CARDINALS CORNER

Opportunity knocks for Cardinals’ Greg Dortch, Andy Isabella vs. Chiefs

Sep 9, 2022, 6:17 PM
Arizona Cardinals WR Greg Dortch (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)...
Arizona Cardinals WR Greg Dortch (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

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.

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.

Life Changer Loans

Cardinals Corner

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) runs for a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers d...
Tyler Drake

Cardinals’ Kyler Murray: Slow starting offense ‘can’t last forever’

"I know this can't last forever," Kyler Murray told reporters postgame. "We will figure it out. I'm not making it a thing because it's not."
21 hours ago
Baker Mayfield #6 of the Carolina Panthers runs with the ball against Zach Allen #94 of the Arizona...
Tyler Drake

Arizona Cardinals defense dictates Week 4 win over Panthers

While the Cardinals offense started out flat for yet another week of play, the defense was there to pick up the slack against the Panthers.
21 hours ago
Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt plays against the Carolina Panthers during the first half...
Tyler Drake

Tearful J.J. Watt thankful to take the field in Week 4 win after heart issue

Despite going into atrial fibrillation on Wednesday, Cardinals DL J.J. Watt still managed to suit up on Sunday against the Panthers.
21 hours ago
Arizona Cardinals running back Eno Benjamin runs against the Carolina Panthers during the first hal...
Tyler Drake

Doing it all: Cardinals’ Eno Benjamin takes over kickoff duties in win vs. Panthers

Cardinals running back Eno Benjamin was a key contributor in the team's Week 4 matchup against Carolina Panthers in more ways than one.
21 hours ago
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray passes against the Carolina Panthers during the first ha...
Tyler Drake

Arizona Cardinals’ early offensive issues continue in 1st half vs. Panthers

While Arizona's defense answered the call against the Panthers, the same couldn't be said for the offense after a 10-3 first half.
21 hours ago
Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)...
Tyler Drake

Carolina Panthers offense starts, stops with RB Christian McCaffrey

Full strength or not, the Cardinals will have their hands full stopping Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey if he suits up on Sunday.
2 days ago
Opportunity knocks for Cardinals’ Greg Dortch, Andy Isabella vs. Chiefs