CARDINALS CORNER

Pitch count? Hollywood Brown plays nearly every snap vs. Chargers

Nov 28, 2022, 4:03 PM
Wide receiver Marquise Brown #2 of the Arizona Cardinals prepares for the snap during the second ha...
Wide receiver Marquise Brown #2 of the Arizona Cardinals prepares for the snap during the second half of their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on October 02, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

TEMPE — While Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Hollywood Brown was well on his way to returning from injured reserve this past Sunday, expectations were a bit tempered over the week of preparation.

Despite logging two weeks of practices, head coach Kliff Kingsbury acknowledged Brown could very well be a pitch count during the week of preparation for the Los Angeles Chargers.

But when the final whistle sounded on the 25-24 defeat to L.A. on Sunday, it was Brown leading the way in terms of playing time.

Seeing 64 offensive snaps (97% of available reps), Brown blew the Week 12 expectations many had for the wideout, finishing with a team-high six catches for 46 yards. He lined up in the slot 38 times and worked outside over the course of 24 plays.

Only DeAndre Hopkins finished with more receiving yards (87).

“He felt good,” Kingsbury said of Brown on Monday. “We wanted to see him out there running and he felt good and didn’t want to come out. I thought he played fast and played at a high level.

“Had some opportunities that we weren’t able to get him the ball a couple times that I thought he was running really well. We’ll continue to fit him back in and get him going.”

Injuries to wideouts Greg Dortch and Rondale Moore also likely played a factor in his uptick in play.

And speaking of Hopkins, the All-Pro pass catcher for a second straight week posted back-to-back games with 49 offensive snaps played, garnering no more than 74% of the available reps in each matchup.

It’s all by design given Hopkins’ recent hamstring injury he picked up in Week 10, says Kingsbury.

“Just being smart through the bye,” Kingsbury said. “Hopefully through the bye he can get completely healed up and feel 100% but we want to make sure that we got him to this point and didn’t have any major setbacks.”

The decrease in playing time hasn’t stopped Hopkins from producing, however, reeling in 13 of his 18 targets for 178 yards and a touchdown (even is San Francisco 49ers cornerback Charvarius Ward thinks otherwise).

A look at the other snap counts that stood out in the team’s Week 12 loss to the Chargers:

Starting offensive line: 66 offensive snaps (100%)

The combination of left tackle Josh Jones, left guard Rashaad Coward, center Billy Price, right guard Max Garcia and right tackle Kelvin Beachum played every down offensively on Sunday afternoon.

That’s a tall order for a patchwork offensive line that features just one opening-day starter in Beachum.

The line held its own in a big way, allowing just one sack on quarterback Kyler Murray on top of helping get the run game going to the tune of 181 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries.

“It’s been cool to have some different guys in and find a way to lead in a different way,” Beachum said after the game. “It’s being able to talk on the sideline, being able to talk during the week. It’s being able to have the conversations that I’m having with our staff about things that we’re thinking about and how we’re putting guys in situations to be successful.

“It’s been cool to be a part of that entire process, but it’s been emotionally and mentally draining. But that’s what we’re paid to do. We’re paid to win games, we’re paid to prepare, we’re paid to find a way to get wins. This year we just haven’t done that consistently enough.”

Leading the way on the ground was running back James Conner, who recorded 120 yards on 25 rushing attempts.

Even though the Cardinals couldn’t secure the W, it was an impressive showing for a run game and O-line that has dealt with some serious turnover this season, the most recent being run game coordinator and OL coach Sean Kugler’s dismissal from the team for allegedly groping a woman in Mexico City a day before Monday Night Football against the 49ers.

TE Trey McBride: 52 offensive snaps (79%)

McBride continues to see a ton more usage with fellow starter Zach Ertz out for the year with a knee injury.

The rookie has taken a step in the blocking department but is still finding his way as an NFL pass catcher 11 games (eight starts) into his NFL career.

But with more opportunities to get involved in the passing game with Ertz out and the team’s other two tight end options in Maxx Williams and Stephen Anderson seeing no more than 20 snaps apiece in each of the of the last two matchups.

“He’s just growing into it right now,” Kingsbury said Monday. “We see some real flashes at practice where you know he’s going to be a very good player in this league. And then sometimes in the games, it seems a little sped up for him, but that’s all rookies.

“The more reps he gets with Zach being out, I think it’s going to continue to help him and you’ll start to see some of those flashes as the season starts to wind down.”

LB Ben Niemann: 33 defensive snaps (50%)

Niemann has quietly been a role player for this Cardinals defense for most of the season, seeing at least 33 snaps in four of the last five games.

“Ben’s a guy from Day 1 that’s just been exact in his assignments,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Thursday. “When you’re playing with a lot of young guys with talent, you need guys like Ben to be exact. He’s a part of the machine. You can count on Ben to always do his part.”

This season, Niemann has recorded 41 tackles, two of which were for losses, a pass defensed and a QB hit in 12 games played (five starts).

CB Trayvon Mullen: 29 defensive snaps (44%)

Mullen set a new career mark in defensive snaps played as a Cardinal on Sunday.

Entering play, he had just one game (Week 10) with at least 42% of the available defensive snaps played.

He nearly had one of the biggest plays of the loss on Sunday, too, stripping wide receiver Josh Palmer in the second quarter and appearing to recover the fumble.

That was until the officials overturned the call, saying the Chargers had actually regained control of the ball on the ground before the Cardinals came away with it.

The fumble recovery that wasn’t was just another shot to the Cardinals’ momentum, with the Chargers eventually scoring later in the drive.

“It’s tough. It’s tough to deal with, especially as players going out there playing down after down, trying to win and make those types of plays,” Mullen said of the reversal.

“But when they do fall like that, it kind of gets you out of the mood but then you’ve got to lock back in and know you’ve got to finish.”

Mullen finished the game with three tackles and the forced fumble.

LB Myjai Sanders: 29 defensive snaps (44%)

Sanders not only saw the highest snap count of his career on Sunday, he also picked up his first NFL start in the loss.

In four of the last five games, Sanders has seen at least 21 defensive snaps, recording a sack, seven tackles, one of which was for a loss, three QB hits and a forced fumble.

But despite his production of late, Sanders still has not seen more than 30 snaps this season.

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Pitch count? Hollywood Brown plays nearly every snap vs. Chargers