The Arizona Cardinals knew it was a legitimate possibility, but their fears were confirmed Monday when left guard Mike Iupati was deemed not healthy enough to play against the New York Jets.
Iupati headlines the list of seven inactive players for the Cardinals Monday, and his absence means Arizona reserve offensive lineman John Wetzel will make his first career start.
Wetzel is a tackle by trade and has hung around NFL practice squads since 2013, but his first regular season experience has come this year with the Cardinals. Wetzel practiced as left tackle Jared Veldheer's backup throughout camp, but when Iupati was hurt against the San Francisco 49ers last Thursday, the Cardinals tabbed Wetzel to shift from tackle to guard to replace the Pro Bowler.
The Cardinals are already short-handed at guard because starting right guard Evan Mathis suffered a season-ending ankle injury against the 49ers that forced veteran backup Earl Watford into the lineup. Watford is scheduled to make his second start of the season in place of Mathis Monday night against New York, and just his fifth career start.
Aside from Iupati, Cardinals' rookie cornerback Brandon Williams is another high-profile player on the team's inactive list this week. Williams has been on and off the inactive list since losing his starting cornerback job to Marcus Cooper after the second week of the season, and his lack of production this year highlights the issues Arizona's 2016 draft class has had mixing into the team's rotation and contributing during the first half of the season.
Joining Iupati on the inactive list with an injury is defensive tackle Ed Stinson, who was sidelined during the entire week of practice with a toe ailment.
The Cardinals also announced a pair of healthy scratches along the defensive line Monday, but first round draft choice Robert Nkemdiche was not among them. Nkemdiche has been inactive since the second week of the season, partially because of an ankle injury and partially because of his inability to grasp Arizona's defensive scheme, but Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians will keep him as part of the team's defensive line rotation against New York.
Arizona has elected to dress just three running backs and three tight ends against New York, so running back Kerwynn Williams and tight end Hakeem Valles are both inactive for Monday's game.
With a thin offensive line, Arizona is keeping recent acquisition Ulrick John and fifth round draft choice Cole Toner active for Monday's game. John can play both tackle and guard, whereas Toner played tackle at the college level but has practiced exclusively at guard during his first season with the Cardinals.