The Cardinals' offensive line from left: Ulrick John, John Wetzel, A.Q. Shipley, Mike Iupati and D.J. Humphries
ATLANTA – The Cardinals offensive line underwent a massive makeover this week, as three of the five spots saw a change in personnel.
The result wasn't perfect in Sunday's 38-19 loss to the Falcons, but the unit held up much better than the week before in Minnesota. That might be the best-case scenario moving forward for a group which has been hit hard by injuries.
D.J. Humphries started at left tackle for the first time since college while Ulrick John made his first NFL start, period, at right tackle. The musical chairs ended with John Wetzel playing right guard in place of Earl Watford.
Only left guard Mike Iupati and center A.Q. Shipley remained in their spots among this year's projected starting line, and coach Bruce Arians said he probably called more maximum protection packages in this game than he had in the previous three seasons.
"I thought the young offensive line played really well until they were put into a situation where it was pass, pass, pass," Arians said. "Any line is going to struggle in that."
Quarterback Carson Palmer was protected nicely early but the Falcons started getting to him late. Palmer finished the game 25-of-45 for 289 yards passing with two touchdowns and an interception. He was sacked twice and had an intentional grounding penalty. He knew it was a tough situation for the linemen.
"They had their hands full, and I'm proud of the way they fought," Palmer said. "They fought until the end. It just wasn't enough."
Humphries was a first-round pick in 2015 after playing left tackle for Florida, but moved to the right side because Jared Veldheer was planted on Palmer's blind-side upon his arrival. Wetzel got the first crack at left tackle after Veldheer suffered a season-ending triceps injury, but Humphries received the call this time and will likely stay there.
"It wasn't that hard of a transition throughout the week," Humphries said. "I felt like it was an alright showing for the first time. There's definitely some stuff to clean up, for sure."
Iupati didn't take any solace in the line playing decently despite the high degree of difficulty. He expected more.
"It's not difficult," Iupati said. "Everybody's a professional athlete. Everybody has their job and we've all got to communicate."
MORE WIDEOUT TROUBLES
The Falcons game was a microcosm of the season for the Cardinals' passing game. A group that was expected to dominate because of its depth instead relied on running back David Johnson and wideout Larry Fitzgerald heavily.
Johnson had eight catches for 103 yards and a touchdown, while Fitzgerald had four catches for 53 yards, including a beautiful one-handed grab on the opening possession to set up a touchdown.
Michael Floyd, who was questionable with a hamstring injury, caught only two passes for 31 yards and dropped a crucial pass on fourth down. John Brown had one catch for 19 yards and left the game with a hamstring injury. J.J. Nelson had two catches for 30 yards.
"If I had the answer, I'd fix it by now, because they've struggled all year," Arians said. "John Brown was as healthy as he could have been and was starting to have a big game, and he's out. Mike, I don't know. We tried to do everything we could to fix it. J.J. dropped a couple balls. What (we thought) would have been a strength … on offense this year has been a weakness."
PETERSON HURTS KNEE
Brown's hamstring and a knee injury to cornerback Patrick Peterson were the two injuries of note brought up by Arians postgame. Peterson said he suffered his injury while trying to block Julio Jones after a D.J. Swearinger interception in the first half.
Peterson missed a few series in the second half because of it, including the last couple. Cornerback Tharold Simon took the field in his place.
"It's hurting right now," Peterson said. "I don't know what the diagnosis is right now, but I can't put too much pressure on it. We'll let the team doctors figure that out."