Brett Hundley wanted a headline, so he got a headline.
"Dan is the Man," the Arizona Cardinals quarterback said of tight end Dan Arnold following practice Monday. "That can be a headline if you guys want it to be. 'Dan the man,' that's what I call him."
In his first offseason with the Cardinals since being acquired in early December of 2019 following his release from the New Orleans Saints, Arnold has continued to instill confidence in his coaches. There was already confidence in him after his production in less than a quarter of the season with the team at the end of 2019.
Charles Clay — currently a free agent — led Arizona's tight-end group with 237 receiving yards last season, followed by Maxx Williams — back at practice during the open portion for the first time in nearly two weeks Monday — with 202. Yet, Arnold accumulated nearly half that total (102) and an equal amount of touchdowns as both those players (two) during his abbreviated season (three games) with the Cardinals. In fact, he did it all on just six receptions from a measly 10 targets. overall.
"Just his comfort level within the system," Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said last week. "We threw him in there, similar to how [running back Kenyan Drake] got thrown in there when he got here last year. We didn't have time for them to have any sort of a growing process. We needed them to play at a high level immediately. And I thought both guys adapted well last year and you just sense a much more comfortable player. And Dan and Kenyan, just having been through the virtual meetings now, been through last year in the offense and now getting out here in an actual training camp, both of them have a real comfort level within it and I think it's allowed them to play at a high level so far."
Added Arnold: "I think having this offseason, I've really grown and been able to show that I can be consistent and know what the heck I'm doing out there."
Serving as an under-the-radar weapon for Kingsbury's offense and quarterback Kyler Murray, Arnold was thrust into the national spotlight when NFL Network's Good Morning Football analyst Peter Schrager highlighted him in his "Training Camp Spotlight segment."
"I got some college buddies that had sent me it and saw it on Twitter and everything," Arnold said a few days later. "And it's pretty cool, pretty awesome to have some recognition from the outside world. But I think one of the nice things about doing training camp here at State Farm (Stadium) is that we're kind of locked into what we're doing. And it's nice to have some of that recognition, but at the same time, we've got to go in and practice each and every day, no matter what. And it doesn't change anything, what we've got to do on the practice field. So, I think it's nice to have that, but at the same time, you've got to kind of tuck it away and keep focused on what you're doing."
Guard Justin Pugh was quick to fuel the hype train, emphasizing one particular catch Arnold made in practice Aug. 20.
"It just happened in one of our team periods," Arnold said. "I had a really good catch and it's just one of those things that you've got to be able to do consistently. Having that recognition from your teammates is nice, but it can't just be a one-and-done thing. It has to be something you've got to do week in and week out."
In the days since, Murray has worked to try to keep his not-so-secret weapon from excess exposure to the limelight.
"I honestly don't want to say too much about Dan," he said. "I'm going to keep it simple. He's a great player, great teammate and I'm glad we have him."
Added Kingsbury: "Dan does what Dan does ... Super intense, not overly loud or out there with his thoughts. But you can tell he's locked in and he is physical and he wants the contact. He's one of those who will scream every now and then just to see if guys are paying attention. And you like that. The competitive nature is there day in, day out. I think he definitely has a big chip on his shoulder, and so he's fun to be around."
Arnold's personality has been audible at times during open portions of training camp. He said it allows him to express his emotions and engage with teammates.
"I think when we need a little energy boost, I think it's kind of fun to amp up your teammates and get them ready to go," Arnold said. "Kliff told me as long as [I'm] not screaming in his face or getting in his face about anything, everything's all good. I think it's just one of my personality (traits). I like to be fired up about things."
From Hundley's perspective, Arnold is poised for success in his first full year with the team. Utilizing his 6-foot-6 frame as a target in the red zone may potentially help the Cardinals in their pursuit to correct last season's woeful scoring efforts in that category.
"He's going to have a great year for us," Hundley said. "He's an awesome player. When you get a tight end that big that can run the way he does like a receiver, this dude literally ran track and he looks everything like it. He's awesome. Just to see him out there, huge mismatch for a lot of the things, and especially a fit in this offense. I think he's going to do amazing things."
No matter what happens this season, Arnold should expect not to hear his normal name moving forward.
"He's going to be a great player for us this year," Hundley said. "And you guys will be hearing Dan the Man. Heard it here first."