Cardinals discover unexpected weapon in TE Ricky Seals-Jones
TEMPE, Ariz. -- That obvious chemistry between Blaine Gabbert and emerging tight end Ricky Seals-Jones was honed as both toiled for the Arizona Cardinals scout team early this season.
Now, with both thrust into significant roles, Gabbert has found Seals-Jones as a favorite target. In the two games since Gabbert became the starter, Seals-Jones has caught seven passes for 126 yards and three touchdowns.
"I think just the reps throughout the season when we were on scout team, going back to, really, training camp, getting reps with him, both trying to learn the system," Gabbert said. "Then being on scout team the first eight, nine weeks of the season, just doing our best to emulate our offense, use our verbiage when we were doing that. He's always been a great football player. Just seeing him translate the last two weeks in big-time games, it has been a lot of fun to watch."
Seals-Jones wasn't around to talk about his achievements when the Cardinals resumed practice on Wednesday, preparing for Sunday's home game against the NFC West-leading Los Angeles Rams. He'd returned to his Texas home for the birth of his child.
Seals-Jones, 6-foot-5 and 243 pounds, was a wide receiver at Texas A&M and went undrafted. His cousin, none other than Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson, has said he was pushing Seals-Jones to move to tight end, where he would succeed as a pro.
After an offseason with Arizona, and lots of scout team work, Seals-Jones' offensive talents are blossoming.
"He's a great football player," Gabbert said. "He's big; he's athletic; he catches the ball, sticks his foot in the ground and creates separation. It's what you want in a tight end, because most linebackers and safeties in the league don't want to cover a guy like that."
It wasn't easy, learning a new position as well as a whole new offensive system, and he began the season on the practice squad. Still, Arians said he took notice of Seals-Jones' potential.
"Once we got him in minicamp, rookie minicamp, he just had to learn how to play tight end. He'd never played it before," coach Bruce Arians said. "Usually those guys, if it's a basketball player or a receiver who's gotten bigger, they don't really like sticking their face on 280-pound guys. He is not the least bit afraid to do that, and as he gets stronger and bigger, he'll get better at it."
The Cardinals also sometimes use Seals-Jones as a wideout.
"You see the mismatches he creates," general manager Steve Keim said on his regular Monday radio appearance. "The fact that he can play in line, line up in the slot and move all over the field."
Notes: RB Adrian Peterson (neck) was one of several Cardinals who did not practice.