Cardinals OL weathering injury storm behind C Rodney Hudson

Sep 30, 2021, 2:34 PM
Cardinals center Rodney Hudson warms up ahead of practice Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, in Tempe. (Tyle...
Cardinals center Rodney Hudson warms up ahead of practice Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE — The Arizona Cardinals offensive line hasn’t been immune to the injury bug in the early stages of the season.

Kelvin Beachum has missed a game and half with a ribs injury suffered in Week 1. Justin Pugh and Justin Murray were recently dinged up with back issues in Week 3’s win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

With injuries piling up, Arizona was forced to adapt, sliding starting right guard Josh Jones over to right tackle before the game, and plugging in Sean Harlow (left guard) and Max Garcia (right guard) in place of Murray and Pugh mid-contest.

The line didn’t miss a beat, not allowing a sack in the 31-19 win over Jacksonville and living up to the room’s mentality it has established.

“You roll with it, it’s next man up,” offensive line coach and run game coordinator Sean Kugler said Thursday. “My father was a firefighter and when somebody goes down you pick up the hose and you go.

“They root for those guys, the guys that went into the game. You could see the excitement from the other guys that they’re in there playing. If it happens to be that way this weekend, we’re gonna pick up the hose and we’re gonna go.”

The seamless transition Sunday was thanks in large part to offseason acquisition Rodney Hudson, whose knowledge and overall play continues to impress both his teammates and coaches.

For Kugler, it’s like having another coach in the offensive line room. Another voice players gravitate to.

“There was no panic on the sidelines, there was no panic in the game,” Kugler said. “He just took those guys and communicated with them and it looked like they just stepped in and had been starting and that’s a credit to him.

“That’s what he brings to this team. He’s an unbelievable communicator, not only on the field but in the meeting room, with Kyler. I think he’s the best get we got this year because you’re adding instant leadership. … I’m honored to coach him. I’ve admired his career ever since he’s come into the league and to have an opportunity to coach him on a daily basis, it’s special.”

While Hudson kept the line in check, Jones showed off his versatility on the outside.

After moving over to right guard in training camp, the second-year pro out of Houston flipped back to the position he was drafted as and put his foot down against a capable linebacker in Josh Allen.

“With Kelvin Beachum out that was our best option at tackle,” Kugler said. “He did an outstanding job. He pitched a shutout on 41, who I think is a really good pass rusher for Jacksonville.

“He had some tactical things that he can work through, but he’s an outstanding player. … He’s gonna have some growing pains being as young as he is but he’s a relentless worker and he’s got a veteran attitude and he’s getting better every day.”

The team’s confidence level in Jones at either the tackle or guard spot continues to grow with each passing game.


– Jones on why he made the switch from basketball to football his junior year in high school:

“I was a basketball player. … I thought I was a hooper, but then I saw around my junior year guys were 6-foot-5 and playing point guard. I was like, ‘I probably need to make a business decision,’ and I did and it worked out.”

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