What a difference a week makes.
Seven days ago, the Arizona Cardinals were talking about making a late-season run to a playoff berth, and on Wednesday, head coach Bruce Arians took questions regarding the disappointment his team has faced throughout the regular season.
That disappointment has been especially palpable this week, following a 26-23 loss against the Miami Dolphins that very nearly assured the Cardinals will be staying home in January.
The loss in Miami certainly took its toll on Arizona, dropping the Cardinals to 5-7-1 and forcing the organization to place three players, linebacker Deone Bucannon, safety Tyvon Branch and offensive tackle Ulrick John, on injured reserve.
The defeat depleted the team of its playoff hopes, and the injuries depleted the team of players that could help them get to the postseason.
On Monday, Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd was arrested and charged with driving under the influence, and on Wednesday, the Cardinals announced the former first round draft pick's release.
As a result of all the personnel changes, Arians spent much of his Wednesday media availability discussing what the Cardinals lineup will look like this week, as the team has once again been forced to shuffle around a patchwork offensive line that has caused Arizona plenty of trouble.
"John Wetzel was the left tackle today, Earl was the right tackle, Boggsy (Taylor Boggs) was the right guard with Mike (Iupati) and Q (A.Q. Shipley) in their normal spots," Arians said.
Of those five players, only Iupati and Shipley began the season as starters, as Arizona has been forced to replace starting left tackle Jared Veldheer and starting right guard Evan Mathis due to injuries. This week, offensive tackle D.J. Humphries sustained a concussion against the Dolphins, so as he works through the league's protocol, Wetzel, Boggs and Watford are preparing to start Sunday against New Orleans.
Defensively, with Bucannon out, the Cardinals snagged linebacker Scooby Wright off of the Cleveland Browns' practice squad, nabbing the former Arizona Wildcats' linebacker for Arizona's active roster during the stretch run.
Arizona planned on reaching out to Wright if he was not drafted in April, but after the Browns selected him in the seventh round, the Cardinals waited until after Bucannon's injury to give him a shot.
"He (Wright) loves to play the game and I love guys that love to play the game," Arians said. "We'll try to find a role on special teams as fast as we can for him and let him pick up the linebacker stuff. The one thing is he's a pretty bright guy and an intense guy."
With Floyd now off the team, Arians is hopeful wide receiver John Brown can increase his rep count over the course of the team's final three games. Brown has been limited this season due to pain caused by a recent diagnosis of sickle-cell trait, and has struggled through a down season. Despite Brown's limited ability to impact the Cardinals' offense, Arians reiterated he's not disappointed in the former third round draft pick, he just feels bad for him.
"I'm not disappointed in John Brown, I feel bad for him," Arians said. "I'm not disappointed in J.J., he's really picked it up from his injury, but the rest of the group has had a chance to make plays. Obviously the rest of the group has had their chance to make plays. We miss Jaron Brown. Brit stepped up and made a really nice touchdown this week."
With Brown expected to play a larger role, Arians said he hopes wide receivers Brittan Golden and Marquis Bundy will have a bigger impact on the Cardinals' offense in the final three games of the season. Golden caught a touchdown pass against Miami on Sunday, the first of his career, while Bundy has yet to be activated for a game this season.
With Floyd's release, the Cardinals picked up free agent wide receiver Jeremy Ross as a supplement to the team's receiving corps, as Ross played for Arians back when Arizona's coach worked under Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis.
"Jeremy, I had Jeremy in Indianapolis and he's a physical guy, been on a couple of different teams and an excellent blocker, a good punt returner and he'll add some special teams value also," Arians said.null