Injuries force changes on Cardinals O-line, John Brown out
TEMPE, Ariz. — Injuries have forced the Arizona Cardinals to have new starters John Wetzel and Alex Boone on the left side of the offensive line Sunday against the Colts in Indianapolis.
Left tackle D.J. Humphries is out an estimated one to two weeks with a sprained knee and coach Bruce Arians said Friday that starting left tackle Mike Iupati won’t play because of a triceps injury. The team also will be without wide receiver John Brown due to a lingering quadriceps issue.
These injuries on top of the big one, a dislocated wrist that landed star running back David Johnson on injured reserve (although he may return sometime in the second half of the season).
Wetzel, who struggled in relief of Humphries last week in a loss at Detroit, will start at left tackle. Boone, signed last week after being released by Minnesota, will be the left guard.
“I don’t feel great about it but those guys have played a lot of football,” Arians said. “I’ve seen Wetzel play better football than he played last week. So with a week’s work, he should play better this week. And he’s got a great challenge over there with Jabaal Sheard.”
The coach said Boone, a former teammate of Iupati in San Francisco, is ready despite being with the team such a short time.
“It’s football for him,” Arians said. “(Center) A.Q. (Shipley is keeping him abreast. He knows football so it’s just a matter of learning our calls. It hasn’t changed much for him and he’s a very bright guy.”
Wetzel, who had been the backup at both guard and tackle spots, agreed that it has helped to zero in on one position this week.
“It’s good to be able to focus on one so you don’t have to worry about anything else,” he said, “just focus on that, that footwork, what to do. It’s a lot easier to do that now.”
Wetzel started eight games last season — five at left tackle, two at right guard and one at right tackle.
Brown, bothered by the quadriceps through most of training camp, played in last week’s opener, with four catches for 32 yards, but didn’t practice all week.
“He just can’t stay healthy right now,” Arians said. “It’s just a matter now of next man to step up and go because I don’t know when he’s going to be healthy.”
Arizona also might not have tight end Jermaine Gresham, who injured his ribs when he was body-slammed to the turf by the Lions’ Jarrad Davis late in the opener. Davis was fined $9,115 by the NFL on Friday.
Gresham will be a game-time decision, Arians said. Tight end Troy Niklas was limited in practice with a hip injury Thursday and Friday but will play, the coach said.
To shore up that position, the Cardinals signed tight in Jim Dray. Dray has played seven seasons in the NFL, the first four in Arizona, including 2013, Arians’ first season.
“My wife was extremely happy because this is home for us so she loves the hometown team,” he said. “I’m just happy that it worked out. This is kind of what we were hoping for at some point, at the end of the career, is come back home, play a couple of games. So we’re just happy it worked out.”
Arians said the game will be a big opportunity for three young players — rookie wide receiver Chad Williams, running back Elijhaa Penny and tight end Ifeanyi Momah. All three will figure in the offense, the coach said.
The only injury on defense is to second-year defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, limited all week with a sore ankle. But Arians said he expects Nkemdiche to fill his usual role.
“We haven’t had any injuries over there other than Robert so we should play better defensively for four quarters,” Arians said. “We played really good for three (in Detroit) and if we can just sustain that for four we’d have the defense I think we should have.”