Darren Fells may hit his way onto roster

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Darren Fells caught Bruce Arians' attention.

Now he just has to keep it.

Fells, the 6-foot-7 former power forward turned tight end who spent last season on the practice squad, has turned heads by rocking them, Arians said. But even that may not be enough to make the 53-man roster.

"The best thing he's doing is he's coming of the ball blocking people," Arians said. "That's the hardest thing for basketball players to ever learn. He's coming off the ball extremely well knocking some people back and he's doing it every day.

"He'll still make an occasional mistake because of his lack of experience, but he's doing the one thing that he needs to do to make the football team and that's hit people. He's had an outstanding week last week."

Last season, Arians said Fells, whose brother Daniel had a five-year NFL career, had the tools to be a good tight end -- the body control, the hands, the size -- but needed to work on his blocking. That became Fells' priority during the offseason. Hitting someone was a mentality he had to adopt. After years of being taught not to be overtly physical on the basketball court, Fells came into training camp this year comfortable hitting someone.

"Just coming out there saying you're not going to be afraid of contact no matter who's in front of you, whether it's the third string or it's a Pro Bowler, you're going to go at him, you're going to make the contact," Fells said.

Last season was the first on a football field since high school for Fells, who played basketball at UC Irvine, and the learning curve was steep. Compared to 2013, Fells said he's grasping everything "90 to 100 percent better."

"Last year, it was like a foreign language to me," Fells said after Monday's practice. "Now, I'm starting to learn pretty much the football language and just getting the grasp of everything. It's funny, I was just talking with a bunch of teammates how I can understand the whole play now instead of just my spot.

"So it's coming to me."

But Fells' toughest battle won't come against a defensive player. It'll be supplanting one of the top four tight ends on the depth chart. Fells is currently fifth, a precarious position to be in since Arians said Monday that it'll be tough to keep five, but the 28-year-old may not stay there for long.

Just eight practices into his second season, Fells isn't concerning himself with the numbers game of making the roster. He wants to stay focused on not making mistakes and playing physical. When the pads come on, Fells said, he turns into a different person.

Last year, Arians didn't see much of that person but that's since changed. Arians likes what he sees, especially when Fells catches passes with his hands "about that big," Arians said, implying the size of Fells' giant mitts.

"It was almost like, ‘I don't think the light was gonna come on,' and all of a sudden the light came on," Arians said. "He's improved his technique and his pad level and he's striking people very well.

"Right now," Arians added, "he's moving up the depth chart fast."