Opportunity knocks for Cardinals’ Greg Dortch, Andy Isabella vs. Chiefs
TEMPE — Arizona’s week of injury woes culminated Friday with yet another wide receiver in Rondale Moore heading to the shelf ahead of the Cardinals’ season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.
After overcoming an undisclosed injury entering the week, the second-year pro suffered a hamstring injury during practice on Thursday, one that reportedly warranted an MRI to understand the severity.
Already down DeAndre Hopkins (suspension) and Antoine Wesley (groin/hip) for Week 1, the wide receiver room had already been hit hard in the unavailable department before Moore went down.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury now has to have a backup plan for his backup plan, as Moore was expected to take on a much bigger role given his progression plus the six-game absence of Hopkins. As wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson put it in training camp, Moore’s route tree is wide open after flashing in a limited role last season.
But the show must go on in the NFL, and Moore’s injury opens up the door for the duo of Greg Dortch and Andy Isabella to really prove their preseason performances weren’t just that.
Isabella made it a point after the preseason finale that he wanted an opportunity to play, whether it be in Arizona or elsewhere. Well, he and fellow preseason standout Greg Dortch are getting what they asked for against a vulnerable Kansas City defense.
“Very comfortable (their preseason output can translate over into the regular season) and more so our quarterbacks do,” Kingsbury said Friday. “I think that’s the biggest deal. There’s a real comfort level there.
“Those guys practiced a bunch together when guys were either out or taking days off. … Those guys got a lot of work with the first team. I don’t think anybody’s going to blink if they’re called upon.”
With Hopkins getting the slow-roll treatment through training camp and Moore missing a few weeks thanks to another injury, Dortch and Isabella not only saw an ample amount of reps, they made the most of them.
Over the course of three preseason matchups, Dortch and Isabella paced the WR room and locked in their 53-man roster spots in the process.
They enter Week 1 not so much as depth pieces like originally expected but as potential key contributors with Moore sidelined for at least a game.
“I think they’ll be ready to go,” quarterback Kyler Murray said Wednesday. “I know Dortch has been [excited] to play and Andy’s been [excited] to play. He played a lot in the preseason and he played well. He’s kind of been on the fringe. He’s been on and he’s been off so I’m excited for him to get his opportunity when he is in the game.”
Added to the pass-catcher question marks is tight end Zach Ertz’s murky status for Sunday. The tight end is questionable with a calf injury but was back practicing on Friday.
An encouraging sight for the #AZCardinals on this fine Friday.
TE Zach Ertz is back practicing. pic.twitter.com/zroGEzbWdO
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) September 9, 2022
Losing Ertz would be a major obstacle for Murray to contend with in addition to Moore.
Per Next Gen Stats, Ertz had the fourth highest share of air yards (21.17%) among NFL tight ends. Only Baltimore’s Mark Andrews (30.67%), Atlanta’s Kyle Pitts (28.46%) and Miami’s Mike Gesicki (22.52%) saw a higher share of their respective teams’ yards through the air.
It didn’t take long for Ertz to find his groove with Arizona following a midseason trade from Philadelphia. And with an offseason in the desert under his belt, the expectations are even higher for the three-time Pro Bowler.
And even if he does play, there’s still a possibility he could be used sparingly, leaving more opportunities for tight ends Maxx Williams and Trey McBride in the receiving game.
Williams is full-go after recovering from a season-ending knee injury that cut a very promising season short for the eight-year veteran. McBride has the intangibles to impact a game both as a blocker and a pass catcher but hasn’t had the chance to do so.
That could all change against a suspect Kansas City defense that is rolling out a handful of rookies throughout the defense after being in the bottom half of the league when it came to limiting opposing pass catchers.
Last season, the Chiefs were one of 11 teams to give up at least 400 receptions. They did so for 4,482 yards, the eighth-worst mark in the NFL.
Safety Tyrann Mathieu isn’t there to provide a security blanket for the secondary, either, having joined the New Orleans Saints this offseason.
There are definitely holes to exploit within this Chiefs defense. It’s largely on Dortch and Isabella to make the right plays.