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Cardinals eye Cowboys with nicks to Josh Rosen, defensive line

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen (3) passes in the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The dings are starting to add up.

That’s why the Arizona Cardinals and their Week 3 preseason opponents, the Dallas Cowboys, might box up their key players early or even prior to their Sunday Night Football game.

Dallas owner Jerry Jones said on 105.3 FM The Fan this week that injuries to center Travis Frederick and guard Zach Martin could put Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott at risk. Jones said he’s seen enough of both players, making their appearance on Sunday unofficially unlikely.

What’s that mean for the Cardinals?

Little. Arizona head coach Steve Wilks is in the same boat worrying about injuries taking their toll.

Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen stood on the sidelines at practice Wednesday and is listed as day-to-day after he suffered a swollen thumb by knocking it on a helmet on Monday.

“Our intentions are for him to play,” Wilks said. “You can never get enough reps, particularly when you start talking about a young rookie quarterback. Hopefully he’s ready to go this weekend because those reps are valuable.”

Meanwhile, defensive tackles Robert Nkemdiche, Corey Peters and Olsen Pierre are all battling minor injuries. None of the injuries should keep them out of the Cardinals’ first regular season game on Sept. 9, but on Wednesday the lack of depth forced Arizona to sign tackles Tani Tupou and Nigel Williams.

Even if linebacker Josh Bynes returns — he was back at practice this week after sitting out the first two preseason games — the pressure will be on the Cardinals’ defensive front that gave up 183 rushing yards on 6.5 yards per carry last Friday in the 20-15 preseason win over the New Orleans Saints.

Whether or not Arizona sees Elliott or Prescott, Sunday marks an opportunity for players in position battles to step up.

“I really don’t think it’s a missed opportunity,” Wilks said. “We just got to go out and play our style of ball, be as physical, play with extreme effort and really execute. I’m looking for the defense, regardless of who’s in there, to stop the run.

“It’s going to be a very difficult task this week going on the road, playing against a good football team that runs the ball well, don’t beat themselves and they’re pretty good up front on defense. We’re ready to accept the challenge as we move forward.”

Butler’s revenge game?

After spending the last three seasons with the Cowboys, Brice Butler exited Dallas vocal about the few opportunities he received.

Back practicing on Wednesday after sitting out last week’s game with a foot injury, Butler has his work cut out for him to prove that on Sunday.

Wilks said rookie Christian Kirk did enough to separate himself in the battle for the No. 2 receiver spot by catching four balls for 49 yards and a touchdown against the Saints last Friday. Second-year pro Chad Williams also showed well, bringing in three balls for 44 yards.

“Looking for (Butler) to step up,” Wilks said. “He has an opportunity this week against his old team so hopefully that sparks him a little bit.”

Over it

The third preseason game typically acts as the week most teams use to give their starting players a rehearsal. But as Arizona uses it more as an audition for battles at receiver, corner and defensive end, among others, it’ll also be very careful about how it uses stars like quarterback Sam Bradford, receiver Larry Fitzgerald and running back David Johnson.

By the sound of it, Johnson has already gained enough in the preseason.

“The preseason? No. I’m ready for the regular season,” Johnson said when asked if he was hungry for a heavier workload this week.

“I think Sam’s ready. He’s a veteran quarterback. He knows what he has to do. He’s been really lighting it up.”


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