The Arizona Cardinals made a pair of important free agent acquisitions this offseason, and after five weeks of the regular season, both of those players are now on the team's injured reserve list.
A week after placing safety Tyvon Branch on injured reserve with a groin injury, the Cardinals were forced to place right guard Evan Mathis on the team's injured reserve list after Mathis suffered an ankle injury against San Francisco Thursday night.
A 12th year veteran coming off a Super Bowl title with the Denver Broncos, the Cardinals inked Mathis to a one-year, $6 million deal this offseason and convinced one of the league's best run-blockers to eschew the idea of retiring in favor of chasing another championship.
After placing Mathis on injured reserve, the Cardinals announced they signed offensive lineman Ulrick John off of the Miami Dolphins' practice squad. John is now one of nine offensive linemen on the Cardinals' roster, and is one of only a handful of players who have experience playing offensive guard.
Aside from losing Mathis against the 49ers on Thursday, the Cardinals also lost starting left guard Mike Iupati during the game to an ankle injury. Iupati is reportedly expected to miss between two to four weeks of game action.
The Cardinals' offensive line is now much thinner than the organization could have anticipated as two rookies in Evan Boehm and Cole Toner, and a pair of unproven linemen in John Wetzel and John now make up the team's reserves.
Arizona entered the season having to replace its starting center, right guard and right tackle from a season ago, and the addition of Mathis was expected to alleviate some of the growing pains the Cardinals anticipated having. Now, with Mathis out for the remainder of the season, center A.Q. Shipley, backup right guard Earl Watford and second-year player D.J. Humphries make up the right side of an offensive line lacking considerable starting experience.
Of those three players, Shipley entered the year as the most seasoned lineman as he made 22 starts over four seasons prior to this year. In comparison, Watford has just four career starts to his credit and the Cardinals' 2015 first round draft pick, Humphries, did not make his first NFL appearance until opening night against New England.
With Iupati likely out for at least the next two contests, the Cardinals' lineup is still up in the air. It's unlikely John would slide in and start at left guard after being signed from the practice squad, but with Watford forced into action at right guard, Arizona doesn't have many experienced options.
The Cardinals may consider starting Boehm at center and sliding Shipley to guard, or using the same tactic the team came up with following Iupati's injury against San Francisco and playing Wetzel, a tackle, on the interior at guard. It's unlikely Toner, a fifth round draft pick in 2016, would be prepared to handle a starting role this early in his career.
When the Cardinals announced the roster moves Saturday, Mathis became the eighth different player the team has placed on injured reserve this season, joining the likes of key players such as Branch, running back Chris Johnson and tight end Troy Niklas.