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Cardinals Reshuffle Defensive Line Again With Carlos Watkins Injury

Already down Collier, unit wants to be able to keep deep rotation

Defensive lineman Carlos Watkins (94) celebrates a tackle against the Giants on Sunday before he got hurt.
Defensive lineman Carlos Watkins (94) celebrates a tackle against the Giants on Sunday before he got hurt.

Jonathan Ledbetter is only 26, and he has spent just one full season on an NFL 53-man roster.

But the defensive lineman is the lone starter that hasn't been derailed by injury two games into the Cardinals' season and emerges as the leader after coach Jonathan Gannon confirmed Wednesday that Carlos Watkins will undergo surgery to repair his biceps injury suffered against the Giants on Sunday.

"It's been a crazy first two weeks of the season, there's no doubt," Ledbetter said. "But I don't feel like the last man standing. It's a 'next man up' industry."

Watkins will be placed on Injured Reserve at some point. The Cardinals already put defensive lineman L.J. Collier on IR last weekend, after Collier hurt his biceps in the season opener at Washington. Collier has already had surgery, Gannon said, and only said "we'll see" when asked if Collier would be able to return this season.

The Cardinals did get some good news about the defensive line, with Leki Fotu expected to return to the lineup this week against the Cowboys after sitting out Sunday with a shoulder injury.

"We've been through worse," Fotu said. "What 'Led' said, that next-man mentality. To me, this is a perfect week to come back, what better game, what team to go against. I'm excited to do my part.

"It sucks to see one of your brothers go down. But speaking for myself, you have to be ready for whatever happens."

The Cardinals elevated Eric Banks from the practice squad last week, and also played rookie Dante Stills for the first time. Ledbetter and Kevin Strong were in most of the way.

"You've got to have that vet savvy and try and keep everything calm when things might be going crazy, but really, it's not even crazy," Ledbetter said. "Injuries happen in the league."

Jacob Slade, who was with the team all offseason and preseason, was re-signed to the practice squad on Tuesday and the Cardinals also have Ben Stille, who has played some in the NFL, on the practice squad.

Defensive coordinator Nick Rallis employs a rotation on the defensive line, however, and after fairly even snaps in the opener, the injuries forced both Ledbetter and Strong into playing 74 percent of the time.

It likely wasn't a coincidence as the Giants scored on every second-half possession.

"I definitely felt it near the end of the game there and felt it going into the second half and I think that was evident in the way we played," Ledbetter said. "I felt a little messed up feeling fatigued so I have to do a better job as an older leader, no matter how many plays I have to be out there I have to be able to play the best of my ability."

The Cardinals had also put Pro Bowl safety Budda Baker on IR earlier this week.

"It's just like with Budda, the next guy has to get up and get ready to play," Gannon said. "I feel good about those guys going in."


The Cardinals signed wide receiver Jeff Smith to the practice squad on Wednesday, a day after releasing receiver Daniel Arias from the practice squad. Smith played 36 games with the New York Jets in the past four seasons, collecting 34 receptions for 426 yards.

Images of the Cardinals practicing at the Dignity Health Sports Complex before the Week 3 regular season matchup against the Dallas Cowboys

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