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Dealing Cards: Arians looking for consistency from his WRs

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians watches during the second half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. – Of the seven wide receivers currently on the Arizona Cardinals’ active roster, one, and one only, stands well above the others. That, of course, would be Larry Fitzgerald.

Those not named Fitzgerald — Carlton Agudosi, Jaron Brown, John Brown, Brittan Golden, J.J. Nelson and Chad Williams — have each struggled to maintain a level of consistent play their leader has shown week in and week out here in 2017.

Yes, injuries have been a factor. So, too, have been drops. At key moments in games.

In other words, who can the Cardinals depend on, outside of Fitzgerald?

“Jaron Brown has been really consistent all season,” head coach Bruce Arians said Wednesday. “Other than that, J.J.’s up and down. I haven’t seen Smoke in so long. Chad Williams is making a nice push. He’s really starting to move. He’s practicing well, and it should show up in games.”

Nelson may be the biggest mystery.

Through the season’s first six games, he had 17 catches for 277 yards and two touchdowns. Yet, over his last six games, he has eight catches for 141 yards and no touchdowns.

“J.J. was having a really good year, and the knee started bothering him a little bit. But then, just dropped some easy. He made some great catches,” Arians said, pointing to the Rams game. “The catch on the pass interference, that’s what we ask of him. He’s capable of that. And then, drop a hitch. You just can’t do that.”

Nelson blamed overthinking for his troubles.

“I think my biggest thing is just, worrying about where the guy is behind me and always just trying to make a play; when you’re just so caught up in catching that ball and trying to go 80-plus yards instead of just catching the ball and getting what you can get,” he said.

“I just get caught up in that most of the times and it comes back and bites me in the behind.”

Last week against the L.A. Rams, Nelson was targeted eight times but only caught two balls.

Meanwhile, Williams had no catches, Jaron Brown was never targeted and Golden played only on special teams. John Brown and Agudosi weren’t active. By comparison, Fitzgerald was targeted 10 times and caught 10 balls for 98 yards and a touchdown.

“Some consistency,” Arians said, when asked what he’d like to see out of the receiving corps over the last month of the season. “Some big plays and some consistency.”

Upon further review

The Rams blocked a pair of Cardinals’ kicks on Sunday. Both times the blocks were the result of penetration up-the-middle.

Long-snapper Justin Drescher needed to do a better job of preventing that, according to Arians immediately after the game and then again on Monday, when he used the phrase, “got to anchor down” to describe Drescher’s role on the play.

Two days later, Arians sung a different tune.

“After I talked to the league, no, they’re not (legal),” he said. “They should have all been penalized, and even ones that weren’t blocked should have been penalized (because Drescher was defenseless when hit). It was very disappointing, and when I talked to the league officials, especially when I saw the Kansas City-Jets game, the exact same play was penalized. And it’s just the consistency throughout the league.”

Drescher apparently hurt his shoulder in the game. He was listed as limited on Wednesday’s injury report.

At the same time, long-snapper Aaron Brewer, on injured reserve after breaking his arm at Philadelphia in Week 5, returned to practice.

“He could play this week,” Arians said.

Jared Veldheer misses practice

The first injury report of the week was a long one, and it included the name Jared Veldheer.

The Cardinals’ starting left tackle did not practice on Wednesday. He’s got an elbow issue.

If Veldheer can’t go this week against Tennessee, then Will Holden will slide into his spot and become the team’s fourth different left tackle of the season.

Seven other players didn’t practice: Brown (toe), safety Rudy Ford (knee), defensive lineman Corey Peters (ankle), running back Adrian Peterson (neck) plus linebacker Karlos Dansby, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and defensive lineman Frostee Rucker.

Dansby, Fitzgerald and Rucker were not injury related.

Pro Bowl voting

With one week remaining in fan voting for the 2018 Pro Bowl, Chandler Jones (103,835) continues to lead all NFC outside linebackers in balloting.

Jones is the only Cardinals player among the top vote-getters.

Fan voting will continue online and on web-enabled mobile phones through Thursday, Dec. 14.

The Pro Bowl will be played Sunday, Jan. 28 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.

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