up against a defensive end, trying to clear a hole for the running back.

It was probably the first time Arnold ever encountered this specific scenario. A converted wide receiver who is playing tight end for the first time, he's used to blocking cornerbacks and safeties, not hulking pass rushers. So, it probably comes as no surprise that Arnold was tossed to the ground and gave up the play.


There have been times when Arnold has made things look easy this summer, so it's easy to forget just how far he still has to go to make this transition stick and crack the roster.

“It’s one of the hardest things I think I’ve done in my life," Arnold said. "I have a really good coach with Dan (Campbell). We’ve put in a lot of work, especially in OTAs. The biggest thing is trying to focus on if you make a mistake just turn around and come to the next play. After that, try to keep making plays at receiver like I used to.”

It doesn’t have to happen right away. If Arnold makes the team, which is still no guarantee, he likely won’t be called upon to make many blocks like that one in the recent practice. New Orleans would protect him and use him primarily as a flex tight end. In 2016, Coby Fleener played 664 snaps but was only asked to block on 114 plays, according to Sports Info Solutions. Arnold might not even see that that kind of rate.

Right now, all the Saints are looking to do is have Arnold become proficient enough as a blocker so that he is defended like a tight end when they are in 11 personnel (three wide receivers, one running back, one tight end). All he needs to do is be good enough to create a mismatch in the running game if defended by a cornerback.

New Orleans ran 161 times for 797 yards and was 224-of-308 passing for 2,527 yards out of 11 personnel last season. And considering how well Arnold has looked catching the ball this summer, making many noteworthy plays, it’s easy to see why the team is trying to create a situation where he could be part of those packages.

“You like to have a big athlete like him who runs because he does,” tight ends coach Campbell said. “Where we put him at now, you got linebackers, and you got safeties, and you’re hoping you get a better matchup there (in the passing game).”


Arnold was signed as an undrafted player last year after catching 65 passes for 1,176 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior at Division III Wisconsin-Platteville. He made an impression on the coaching staff last summer but spent the year on injured reserve.

New Orleans likes Arnold's combination of size (6-foot-6) and speed but did not see an obvious path to the roster with Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., Cameron Meredith and Tre’Quan Smith already on the roster at wide receiver. If a fifth player makes the team at the position, it will likely be as a returner.

So, the team started transitioning Arnold to tight end this summer. To make that happen the coaching staff taught him the fundamentals of blocking and put him on a diet that, put simply, includes eating everything he sees. The tight end currently weighs around 235 pounds, but the team hopes he can another six or seven pounds.


When the transformation is complete, the hope is that he can win a job at a position with more opportunity.

“You’re always looking. Sean (Payton) makes a good point of this,” Campbell said. "Think outside the box. What can this guy do? We got Trey Edmunds running some fullback reps. Let’s get a look at these guys and see what they can do. It only helps you on game day.”

The move Arnold is trying to make isn’t all that unique. There is a long history of tight ends who are converted wide receivers, the same way there are several safeties who started out as cornerbacks. But perhaps the best one was former Dallas tight end Jay Novacek.

“I watched Novacek go through a camp at receiver for the Cardinals and go down to the last cut,” Payton said. “Didn’t make it and then all of a sudden he surfaces in Dallas with the right vision and has a great career. So it’s happened before, and he’s a bright enough kid, and he is big enough, he can carry the weight.”

Arnold has to make the team, earn snaps and succeed for several years before the Novacek comparison becomes something deeper than a surface example of someone making the transition between positions. But Arnold is fighting. Not only is he eating all the food in front of him, but he’s also trying to eat up this opportunity.
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Old 08-06-2018, 11:10 PM   #3
 
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Re: Saints' Dan Arnold: Converting to tight end 'one of hardest things' I've done; but he's impressing

Jimmy 2.0 ...
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Old 08-06-2018, 11:11 PM   #4
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Re: Saints' Dan Arnold: Converting to tight end 'one of hardest things' I've done; but he's impressing

Originally Posted by SmashMouth View Post
Jimmy 2.0 ...
Wait. The NFLPA is his agent too?!?

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Old 08-06-2018, 11:32 PM   #5
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Re: Saints' Dan Arnold: Converting to tight end 'one of hardest things' I've done; but he's impressing

Originally Posted by SmashMouth View Post
Jimmy 2.0 ...
If he can run with the added bulk, kiddin' aside, but comparisons to Novacek will not be a stretch; needs to get to 255 / 260 lbs to be an all-around TE...
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Old 08-07-2018, 05:38 PM   #6
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Re: Saints' Dan Arnold: Converting to tight end 'one of hardest things' I've done; but he's impressing

From where I'm sitting he looks good. I hope we get to see him Thursday night. I want to see him with my own eyes before I get too excited.
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Old 08-07-2018, 06:55 PM   #7
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Re: Saints' Dan Arnold: Converting to tight end 'one of hardest things' I've done; but he's impressing

Not even worried about his blocking. He can block good enough. No worse than Jimmy.
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Old 08-07-2018, 07:04 PM   #8
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Re: Saints' Dan Arnold: Converting to tight end 'one of hardest things' I've done; but he's impressing

I admire his dedication. If he makes the team he will certainly have earned it. I think he makes it.
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Old 08-07-2018, 07:24 PM   #9
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Re: Saints' Dan Arnold: Converting to tight end 'one of hardest things' I've done; but he's impressing

He'll make it. Catching TE's, only a few diamonds. Rest are Cubic Zarconium.
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Old 08-07-2018, 07:35 PM   #10
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Re: Saints' Dan Arnold: Converting to tight end 'one of hardest things' I've done; but he's impressing

Practice squad no doubt
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