Wide receiver Michael Floyd (left) and guard Jonathan Cooper missed practice Wednesday with injuries suffered against the Seahawks
While "Next man up" was the rallying cry of the Cardinals as injuries piled up last season, favorable health has kept that mantra on the backburner in 2015. It may need to get dusted off, depending on how several key pieces heal up over the next few days.
The Cardinals had seven players – including four offensive starters -- miss practice on Wednesday, and coach Bruce Arians said all of them are currently in doubt for Sunday night's game against the 8-1 Bengals.
Both starting guards – Mike Iupati (neck/concussion) and Jonathan Cooper (knee) – sat Wednesday, as did wide receiver Michael Floyd (hamstring), wide receiver John Brown (hamstring), linebacker Markus Golden (ankle), defensive tackle Cory Redding (ankle) and cornerback Justin Bethel (flu).
"You want to go into a big game with a loaded gun," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "We're definitely banged up, beat up and guys have to make plays. Guys have to step up."
Earl Watford replaced Iupati against the Seahawks, while Ted Larsen – who was inactive Sunday -- filled in early in the season when Iupati was out with a knee injury. Arians said the backup guards alternated repetitions at Cooper and Iupati's spots, and he would feel fine using them both if needed.
"Earl has started, what, five games now? Four games? And played a really good second half the other night," Arians said. "Teddy has started 20-something games (in his Cardinals career). A lot of people would love to have that as their starters."
Brown missed the win in Cleveland before the bye, and while he played against the Seahawks, he didn't catch a pass on three targets. While the offense was just fine with Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald leading the way, the Cardinals are hoping Brown can get past this hamstring issue.
"It's been a concern for about three weeks," Arians said. "He needs to get back to full strength."
"He's probably hesitant to let it go," Arians added. "He's let it go in practice a few times and it was OK, but I think he's afraid of tearing it."
The team's generally good health has decreased the need for fill-ins, but Watford said the expectation is still high for backups.
"That's what we thrive on – everybody being interchangeable and everybody being ready to step in and do just as well as the man before him," Watford said. "We've just got to stay ready."
Fitzgerald (ankle) was listed as a limited participant at practice, as were center Lyle Sendlein (shoulder) and safety Rashad Johnson (ribs).
For the Bengals, cornerback Adam Jones (foot), defensive tackle Pat Sims (knee) and tackle Andrew Whitworth (not injury-related) didn't practice, while those limited were linebacker Vontaze Burfict (knee), defensive end Carlos Dunlap (shoulder), cornerback Leon Hall (not injury-related), tackle Andrew Smith (concussion) and safety Shawn Williams (ankle).
CHALLENGES AWAIT CARDINALS DEFENSE
Safety Tyrann Mathieu was asked about the Bengals offense, which is coming off just a six-point performance against the Texans but is still fifth in the NFL, averaging 26.1 points per game.
"A talented offense," Mathieu said. "Guys all over the place that can make plays for them. It's a good challenge."
And what about star wide receiver A.J. Green specifically?
"That's Pat's challenge," a laughing Mathieu said.
Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals' shutdown corner, has been impressive this season as he prepares for another big test. He didn't allow a completion on just one pass thrown at him against the Seahawks, and has still only given up one touchdown on the year, according to Pro Football Focus.
Green is eighth in the NFL with 769 receiving yards and has four touchdowns.
PASSING ON THE TIGHT ENDS
The Cardinals' tight ends have been consistent targets for Palmer in the red zone, as Darren Fells (2), Troy Niklas (2) and Jermaine Gresham (1) have combined for five receiving scores. But none has accumulated more than 13 catches or 167 receiving yards this year despite Palmer's Pro Bowl-level season through the air.
Arians said there's an easy answer for why they aren't featured more in the passing game.
"We pay Larry (Fitzgerald) and those guys too much money to throw it to the tight ends," Arians said. "They're here to block."
Images from the Cardinals playing video games against some of our military personnel