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Offensive Line Questions For Cardinals After Injuries

Posted Oct 10, 2016

Watford, Wetzel ready to step in after Mathis lost for season; Palmer nearly ready

The Cardinals' offensive line, here protecting quarterback Drew Stanton last week, is dealing with injuries.

Earl Watford had already had to start one game at right guard for an ailing Evan Mathis, and now, with Mathis on injured reserve, Watford is the probable candidate for a permanent starting position on the Cardinals’ offensive line.

It’s not ideal timing, not with starting left guard Mike Iupati suffering a sprained ankle himself. The offensive line could have two fill-in starters when the Cardinals next play a week from Monday against the New York Jets.

But the line did play well in San Francisco, and regardless, this is where the Cardinals must go from here.

“It was built, no matter what happened, that there would be no lag,” Watford said. “We all know what we have to do. Just because a starter goes down there should be another starter ready. The play (level) should still be high. We just have to keep improving and stay together. There is still a long way to go.”

Coach Bruce Arians said the Cards will start the week with the John Wetzel-Watford combination at guard and “see where it goes.” The Cardinals also have guard Cole Toner as an option, and Arians said center Evan Boehm will likely get some work at guard as well.

Wetzel, who had been the Cardinals’ backup tackle, “stepped up as big as anybody has the last couple of years” after he hadn’t practice at guard since training camp. With Wetzel working elsewhere, the Cardinals will work newcomer Ulrick John, signed off the Dolphins’ practice squad, at tackle.

The Cardinals return to the practice field Wednesday.

With Mathis being banged up so much already this season – he had missed one game and practice time with previous foot and toe issues – Watford and right tackle D.J. Humphries had already gotten significant time together. That hasn’t been the case with Wetzel and left tackle Jared Veldheer.

“We’ll work in practice so me and Earl with have their rhythm and Jared and Wetzel will have their rhythm,” Humphries said. “I don’t think it’ll be a big problem at all.”

The Cardinals are also about to start a stretch of games against excellent defensive fronts, starting with the Jets and then the Seahawks and Panthers.

Mathis’ absence also would take away his time working with the young Humphries, a pairing the Cardinals wanted since the day they signed Mathis.

But Arians said he believes Humphries has grown in his role that he will be able to handle the transition. Humphries is confident as well.

“These five weeks I’ve had with Evan, that’s been a big learning experience for me,” Humphries said. “It’s opened up my vision that I wouldn’t have seen stuff that I’m able to see now, the stuff he’s telling me. I feel he’s put enough juice on my head for me to continue growing on my own. He’ll still be beside me in the meeting room, coach me up. But I think I have a nice understanding of things.”

“I’m kicked out the nest,” Humphries added with a smile. “See if I can fly.”

PALMER SHOULD BE READY; DYSERT CUT

Quarterback Carson Palmer is in the final stages of the concussion protocol and should be ready to play against the Jets. If there were any question about that, it was mitigated Monday when the Cardinals officially released quarterback Zac Dysert from the active roster. If he clears waivers, Dysert is a likely candidate to return to the practice squad.

Arians said Palmer and linebacker Kevin Minter are in the last stages of concussion protocol. Palmer has done activities but has not practiced yet. That’s one of the last steps. Arians said defensive tackle Josh Mauro and tight end Darren Fells should also be back at practice this week.

In addition to cutting Dysert, the Cardinals also signed tackle Martin Wallace to the practice squad. Wallace, a 6-foot-6, 330-pound Temple product, has spent time with the Buccaneers, Bears, Panthers and Browns.

CAMPBELL AT BIG RED BREW HAUS TONIGHT

Defensive tackle Calais Campbell will be the player at tonight’s Mondays At Big Red Brew Haus out at University of Phoenix Stadium. The event begins at 5 p.m.

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