Arizona Cardinals starting OL navigating handful of injuries in Week 5
TEMPE — The Arizona Cardinals got out of Carolina last week with a much-needed win to move to 2-2 and keep pace in a wide-open NFC West.
But the victory wasn’t without its casualties, most notably along the offensive line, with Justin Pugh exiting the matchup due to an elbow injury, and Max Garcia (toe), Rodney Hudson (knee) and D.J. Humphries (hamstring) all dealing with their injury issues to start the week.
The latest OL injury shuffle began against the Panthers and could very well continue in Week 5 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“It’s one of those deals where it’s going to be basically to the weekend before we know who can go,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “Y’all saw who we signed, Billy Price, and that’s really as insurance to see who all can play and who can’t, numbers-wise.”
If Hudson can’t go on Sunday, Sean Harlow is the next man up at center. The same goes for Harlow at left guard if Justin Pugh is inactive. Rookie Lecitus Smith and Price can also play guard or center if need be. Danny Isidora, Koda Martin and Badara Traore are practice squad linemen that could be elevated and used as depth as well.
Regardless of who suits up, though, the OL room is more than confident in the group’s ability to get the job done against the Eagles. After all, it’s not the first time the group has had to tinker with things due to injury, coming off a season where the team rolled out a different offensive line combination on a regular basis due to injuries and COVID-19.
“The way we prepare and the way we have this team and the way I’ve seen it is the next man up is always ready to go,” starting right guard Will Hernandez said Wednesday. “Any guy that goes in there is going to give it his all, is going to follow everything that we’ve been doing and is engaged and it just needs to keep flowing.
“I think it was the perfect example last year. These guys were rotating like crazy at the O-line position and they still got it done. That’s what we’re expecting this year, too.”
Whoever lines up Sunday will be tasked with keeping up the momentum down in the trenches.
Per Pro Football Focus, Arizona sits ninth among NFL offensive lines heading into Week 5, up four spots from the week prior, and is seeing more success in pass blocking (71 grade) than in run blocking (56.3).
It’ll take a full effort from the line against an Eagles pass rush led by former Cardinal Haason Reddick that continues to get better with each week. Entering Week 5, Philadelphia is tops in the league in sacks with 16 to go along with 10 takeaways.
“They got a lot of really good players, they’re well-coached, they have a really good scheme and they play hard,” Hudson said of the Eagles defense on Wednesday.