Troy Niklas fighting to catch-up
Troy Niklas early stage in the NFL has not been what fans were hoping for. After sitting out much of offseason work recovering from a sports hernia, he finally found the field. That lasted shortly however as he would break his hand in a jersey towards the end of camp. Now the 6’6 269 pound tight end is playing with a cast and fighting to learn the ropes of the NFL in time for the regular season.
Niklas finally found the field on Saturday for the teams first training camp practice. His “highlight” for the day was getting hit in the side of the head by a Logan Thomas bullet.
“I think he probably threw it a little quick. I didn’t get my head around fast enough,” Niklas said Sunday. “(He’s) trying to give people concussions out there, you know.”
Niklas is stuck playing with a cast for now. He said he expects the cast to come of in about two weeks, so it may be hampering his ability, but for the time being he has to show he can play with it.
His first padded practice was one to forget, as he looked the worst among the tight ends at blocking, and dropped easy catches. Niklas did not start out as a tight end. He was initially recruited by Notre Dame as a defensive end, but was eventually converted to tight end. He went to the NFL with only 37 catches, 573 yards, and six touchdowns.
There is no denying he has the raw talent to succeed. Bruce Arians and Steve Keim knew that when they used their second round pick on him. Experts expected Niklas to be a blocking first, catcher second, which is Arians typical mold of a tight end.
For an unknown, Niklas has a lot of ground to cover. He knows he is behind, but does not believe he is too far behind.
“I wouldn’t say I feel super far behind,” Niklas said. “I stayed in my (play)book, and I studied a lot, prepared a lot for camp. I felt like I knew what I was doing [Saturday] and it’s just about doing it now, getting comfortable with the offense.”
Even Bruce Arians commented on how behind Niklas is.
“He’s way behind,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “You just can’t miss that kind of time as a rookie and then try to catch up not only to the assignments, but the speed of the game. But he’ll be fine.”
Niklas is currently sitting behind Rob Housler, John Carlson, and Jake Ballard. Carlson has thus far looked like the day one starter if he can remain healthy. Rob Housler has been his usual self, making a great catch only to follow it up with a drop of a routine catch, while Jake Ballard does not stand out either which way.
The Cardinals will likely carry four tight ends on their roster. We know that the first three are set in stone. Niklas is likely going to earn that fourth spot, but without showing he can improve on his early mistakes, he will possibly be a healthy scratch on Sundays.
Phoenix Sports-Kings Contributor Alex Mann @mannrotb