The Cardinals placed Niklas (wrist) on injured reserve Tuesday, the team's official site reports. Each team is able to activate one player from injured reserve under new league rules, so Niklas could make a return as early as late November. However, he wasn't making inroads on starting tight end Darren Fells and recorded precisely no yards on his sole catch this season. In a corresponding move, Ifeanyi Momah was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.
Niklas was promoted to first-string offense Tuesday, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reports. Veteran Jermaine Gresham has been unable to dodge the injury bug in training camp, dealing with a hamstring injury early and back tightness of late. Meanwhile, Niklas has jumped to the good side of head coach Bruce Arians, which was likely precipitated by his blocking ability. It likely hasn't hurt that Niklas has so far avoided an ailment in camp for the first time in his two-plus seasons as a professional. If the development is upheld into Week 1, Niklas would serve as a starter in the Cardinals' two-TE alignment.
Niklas has drawn praise from head coach Bruce Arians this training camp, the Cardinals' official site reports. "He's made a really nice move," Arians said Wednesday. "He's looking like the player we drafted and wanted. He had all those injuries and had bad luck, and knock on wood I don't want to jinx him, but he's where I want him to be right now." If Niklas has been lingering on dynasty benches since the Cardinals selected him in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, owners may be able to deploy hulking tight this season. His first two campaigns weren't friendly from an injury standpoint, but avoiding the bug so far, he's showed off his blocking capability, which is a staple for tight ends within Arians' offense. Niklas has four preseason tilts to move past Darren Fells and Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) in the TE pecking order. However, when Niklas received 16 percent of the offensive snaps last year, he had a measly four catches for 33 yards and two touchdowns.
Niklas reeled in all four targets for 33 yards and two touchdowns during the 2015 season. Serving in a strict reserve role this season, Niklas nonetheless fared much better on the injury front, appearing in every game versus the seven that he was contained to as a rookie in 2014. However, both Darren Fells (restricted) and Jermaine Gresham (unrestricted) are free agents, which may result in a jump up the depth chart. Niklas' pedigree as a second-round pick would warrant such a promotion, but he still must put in the work to deserve an expanded target count.
Niklas tallied two touchdown receptions during Sunday's victory in Cleveland. Niklas was the beneficiary of two red-zone looks, scoring from 11 yards and one yard, but Carson Palmer otherwise looked elsewhere among his 38 throws. Such is the life of a reserve tight end, though Niklas has picked up increased run during Darren Fells' (shoulder) two-game absence. Niklas' usage during that span has lagged behind current starter Jermaine Gresham -- 43 percent of the offensive snaps, versus 82 percent for the veteran -- a breakdown that likely won't last if Fells is able to return after the Cardinals' Week 9 bye.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|4||10/01||San Francisco 49ers||19||7.25|
|6||10/15||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||10||6.13|
|7||10/22||@Los Angeles Rams||6||5.25|
|9||11/05||@San Francisco 49ers||19||7.25|
|13||12/03||Los Angeles Rams||6||5.25|
|16||12/24||New York Giants||21||7.41|
|3 Year Avg||3||3||24||1||2||8.00||8|