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Cardinals Counting On Offensive Line Depth As Showdown With Rams Looms

Starters Kelvin Beachum, Justin Pugh may not be available, or Justin Murray

Guard Max Garcia points out instructions after coming in to play for an injured Justin Murray in Jacksonville on Sunday.
Guard Max Garcia points out instructions after coming in to play for an injured Justin Murray in Jacksonville on Sunday.

Trouble in paradise exists within the Cardinals' offensive line.

Justin Pugh and Justin Murray are uncertain to play against the Rams this weekend after suffering back injuries in Jacksonville. Kelvin Beachum, who missed majority of practice last week along Sunday's game, also could remain out because of a ribs injury.

With Beachum out, the Cardinals decided to move Josh Jones -- who played the first two games at right guard -- to right tackle. Murray, who had been Beachum's replacement, slid to right guard. Then Murray got hurt, forcing Max Garcia into the game. And then Pugh was hurt on the Jaguars' 109-yard Kick-6, bringing into the game Sean Harlow -- who had just been promoted from the practice squad and who had only played in one NFL game previous.

Here's the good news: Despite relying on second-stringers, the Cardinals' offense was still effective in the second half, registering 252 total yards and without allowing any sacks in 20 pass attempts.

But there is also some potential bad news: That was against a lower-tier Jaguars team. Sunday, the Cardinals play the division-rival and undefeated Los Angeles Rams. Coach Kliff Kingsbury, who is winless against coach Sean McVay in four tries, acknowledged such.

"They're really good," Kingsbury said. "They've done a great job building off last year in a new scheme, and we know it's going to be a real challenge."

The Rams pass rush accumulated 53 sacks in 2020, second-most in the NFL. Three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, who led the team in sacks and quarterback hits in 2020, is the main culprit. Donald has given the Cardinals problems since he entered the league, facing the All-Pro twice a year.

"Aaron Donald is as good of a football player I ever seen in my life," Kingsbury said. "He's really been dominant in the previous games we've had with him, and we'll have to find a way to try and slow him down. You're not going to stop him, but you can try and slow him down as best you can."

Kingsbury wasn't ruling anyone out Sunday, but the Cardinals need to be prepared with the battle for the division lead at stake. And Kingsbury is confident in the backups' ability to step up to the challenge.

"Those guys stepped in, and we didn't skip a beat," Kingsbury said. "So, it's a credit to those guys for being mentally and physically prepared."

EXTRA POINT

Kingsbury has already ruled safety and special-teams standout Charles Washington out for the Rams game. Washington hurt his hamstring early in the game against the Jaguars.

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