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EVERYBODY LOVES THE UNDERDOG: Can Undrafted Saints TE Dan Arnold Defy the Odds and Earn a Final Roster Spot?

Throughout the history of Professional Sports, the world of Hollywood has typically depicted the story of an an athlete who overcomes challenges and wins despite all odds being against them as an "underdog". This is primarily because those characters are more exciting and emotionally satisfying than the story of an athlete (or a team / organization) that simply wins or succeeds all of the time.

In other words: "everybody loves the underdog" — because the human mind is naturally drawn to (often on an emotional level) or personally connected with the story of an individual(s) who have beaten the odds or overcome great obstacles to achieve the pinnacle of success.

No one athlete accurately fits that description at the moment that undrafted 23-year old Saints former wide receiver-turned-tight end Dan Arnold.

Advocate Staff photo by Sophia Germer

Arnold, a native of Fargo, North Dakota, has yet to appear in an NFL game after spending the 2017 season last year on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.

And while there's been no guarantee that the 6-foot-6 former wide out even has a legitimate chance to make the Saints 53-man Final Roster, Arnold has decided to embrace a position move to tight end; that he hopes will secure him a roster spot this summer.

However, he likely faces better odds at the TE position than he'd have at wide receiver, where the Saints are currently loaded with talent several players deep at the moment.

"That was something that came to me at the beginning of OTA's. Dan approached me and said you might have the frame and ability to do this", Arnold told reporters the other day after practice.

"After taking a couple of weeks to think about it, he said if you want to make this team this is something you want to do. This is your shot for you. I said I'll do whatever takes to get on this team. I'm going to trust you as coaches, to do what's best for me. I'll take that, and here I am," Arnold said.

Last year the Saints kept three tight ends on the active roster; and that's still the expectation for the upcoming 2018 season as well.

Right now, Ben Watson and Josh Hill are at the current #1 and 2 TE's; meaning that Arnold is currently fighting a battle against THREE OTHER DIFFERENT PLAYERS — undrafted rookie Deon Yelder and veteran back-ups Michael Hoomanawanui and Garrett Griffin — for the Saints 3rd and final TE spot.

Advocate Staff photo by Sophia Germer

And while most observers would definitely consider Arnold the proverbial "underdog" at this point, it might be wise not to count out the young man who at Division III school Wisconsin-Platteville, caught 65 passes for 1,176 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior and averaged 18.6 yards per catch in his final two years in college.

As noted by New Orleans Advocate beat writer Nick Underhill, Arnold keeps making "flash plays" now with 2018 Saints Training Camp in full swing; and his performance yesterday in the 8th Practice of Camp was easily his most impressive of them all, thus far. During red zone drills, the tight end hopeful had a diving catch in the end zone for a touchdown, as well as a 2nd score to cap off a big day for the youngster.

As a direct result: Underhill believes that Arnold has now suddenly inserted himself into the conversation at tight end, a position where the battle for spots has suddenly started to heat up.

As Underhill is then careful to note: whoever earns the 3rd and final TE spot out of Arnold, Yelder, Hoomanawanui, and Griffin, might come down to what some of these guys are capable of doing on special teams.

(Photo by David Grunfeld, | The Times-Picayune)

One thing certain to also play a HUGE factor into the coaching staff's final decision: Arnold's ability (or inability) to be a capable run-blocker.

As pointed out by Times-Picayune beat writer Luke Johnson, Arnold has had a bit of a "tricky time" getting accustomed to run blocking.

It involves a completely different technique than the downfield blocking he did as a wide receiver. The players are bigger, the angles are different and as Johnson points out in his article: even the three-point stance that he sometimes finds himself in now, is much different than it was for him as a wide receiver,

"It's a little bit more footwork-oriented," Arnold said. "The little details are something you really have to keep aware of. ... Working with Dan (Campbell Saints TE coach), he's a really good coach and he pays so much attention to the tiny details."

Now while the Saints coaching staff probably isn't expecting Arnold to be blocking at the level of the seasoned veterans Watson and Hill just yet, they no doubt still would like to see Arnold do it well enough to keep a defense honest.

Arnold should get his chance to do just that, with games against the Jaguars (next Thursday Night), home against the Arizona Cardinals at the Superdome (Friday, August 17th), at Los Angeles vs. the Chargers (Saturday, August 25th) and then the game that ultimately could determine Arnold's fate and whether or not he will make the Final Roster this year as the #3 tight end: vs. the Los Angeles Rams at the Superdome on Thursday, August 30th).

Advocate Staff photo by Sophia Germer

Can Arnold defy the odds and make the team, in spite of the obstacles that stand in his way?

Everybody loves the underdog — and nobody loves underdogs more than fans of the New Orleans Saints. In these next few weeks ahead, we'll see if Dan Arnold can be the next "underdog" to have his story told, among the legendary tales of 'Who Dat' history.....


Big Easy Magazine contributing writer and Saints News Network columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and writer previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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