“Next man up.”
We’ve heard the phrase countless times this season in relation to the Arizona Cardinals. In fact, we’ve heard it far more times than anyone would have liked.
What it means, of course, is that no matter who the Cardinals do not have — for whatever reason — it’s expected that the person replacing them will do so without the team missing a beat.
Next man up.
It’s a catchphrase, sure, but even more than that, it has become a mantra. The Cardinals have clinched a spot in the postseason and, at 11-3, are a win over the Seattle Seahawks Sunday night from clinching the top seed in the NFC and thus have homefield advantage throughout the entire postseason.
It’s quite an accomplishment for any team, let alone one missing as much as the Cardinals are. Below is a list of players who have missed a significant amount of time this season, and what the team lost when they went down.
DT Darnell Dockett – Torn ACL
Dockett was the first big blow in a long season of lost players, tearing his ACL in training camp and losing 2014 before it got started. The defensive tackle is a three-time Pro-Bowler who served as a veteran run-stopper for and was the Cardinal consistently expected to make life difficult for interior offensive linemen.
QB Carson Palmer – Torn ACL
Palmer missed a few games early in the season with a nerve injury in his shoulder, but his season-ending torn ACL took place in Week 10 against the St. Louis Rams. This was obviously a huge one for the Cardinals, with Palmer posting his best quarterback rating since 2005 and posting an 11:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
P Dave Zastudil – Groin
The 12-year-veteran only played one game in 2014 (Week 4 against the San Diego Chargers) before before injuring his groin which landed him on season-ending injured reserve. Although the Cardinals had Drew Butler waiting on the practice squad, Zastudil’s replacement has posted a 42.2 yards-per-punt average in 2014, three yards less than what the veteran did for Arizona last season.
LB John Abraham – Concussion
The 36-year-old’s concussion in Week 1 cost him nearly the entire season with a quick trip to injured reserve. Abraham served as the elder statesman in an already-veteran linebacking unit, providing a consistent pass rush for the Cardinals and blessed with an innate ability to pry the ball away from ball carriers.
RB Andre Ellington – Hip/Foot/Sports Hernia
Ellington was battling a foot injury all season, but it was ultimately a hernia that gave the second-year player an early end to his season. Although Ellington’s yards-per-carry were down from last season, he proved to be a constant problem for opponents when catching the ball out of the backfield and helped stretch the defense to open the field for other offensive players.
DE Calais Campbell – Knee (2 games)
Campbell was at the receiving end of an illegal chop block from Julius Thomas in Week 5 against the Denver Broncos, suffering an MCL sprain that sidelined him for a couple weeks. Campbell has consistently been one of the best players on one of the best defenses all season long, often making timely and game-changing plays to shift momentum back in Arizona’s favor.
LB Daryl Washington – Suspension
The linebacker did not fall victim to the team’s injury bug, but rather to his second drug-related offense in two season, with the league suspending Washington for the entire season at the end of May. The 28-year-old was a Second-Team All-Pro in 2012, when he registered 134 total tackles and nine quarterback sacks.
TE Troy Niklas – Ankle
The Cardinals’ second-round pick in the 2014 draft, Niklas’ season didn’t really get off the ground before his second high-ankle sprain of the season in Week 11 led to surgery and a trip to the IR . Niklas was still fighting for snaps behind tight ends John Carlson and Rob Housler when he was injured, only catching three balls for 38 yards during his rookie year.
DB Tyrann Mathieu – Knee/Thumb (3 games)
Mathieu started the season injured, still recovering from a torn ACL in 2013, and then took another injury hit in Week 13 when he fractured and dislocated his thumb. Mathieu serves as a crucial piece in the Cardinals vaunted secondary, a player that allows defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to vary his blitzes, knowing it will be difficult for a receiver to get behind the defensive back for long pass plays.
RG Paul Fanaika – Ankle (2 games)
Suffering a high-ankle sprain against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 13, Fanaika’s solid season was halted for at least a couple of weeks.
RB Jonathan Dwyer – Non-Football Illness List (14 games)
Providing greater size and strength for the running game when Ellington wasn’t on the field, Dwyer’s season ended quickly when he was charged for felony aggravated assault before Week 3 for an altercation he had with his wife.
OLB Matt Shaughnessy – Knee (8 games)
Yet another absence to hamper an already depleted group of linebackers, Shaughnessy was placed on IR/designated to return after injuring the meniscus in his knee against the Denver Broncos in Week 5. The linebacker’s value largely comes in his ability to stuff the run, proving even more necessary with the injuries to other run stoppers.
He returned to the lineup for Arizona’s Week 14 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
WR Larry Fitzgerald – Knee (2 games)
The longtime Cardinals superstar went down with a knee sprain in Arizona’s win over the Detroit Lions in Week 11. Although Fitzgerald’s numbers are down from his usually-incredible standards, the receiver keeps opponents honest as physical monster in the middle of the field that can make any quarterback look better.
In his absence, the Cardinals scored one offensive touchdown in back-to-back losses to Seattle and Atlanta.
QB Drew Stanton – Knee (2 games — and counting)
Stanton subbed in for Palmer a couple times before getting the starting spot for the rest of the season after Palmer’s torn ACL. At least until he went down with a knee sprain after being sacked against the St. Louis Rams in Week 15. Stanton had played admirably this season when thrown into the spotlight, earning a 5-3 record as the starter.
Ed Stinson – Toe (7 games — and counting)
The rookie out of Alabama didn’t post eye-popping numbers, but he was often praised by head coach Bruce Arians for his performance on the field. He finished the season with nine total tackles.