With the Cardinals coming off another blowout loss, defensive tackle Corey Peters was talking postgame Sunday that there were things players were supposed to be doing and if they couldn’t do it, “we’ll find somebody else.”
Monday, the organization made tangible moves to the roster in that direction, releasing a pair of struggling veterans in right tackle Andre Smith and cornerback Bené Benwikere.
“I’m not really in the business of trying to send messages or trying to be subliminal in any way,” coach Steve Wilks said. “I’m very direct in my approach and the things I say. If you’re not doing it our way, if you’re not giving us the best opportunities to win football games, number one, you won’t be on the field and if it gets to that point, we’ll move on. That’s what we did.”
The team also placed kicker Phil Dawson (hip) and linebacker Josh Bynes (thumb) on injured reserve, ending their seasons. Dawson’s replacement will be Arizona State kicker Zane Gonzalez, who was promoted from the practice squad.
Finally, the Cardinals claimed tight end Darrell Daniels off waivers from the Seahawks. Daniels appeared in nine games with Seattle without a catch. The Cardinals have two more open roster spots for now.
Both Smith (two years) and Benwikere (one year) were signed as free agents in the spring. Neither played well against the Chargers in particular, but the team-wide meltdown went far beyond particular players or units.
Wilks talked about the poor tackling again and used a version of the word “inconsistent” multiple times. He also would not criticize his players for their effort, even after allowing 45 straight points and gaining just 41 net yards after the first quarter.
“I’m not an effort coach,” Wilks said. “If we’re coaching effort, we’re in trouble. … Watching the tape, you can see those guys still working hard. I’m not concerned about the effort.”
Benwikere played well in preseason and earlier in the year, eventually supplanting Jamar Taylor – who was released last week – in the starting lineup. But he gave up a crucial bomb late in the loss to the Raiders, leading to the game-winning field goal, and then seemed to get lost in coverage on Philip Rivers’ first touchdown pass Sunday before being benched for David Amerson.
Wilks noted Benwikere’s solid early play, “but as the year has gone on you can see the inconsistency there,” Wilks said.
“You can continue to sit there and allow it to happen (but) as a head coach, it’s my responsibility to try to do what’s best for the team,” Wilks added.
Smith started seven games, missing three with an elbow injury. He had a poor game in Kansas City two weeks ago, allowing a sack, six pressures and was flagged for holding three times. Against the Chargers, he allowed two sacks and two pressures.
“You saw the inconsistency there,” Wilks said of Smith.
The Cardinals are expected to get left tackle D.J. Humphries back this week from a knee injury, and will move rookie Korey Cunningham – who “deserves” a chance to play, Wilks said – to the right side after two solid replacement games for Humphries on the left side.
Dawson, scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season, has been dealing with a hip injury for a few weeks. He made 1-of-2 field goals Sunday in Los Angeles, but the missed 46-yarder became a turning point in the game as the Cardinals were unable to recover after that point.
On the season, Dawson made all 15 of his extra points and was 5-of-8 on field goals, making 1-of-4 from 40 yards or longer.
Wilks said the Cardinals are going to try to “evolve,” including assessments of inexperienced players on the roster.
“Right now, at 2-9, you’ve got to try and do everything you can to try and win a football game,” Wilks said, “but also look toward the future.”
Wilks said he was “hopeful” safety Budda Baker (knee), wide receiver Chad Williams (ankle) and linebacker Deone Bucannon (chest) would be available this week to play in Green Bay. Bucannon’s return is crucial now that Bynes – the Cardinals’ most consistent linebacker – is done for the year.
Some of the best images from the Week 12 matchup