Personnel report: Cardinals could use tight ends

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Cardinals had at least one tight end on the field for 85.3 percent of their plays against the 49ers in Week 1 at Candlestick Park. That percentage fell to 48.4 percent in the rematch Monday night.

A change in approach accounts for some of the shift in personnel usage. The Cardinals have opened up their passing game to accommodate Kurt Warner and their talented receivers. They are also working through injury problems at tight end. Leonard Pope returned from injury Monday night, but Stephen Spach took more of his reps as the game progressed.

Pope, Spach, Ben Patrick and Jerame Tuman could be healthy against Seattle on Sunday. Coach Ken Whisenhunt was not happy with the position Monday night.

Whisenhunt: "Hopefully we can find one that can play a little better than has been playing for us. I think all four will be ready to go as far as health-wise. We have to make a decision on who we are going to go with and stick with that. It was tough this week with Leonard just coming back and getting two days of practice. That really isn't as fair to him. This week, with a full week with all four guys back, we should be better."

The Cardinals' utilization of tight ends against Seattle this week could have more to do with the game plan than the injury situation, Whisenhunt indicated.

Against the 49ers in Week 1, the Cardinals had a tight end on the field for 11 of their 13 longest-gaining plays. That was true on eight of their 13 longest-gaining plays Monday night even though the Cardinals used tight ends far less frequently.

The Cardinals did not attempt a single pass to a tight end Monday night, but having one on the field helps in pass protection and in the running game. The Cardinals could stand to improve in those areas. Warner's ability to get rid of the football quickly against pressure has covered for pass-protection deficiencies. The 49ers' Justin Smith gave the Cardinals problems Monday night. More on him later.

In the meantime, feel free to download this file showing the Cardinals' production across personnel groups. This file also includes the usual play-by-play sheet sortable by quarter, Drive number, down, distance, yard line, personnel group, play type, ball carrier, yards gained and more. If you spot additional trends or items of note, please share.