Against the 49ers Thursday night, the Cardinals – dealing with a host of injuries at the position – will use “running back by committee,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said Wednesday.
“We’ll kind of get it rolling, and see where it goes,” Kingsbury said.
Chase Edmonds (hamstring) is out. David Johnson (ankle) did do some work Wednesday and is listed as questionable – the Cards are “still working through” Johnson’s status, Kingsbury said – while healthy newcomers Kenyan Drake, Zach Zenner and Alfred Morris are in line to try and handle the load.
Zenner played briefly against the Saints Sunday after Edmonds got hurt. Morris was inactive in New Orleans, but Kingsbury said he is expected to be active against the 49ers. Drake, meanwhile, said he is as ready as he can be.
“I’ve enjoyed the last 36 hours I have been here,” Drake said with a laugh, following the Cards’ Wednesday work. “Once I feel I put the uniform on (Thursday), run around, get hit a little bit and realize I play for the Arizona Cardinals for real, I feel like it’ll slow down for me. Until then, I’m full speed ahead.”
Kingsbury said Drake, acquired Monday in a trade, has “picked things up quickly.”
“We’re going to get him in the game in some packages,” Kingsbury said.
CARDINALS DEALING WITH MORE RIGHT-TACKLE INJURIES
Right tackle has been a magnet for injuries this season for the Cardinals. Starter Marcus Gilbert went down right before the opener with a season-ending knee injury, and one potential replacement, Jordan Mills, also suffered a season-ending knee injury in September not long after arriving.
Justin Murray, the guy who had settled into the role, is battling a knee injury now. It isn’t as severe – he was limited in practice Wednesday and Kingsbury called him a game-day decision – but if he cannot play, the Cards have to dig deeper into the depth chart.
“I think if you look at offensive line play across the league, you have to have guys that can step up and play,” left guard Justin Pugh said. “It is very hard to keep all five guys healthy all throughout the year. It’s the nature of the game.
“(Offensive line) coach (Sean) Kugler, his father was a firefighter, he’s always talking about, ‘Man the hose.’ That’s what we’re trying to live by.”
Rookie Joshua Miles is listed as Murray’s backup. Top offensive line backup Mason Cole is better suited for interior play, but he played left tackle for the majority of his college career at Michigan. Pugh, meanwhile, is also better suited for interior play but he did play right tackle for the Giants for four games in 2017.
“We have several options,” Kingsbury said. “Not sure which way we’ll go just yet.”
REDDICK REPLACED BY WALKER IN BASE DEFENSE AT LINEBACKER
Inside linebacker Haason Reddick lost snaps to Joe Walker in New Orleans, and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said the shift is “the best thing for our defense” and will be the plan going forward.
“Joe Walker right now has earned the right to play the base downs, and Haason is right now better at playing the sub-downs,” Joseph said. “(Haason’s) ability to cover, and run and hit in the blitz, we can use his natural traits. And Joe Walker has played inside ’backer longer than Haason Reddick has, so in the base downs we are playing Joe more because of his experience with seeing the jets and motions and the crosses.”
The 49ers use a lot of jets and motions in their offense. Against the Saints, Walker played 65 defensive snaps and Reddick 36, almost the flip of the previous week in New York (Reddick 64, Walker 30).
“I’m not frustrated at all,” Reddick said. “I’m just doing what they ask me to do and trying to do it well. At this point, that’s all I can do. I can’t be worried about everything else, complain about anything. I’m just going to continue to do me and do my best.”
Aside from Edmonds, Johnson and Murray, the other Cardinal with an injury designation was defensive lineman Zach Allen (shoulder), who is out.
For the 49ers, fullback Kyle Juszczyk (knee), tackle Mike McGlinchey (knee) and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (foot) are out. Tackle Joe Staley (fibula) is doubtful. Running back Matt Breida (ankle), running back Raheem Mostert (knee), and tight end Levine Toiolo (groin) are questionable.