Cardinals Face Worrisome Injuries Ahead of Rams Matchup

Getty Images Kyler Murray is helped up by Justin Murray after getting sacked against the Rams in 2019.

The Arizona Cardinals’ offensive line has played marvelously in 2021. Kyler Murray has had ample time in the pocket, only being sacked three times in three games.

Their next opponent is against the ferocious Los Angeles Rams pass rush that starts with All-Pro defender Aaron Donald.

So that leaves a tough assignment for the Cardinals. But there’s another problem. The Cardinals could possibly be without right tackle Kelvin Beachum (ribs), right guard Justin Murray (back), and left guard Justin Pugh (back).

According to Howard Balzer of Sports Illustrated, all three worked lightly together on the morning of September 30. But sources told Balzer that while Pugh is the closest of the trio to play on Sunday, this week appears to be a “longshot”.

Beachum has a fractured rib and didn’t play against the Jaguars. Pugh and Murray both left the Jaguars game in the first half and did not return.

So what can the Cardinals do to help alleviate the offensive line unit?

Next Man Up For OL

While it was just the second half against the Jaguars, this isn’t a new scenario for the Cards. Sean Harlow will be put at left guard and Max Garcia will be placed at right guard. Both played at their respective positions against the Jaguars and got the job done. Murray wasn’t sacked once against the Jaguars.

The presence of center Rodney Hudson helped a lot according to Cardinals’ offensive line coach Sean Kugler.

“A lot of the credit for last week, having two new guys come in the game, that goes to Rodney Hudson,” Kugler said. “There was no panic on the sidelines, there was no panic in the game. He took those guys and communicated with them and it looked like they stepped in and had been starting.”

But this isn’t the Jaguars anymore. Arizona will face defensive coordinator Raheem Morris’s led Rams. The Rams have nine sacks in three games and you can’t forget about Sebastian Joseph-Day, who leads defensive linemen in tackles with 14. Aaron Donald has two sacks so far this season, including one in the Rams’ 34-24 win over the Buccaneers.

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury called the Rams’ defensive star “as good a football player as I’ve seen in my life.”

“He’s really been dominant in the previous games we’ve had with him,” Kingsbury said on September 27. “We’ve got to find a way to try and slow him down. You’re not going to stop him, but you try to slow him down as best you can.”

The Cardinals have the benefit of Murray’s escapability out of the pocket which can lessen the blows of a depleted offensive line. The Rams haven’t faced a mobile QB like Murray yet in 2021.

Kugler isn’t phased by this inconvenience either.

“You roll with it and it’s next man up,” said Kugler. “My father was a firefighter and (if) somebody goes down, you pick up the hose and you go. That’s our mentality, the room has that mentality and they root for those guys. The guys that went into the game, you can see the excitement from the other guys that they’re in there playing. So, if it happens to be that way this weekend, we’re going to pick up the hose and we’re going to go.”

Hidden Gem of OL

Josh Jones has turned into a dominant force that can’t be messed with. Jones is in the Quenton Nelson territory for guards through Week 3.

While Jones has performed at a high standard at guard, he’s made the transition to right tackle with Beachum’s injury seamlessly.

“I’m really versatile so I feel like I can play both [guard and tackle] at a really high level. I’m ready for anything out there.”

Jones allowed zero pressures on 39 blocking snaps at right tackle against the Jaguars according to PFF.

Jones was a third-round pick in 2020 by the Cardinals and it seemed shocking to see him fall. He only played in 55 snaps in his rookie season and mostly sat. He’s seen his snaps total triple in three games and will be one of the main fixtures on the offensive front.


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