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Cardinals Have To Find Way To Deal With Donald

Notes: Conner among a handful of game-day decisions

The Cardinals have to deal with Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald on Monday.
The Cardinals have to deal with Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald on Monday.

The Cardinals had an Aaron Donald problem Week 14 at State Farm Stadium.

The Cardinals' offensive line allowed the Rams' All-Pro defensive lineman to generate 15 pressures against them, the most by any player in a single game this season, according to Pro Football Focus.

The eight-time Pro Bowl selection also had three sacks and three quarterback hits on Kyler Murray. The showing was the opposite of how they limited Donald in the Cardinals' Week 4 victory over the Rams at SoFi Stadium.

"We just didn't execute consistently throughout the game, '' tackle Kelvin Beachum said. "We know what it takes to beat this team; we beat them before. We know what happens when we don't execute, we lose. And that can be said for several games this year. When we execute, we know what this offense is capable of regardless of the opponent."

Said coach Kliff Kingsbury, "I just think Aaron Donald is a different animal. When he gets going like that, sometimes it's hard to slow down no matter what you throw at him. We have to play better in that area, we have to have a better plan, there's no question."

Starting left guard Justin Pugh is dealing with a calf injury this week, the same one that sidelined him the last time the Rams and Cardinals played.

The Cardinals have allowed 39 sacks this season, the 12th fewest in the NFL. But they have used nine offensive line combinations this season, tied for sixth-most. If Pugh can't go on Monday, the situation once again calls for a common theme this season:

"It's the next-man-up mentality," Beachum said. "Whoever is in there has to execute. We all get paid. We've had moments when we've been together as an offensive line, and we've had moments when we haven't been. At the end of the day, we're still required to protect the quarterback and block so we can run the ball efficiently."


James Conner (ribs) returned to practice on Saturday – for the first time this week – but that doesn't necessarily mean the running back will be available Monday for the NFC Wild Card matchup with the Rams.

Kingsbury said he is unsure whether Conner will be ready to play on Monday. The decision will likely come during pregame warmups. Kingsbury said the same goes for wide receiver Rondale Moore (ankle), cornerback Marco Wilson (shoulder), and offensive lineman Pugh (calf).

If Pugh doesn't play, Sean Harlow has been his replacement in the past.

"He's one of our starters and has done a nice job for us, so if he weren't able to go, that would not be ideal," Kingsbury said. "But we have guys who have played at a high level, whether it is Sean Harlow or Josh Jones who played in there and did a nice job. So one of them would have to step in and get it done."


Defensive lineman J.J. Watt continued his work back and looked good in the brief time reporters were allowed to watch practice. But Kingsbury again cautioned that nothing has been officially decided.

"We'll take it down to the wire with him," Kingsbury said. "If he has it his way, he'll be out there."

The Cardinals have until Monday afternoon to officially activate him from Injured Reserve.