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Cardinals would miss Ben Patrick

Ben Patrick's role in the Arizona Cardinals' offense is more significant than it might seem when Larry Fitzgerald is snagging touchdown passes.

That's why the Cardinals were relieved to find out Patrick could return for the regular-season opener despite suffering a displaced kneecap during a recent practice. Patrick and fellow tight end Anthony Becht played leading roles in the Cardinals' 30-17 victory over the Minnesota Vikings last season. Patrick moves well enough to factor into the passing game, but pairing him with Becht or Stephen Spach adds another dimension to the offense -- a dimension the Cardinals will look to embrace in the post-Kurt Warner era.

Against Minnesota, the Cardinals averaged 8.3 yards per carry on 10 rushes and 11.0 yards per attempt on four pass plays when they used two tight ends -- Patrick and Becht -- with one running back.

"Both of those guys did very well blocking defensive ends the whole game," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said at the time. "We had a play where we hit Larry on a big play-action pass, which is directly attributable to us being able to run out of that set."

The Cardinals' offense changed last season once Patrick became available following a four-game suspension to open the season. The team used two tight ends on 40 percent of its offensive plays against Seattle in Patrick's first game back, easily a season high to that point.

As I wrote then: "That included four times during their 15-play drive to open the game. Patrick contributed immediately by sealing Seahawks defensive end Lawrence Jackson at least twice during the drive, including once with a pancake block. Patrick helped seal the edge on a 14-yard run later in the first half."

Patrick is not a star, but he's an important part of what the Cardinals want to do offensively.