Two days after their top cornerback retired due to personal reasons, the Arizona Cardinals’ defense suffered another setback when the team placed defensive end Jordan Phillips on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury Thursday, September 2.
Phillips, who signed a three-year deal with the Cardinals in March 2020, missed the majority of training camp due to injury and testing positive for COVID-19. Phillips will be eligible to come off IR on September 23, meaning he’ll miss at least the first two games of the season.
The news comes on the heels of the Cardinals placing Pro Bowl cornerback Malcolm Butler on the reserve/retired list.
Unlike at cornerback, the Cardinals have some depth on the defensive line. The team kept seven defensive lineman when the roster was trimmed to 53 on Tuesday, August 31, led by the three-time NFL Defensive Player of Year J.J. Watt, who signed a free-agent contract with the Cardinals in March.
Lawrence said he believes the Cardinals have enough depth on the line to be among the NFL’s best.
“I definitely think that we’ve got a chance to be great,” Lawrence told reporters Wednesday, September 1. “I think that we’re a young team in certain spots, but you sprinkle in vets like Corey and J.J., and that’s a big boost for us.”
Peters, a two-time team captain, signed a one-year deal to return to the Cardinals on August 2 after missing the second half of the 2020 season with an injury. Lawrence said the 12-year veteran’s leadership has been “huge” as he’s learned to play nose tackle.
“He’s an A+ guy,” he said of Peters. “He’s a hard worker. He’s taught me so much about the nose tackle position, and I’m continuing to learn.”
Not having any preseason games last season due to the pandemic slowed down that learning process, Lawrence said, but being able to lean on Peters’ experience helped with the transition.
“It was definitely something that took awhile to understand, playing nose tackle in this league,” he said. “(Peters) continues to teach me, and he’s still got a lot in the tank.”
With more than a week until the Cardinals open the season at Tennessee on Sunday, September 12, coach Kliff Kingsbury opted to give his players four days off. Players were dismissed the afternoon of Wednesday, September 1, and aren’t required to return until Monday, September 6.
“It’s uncharted territory for all 32 teams,” Kingsbury said of the extended break. “If we use it correctly, it can be a real plus, I think, (to) rest, recharge, get your bodies right, take care of yourself, and be ready to come back Monday ready to work.”
Kingsbury told reporters Wednesday, September 1, that players will have “zero responsibilities … as far as football goes over that time period.”
Lawrence was among players who said they still plan to spend at lot of time at the Cardinals’ practice facilities during the long break.
“I’ll be probably here every day during the break, just keeping the work going, continuing to recover and getting ready for game week,” he said.
OL Pugh Activated
There was some good news Thursday, September 2, on the Cardinals’ offensive line, as guard Justin Pugh was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
Pugh, now in his fourth season with the Cardinals, started 15 games at left guard last season and is slated to start at the position again this year.