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Cardinals Try To Find Solution To Offensive Line Issues 

Wilks seeks "creative" ways to help given that personnel can't change much

Guard Justin Pugh (67) blocks Chiefs defensive lineman Allen Bailey for Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen Sunday, prior to Pugh leaving the game in Kansas City with a knee injury.
Guard Justin Pugh (67) blocks Chiefs defensive lineman Allen Bailey for Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen Sunday, prior to Pugh leaving the game in Kansas City with a knee injury.

Josh Rosen was swarmed under time after time Sunday, as the clock ran down and the Cardinals realized their chance to win the game in Kansas City had all but evaporated.

The quarterback shrugged off the pounding – "I'm fine," he said after the loss to the Chiefs – but in a season in which the Cardinals are trying to develop the rookie for the future, there is work to do with both pass protection and the offensive line.

"He understands that's the nature of the position," coach Steve Wilks said Monday of Rosen. "But we don't want this to become habit."

The offensive line is in flux. Left guard Mike Iupati missed Sunday's game with a bad back. Right guard Justin Pugh finally returned after missing two games with a hand injury, only to go down with a left knee injury. Wilks said he still did not have an update on the injury after Pugh was unable to put any weight on his leg as he left the field.

According to Pro Football Focus, Iupati fill-in Jeremy Vujnovich struggled Sunday, as did tackles Andre Smith and D.J. Humphries. Between sacks, hits and pressures, PFF had the trio allowing 19 pressures on Rosen – not a huge surprise, especially with Chiefs edge rushers Justin Houston and Dee Ford. Smith was also flagged three times for holding.

Ford was credited with a sack, three tackles-for-loss and four QB hits alone. All told, Rosen was sacked five times and hit eight other times.

"I think we have to be more consistent," Wilks said. "(The Chiefs) are a good defense, and particularly late in the game, they knew we were in a two-minute mode, so they were coming after the quarterback. We just have to do a much better job winning the one-on-ones. We have to do a better job leaving guys in with six- and seven-man protections to help Josh."

Three of the sacks and eight pressures came with less than six minutes left in the game and the Cardinals chasing a 12-point deficit and no longer able to run the ball.

"Those guys get paid a lot of money to rush the passer," rookie center Mason Cole said. "But we still have to do a better job of it, and we have to keep ourselves out of those situations."

The Cardinals don't have a bunch of options for change, if that was something Wilks wanted to do. Top backup John Wetzel is out for the season. Guard Daniel Munyer struggled when he played earlier in the year. Newcomer Oday Aboushi played 34 snaps after Pugh was hurt. There is rookie seventh-round tackle Korey Cunningham, and a pair of lineup recently picked up from practice squads – Colby Gossett and Zack Golditch – in part to see what they might have for the future.

"It's tough," Wilks said. "Who are you going to get (as a free agent)? We just have to be a little bit more creative."

It will help if the Cardinals can control the ball and let David Johnson run – PFF also said the Cardinals' run blocking has improved significantly, with Johnson averaging 4.7 yards a carry Sunday. The two touchdown drives were long, drawn-out, balanced things of beauty.

"The personnel is not going to change, so we have to find ways within the system and the scheme to help (Rosen) out," Wilks said.

EXTRA POINTS

Along with Pugh, Wilks said he is also waiting on the MRI for safety Budda Baker, who is dealing with a knee issue suffered Sunday. Baker briefly left the game but returned and played 56 of 59 defensive snaps. …

Images from the Week 10 matchup in Kansas City

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