Cardinals Backups ‘Came In & Rolled’ After 2 More O-Line Injuries

Justin Pugh - Arizona Cardinals

Getty Arizona Cardinals OL Justin Pugh is helped off the field after getting injured against the Jaguars on Sunday, September 26.

Arizona’s already banged-up offensive line lost two players to back injuries in the first half of the Cardinals’ 31-19 Week 3 road win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Guards Justin Pugh and Justin Murray both left the game in the first half and didn’t return. Murray started the game at right guard in place of Kelvin Beachum, who has a fractured rib and did not play Sunday, September 26.

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Josh Jones, the Cardinals’ regular starter at right guard, was moved to right tackle against the Jaguars. The shuffling continued in the second half, as Sean Harlow replaced Pugh at left guard, and Max Garcia stepped in for Murray at right guard.

“Sean Harlow and Max Garcia came in and rolled,” Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries told reporters after the game. “Hat’s off to those guys because that’s a tough situation to be put in.”

One day earlier, Harlow was signed to the active roster from the practice squad along with offensive lineman Koda Martin. The Cardinals also placed tackle Joshua Miles on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury and released guard Brian Winters.

Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury didn’t have an update on the extent of Pugh’s and Murray’s injuries after the game. As for Winters’ sudden release, Kingsbury said it was “just one of those deals that didn’t work out.”

O-Line Helps Get Offense Going

Kingsbury called the Cardinals’ offense “disjointed” against the Jaguars, but they did a better job moving the ball in the second half, despite missing two starters on the line.

The line also protected quarterback Kyler Murray, not allowing a sack in the game, and opened holes in the running game.

“I thought Sean Harlow and Max Garcia stepped in and played at a really high level in the second half,” Kingsbury told reporters after the game. “We got it rolling offensively, and they were a big part of it.”

Running back James Conner ran for a pair of second-half touchdowns against the Jaguars and finished the day with 43 yards on 11 carries. The former Pittsburgh Steelers running back also showed off his soft hands in the passing game with his first catch as a Cardinal — a one-handed grab that picked up 10 yards.

COVID Created Reps for Backups

Humphries said he expected Harlow and Garcia to play well when called upon in the second half. Both players had an opportunity to practice with the starters during training camp, he said.

“I’m praying for our guys that went down,” Humphries told sideline reporter Paul Calvisi after the game. “But those two guys that came in, man, all of us knew what they were going to do.”

Harlow spent a lot of time practicing with the starters during training camp while Pugh was out twice due to COVID-19.

“We had gotten reps with Max in there, and I had almost two weeks of reps with Sean in camp, so it wasn’t hard for us to communicate,” Humphries said.

Pugh missed several days of training camp in late July after being in close contact with someone who later tested positive for COVID-19. In mid-August, he was placed on the NFL’s Reserve/COVID-19 list after testing positive for the virus.

“We didn’t have to really talk about it much when (Harlow) came in,” Humphries said. “That’s always what you hope for when you’ve got backups coming in.”

Pugh was injured on the final play of the first half — Matt Prater’s missed 68-yard field goal attempt that Jamal Agnew fielded in the end zone and returned 109 yards for a Jaguars touchdown.

In addition to the injuries on the offensive line, Cardinals safety and special teams star Charles Washington sustained a hamstring injury while covering a punt in the second quarter and did not return.

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