The Cardinals knew there was a possibility right guard Evan Mathis would miss Sunday's contest in Buffalo, and on Friday, head coach Bruce Arians confirmed Mathis did not make the trip to the east coast with the team.
Mathis is battling a turf toe injury he aggravated during Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, and did not practice this week.
Fourth-year reserve offensive lineman Earl Watford will start in place of Mathis and earn his third career start. Watford was drafted by the Cardinals in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, and made both of his previous starts in 2014.
The James Madison product has played in 20 games over the course of his career, including both of the Cardinals' contests this season. Watford replaced Mathis when he was injured against the Buccaneers, and practiced with the first team unit throughout the week.
The Cardinals carry nine offensive linemen on their 53-man roster, and Mathis' absence likely means either rookie guard Cole Toner or offensive tackle John Wetzel will be active for the first time this season. Arizona could also opt to keep just six offensive linemen active on Sunday, leaving rookie center Evan Boehm as the team's lone reserve offensive linemen.
Watford has the ability to play center, guard and tackle, and center A.Q. Shipley can also shift out to guard if necessary. If any Cardinals' linemen are injured against Buffalo Sunday, Boehm is likely the first player Arians will insert into the lineup and Arizona will adjust positions of its linemen accordingly.
Mathis has battled injuries throughout his career, and the 34-year old free agent signee agreed to a one-year contract with Arizona this offseason to chase a Super Bowl title one final time. Mathis won a title last year with the Denver Broncos, but played through pain for much of the season.
The Cardinals have counted on Mathis to speed the learning curve of second-year offensive tackle D.J. Humphries, the team's 2015 first round draft pick who was not active in any game during his rookie season. Without Mathis in the lineup, the Cardinals are hoping Humphries will be able to hold his own on the right side of the line of scrimmage against a Buffalo defense that hasn't fared well during the season's first two weeks.