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Loss Of Christian Kirk Felt By Cardinals

Rookie wide receiver's absence was notable against Lions

WR Christian Kirk had a big gain on a jet sweep against the Packers
WR Christian Kirk had a big gain on a jet sweep against the Packers

The Cardinals didn't have many explosive plays through the first 12 games of the season, but when they did, rookie Christian Kirk was often involved.

The Cardinals' leading receiver had the 75-yard touchdown in San Francisco, the 59-yard score on a bubble screen against the Raiders, and many other chunk gains before his season ended with a broken foot in Green Bay.

Even when Kirk didn't touch the ball, defenses had to account for him, and his absence was notable in Sunday's 17-3 loss to the Lions. The Cardinals' biggest play against Detroit was a 19-yard pass to Trent Sherfield.

Running back David Johnson had eight catches for a measly 12 yards and averaged 3.3 yards per carry on 15 attempts. Coach Steve Wilks said it was evident the Lions were intent on keeping Johnson under wraps.

"You could see that, watching the film," Wilks said. "A couple of times, they were overplaying David. You really didn't realize how much you miss Christian until (Sunday). He was definitely a guy that was making his mark, progressing, and a weapon for us on the offensive side of the ball."

The Lions also kept a close eye on wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who didn't catch a pass until the third quarter.

"They doubled Larry a lot inside with their coverages," Wilks said. "You can see that, particularly on third down. Any type of passing situation, you saw them favoring that side and trying to get that bracket on Larry."

This figures to be the reality the rest of the way. The Cardinals have a pair of star skill players surrounded by unproven weapons. It only makes sense for opposing defenses to key in on Johnson and Fitzgerald, and force players like Sherfield, J.J. Nelson, Ricky Seals-Jones and Jalen Tolliver to beat them.

Cardinals' Most Explosive Plays In 2018

Table inside Article
Player Opponent Distance
C. Kirk 49ers 75
C. Kirk Raiders 59
D. Johnson Raiders 53
R. Seals-Jones Vikings 40
L. Fitzgerald 49ers 37
C. Kirk Packers 37
C. Kirk Vikings 35
R. Seals-Jones Bears 35
J. Rosen Packers 33
L. Fitzgerald Packers 32
C. Kirk Bears 32
R. Seals-Jones Seahawks 31
C. Kirk Bears 30
D. Johnson Seahawks 30