Arizona's decision to keep nine defensive linemen on the team's 53-man roster was surprising, but after the team's opening week loss against New England, the Cardinals' depth may come in handy.
Head coach Bruce Arians said defensive lineman Frostee Rucker will miss 2-to-3 weeks with an MCL injury at his Monday press conference, which means one of the three inactive linemen from Sunday's contest will likely earn playing time this week.
Rucker was injured on a cut block by a Patriots lineman, and tweeted Monday that even though the block was legal, he is surprised offensive players are allowed to execute cut blocks.
Ed Stinson, Xavier Williams and Olsen Pierre were all inactive Sunday, and it's most likely that Stinson takes the place of Rucker on Sunday because he's more of a true defensive end than either Williams or Pierre.
Stinson practiced with the first team defense for parts of fall camp, but was relegated to the second team when Rucker returned from an injury that held him out for much of the preseason. A third-year product out of Alabama, Stinson has four career starts for the Cardinals over two seasons and played in 15 games last year.
At Arians' Monday press conference, he did not provide updates on right guard Evan Mathis and wide receiver J.J. Nelson who were still being evaluated for injuries suffered in Sunday's contest.
Reserve offensive lineman Earl Watford filled in for Mathis, who was injured in the first half, came back in the second half, and forced to leave the game yet again after a series in the third quarter.
"He (Watford) was solid at times and then got the holding penalty, pretty good in the running game," Arians said.
Arians was clearly disappointed with the effort of Arizona's younger, more inexperienced players in Sunday's 23-21 loss to the Patriots and was concerned that the Cardinals were caught up in the excitement of the game instead of focusing on execution.
"The week of preparation that led into the game I thought was very, very good, but the play on the field was not," Arians said. "It wasn't just young players, but it was a lot of young players that got caught up in I think everything that was going on. There were some critical errors by some young players obviously the busted coverage when we signaled that it was not roll coverage, that he had him man-to-man, and he still rolled up that was an easy touchdown. Easy things to correct, but it's too late now."
After Sunday's contest, Arians said the Cardinals were outplayed on special teams by the Patriots, and on Monday, he found weaknesses in the team's execution on offense and defense that he considered 'disturbing.'
"Nothing to the point that I know can't be corrected, it was not talent," Arians said of the Cardinals' miscues. "I went around, especially defensively, asked them if we had too much stuff after Thursday and they said no we're good. And then not to make the checks that we made, especially veteran players was disturbing. But offensively the lack of third down production in the first quarter because of miscommunications on receiver-quarterback, defensively it was just not getting off the field on third down."
Even though much of Arians' criticism was directed at players like rookie cornerback Brandon Williams and first-time starter D.J. Humphries, the Cardinals' coach found positives for each player to build upon from their first regular season appearances.
Williams was directly responsible for the Patriots' first half touchdown pass when he failed to recognize a coverage check, while Humphries missed blocks on a handful of key running plays. Even though Arians would prefer the Cardinals to play mistake-free football, he said both Williams and Humphries demonstrated aggressiveness.
"Brandon (Williams), other than probably three plays played pretty solid," Arians said. "D.J. (Humphries) probably three or four plays. Over-aggressive in the running game and I kind of like that, but you've got to be under control. Other than that, Troy Niklas had had a great camp, didn't show up like he should have in the run game. It was a bunch of first or second year guys that didn't play as well as I thought they would."null