TEMPE, Ariz. — Darnell Dockett has missed only one game in nine NFL seasons, but it sure sounds like No. 2 is coming Sunday against the Dolphins.
Dockett didn’t practice all week due to a strained hamstring he suffered in the fourth quarter of last weekend’s win over the Eagles. When defensive coordinator Ray Horton was asked if Dockett is the kind of player who could miss a whole week of practice and decide at game time that he was ready to go, here’s what he said.
“I’m not the doctor, but I don’t think he could play,” Horton said. “He hasn’t taken a snap.”
If Dockett can’t go, veteran Nick Eason and second-year pro David Carter have proved themselves more than capable of filling the void in the short term. It might even make sense to rest Dockett for one week to make sure the injury doesn’t linger. The Dolphins game isn’t nearly as important as the divisional game the Cards play this Thursday at St. Louis, and it certainly isn’t more important than having a healthy Dockett for the remainder of the season.
But Dockett’s injury is a strong reminder of how the best-laid plans can go awry due to injuries in the physically taxing NFL. Aside from Dockett, the Cardinals have already lost starting left tackle Levi Brown (triceps) for the season, starting running back Beanie Wells (severe turf toe) for at least the next seven games and reserve offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges (thumb) for the season.
The club is also uncertain about the status of tight ends Todd Heap (PCL sprain) and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (hip), both of whom coach Ken Whisenhunt said would be game-time decisions Sunday. Neither of those players practiced all week. Neither did tight end Jim Dray (knee). The loss of Stephens-Howling would be troubling since Wells is already on the shelf, and the loss of two tight ends would limit what the Cardinals can do offensively since they like to use multiple-tight-end packages.
But a Pro Bowl-caliber player such as Dockett would likely have the biggest impact.
“Hey, this is what I do,” Eason said when asked about filling in. “If Dock is out, I’m ready to go. This is another day at the job for me. Great teams have good depth. When you’ve got guys who can step in and you can continue to roll, then you’ve got a good team, and that’s what we have here.”
If there is any solace in shared misery, the Cards can take it in knowing the Dolphins are in a similar boat.
Tackle Tony McDaniel (knee) and linebacker Austin Spitler (groin) missed two and three days of practice respectively this week, while former Cardinals cornerback Richard Marshall (back) missed practice Thursday and was limited Friday. The NFL’s sixth-leading rusher, Reggie Bush (knee, questionable), cornerback Nolan Carroll (Achilles, probable) and receiver Marlon Moore (hamstring, doubtful) are also ailing.
Bush’s value is obvious, but the injuries to Marshall and Carroll are also of significant concern because the Dolphins’ secondary is thin, with safety Jimmy Wilson taking reps at the nickel and dime positions. Wilson and Carroll have struggled with their increased roles at the corners.
“It’s the NFL,” Cards linebacker Paris Lenon said. “When someone goes down, somebody else has an opportunity to step up. That’s the way it’s always been.”