There was an emotional letdown after Maxx Williams got hurt last week. It was palpable, and whether or not it truly carried over on the Cardinals, it certainly felt like it. Williams is loved in the locker room, and let's face it, he was playing excellent football, which also makes a difference.
Friday, there seemed to be an emotional boost after the Cardinals traded for Zach Ertz, here to replace Williams, who was lost for the season with a knee injury.
You can break down the Ertz trade in a lot of ways. He is making a big chunk of change for what will be (barring injury) 11 games – more than $5 million. And because his contract runs out after the season, it could only be a short-term rental for the fifth-round pick and cornerback Tay Gowan, who went the other way in the deal. (For those wondering about Gowan, yes, some day, he might become a good player. But he isn't there yet, and I am thinking this year would have been the D.J. Humphries-Eno Benjamin NFL redshirt for Gowan had he stayed.)
But getting Ertz right now makes so much sense. No, Kliff Kingsbury's offense doesn't feature the tight end a ton. This year, though, Williams was more of a factor – a reason why you probably want to replace him (and in a role that Darrell Daniels just doesn't fit.)
Also, big picture, this is about where the Cardinals are as a team. As in, they are 5-0. They have a real opportunity. I'm not sure what happens short-term in Cleveland, but with two home games coming up against Houston and Green Bay (on a short week) and Ertz burning to show he still has a lot to give in playing for a new contract, this makes so much sense.
Is it this year's version of the Week 6 2015 addition of Dwight Freeney? It'll be interesting to watch play out. Keim Time, indeed.
-- LATE ADD: So Kingsbury has Covid, as does QB coach Cam Turner. One, you're hoping this rash of positives stops now. Two, I'm not sure how the offense is going to work. Who calls the plays, and more importantly, how does it develop? Do the Cards end up throwing less? Offensive assistant Jerry Sullivan was an offensive coordinator for the Cardinals in 2003, but I'd guess they will lean on Sean Kugler.
-- Ertz played Thursday night and he wasn't ever going to play against the Browns, so the Cardinals have to battle there with Daniels and Demetrius Harris at tight end. They could have their cornerbacks return, while the Browns – who like the Cards have a bunch of game-day decisions to play – are without running back Nick Chubb. As good as Kareem Hunt is, and he's still very good, to not have to deal with Chubb is a huge advantage for the Cards' defense. (Neither of the Browns' starting tackles practiced Friday either.)
-- Kyler Murray. Is his right shoulder a little sore? Yeah, well, he was on the injury report. Is he OK? Yes. He has no injury designation for the game. He's going to play.
-- The Cardinals have a chance to be 4-0 on the road. They haven't been 4-0 on the road to start a season since they were 5-0 on the road in 2009, the year after the Super Bowl run.
-- If I had to guess I'd guess Jordan Hicks is going to try and play with his toe issue. But Zaven Collins, who already had his defensive snaps jump last week, is going to be on alert. "I'm ready for it," Collins said, although he admitted that with his defensive work increasing last week and also having to take some extra special teams snaps because of various injuries, he "kinda got winded." The learning curve of a rookie.
-- James Conner already has five rushing touchdowns, and he's clearly the goal-line and short-yardage back. So when he's at the 1- or 2-yard-line and the touchdown is so close before a play, is there still some juice he gets out of the moment, or is scoring from there just part of the job?
"I feel like it's a guarantee almost," Conner said. "I just have a lot of pride being near the goal line and you only get a couple chances, so I get excited when the ball is right there because I'm thinking seven for sure."
-- Kicker Matt Prater is just three points away from 1,500 in his career. I'm guessing the Cardinals would prefer him getting there Sunday one extra point at a time.
-- Collins said he isn't bothered by the grief J.J. Watt and other teammates give him about his speeding arrest in the offseason, saying they heckle him often. In fact, Collins said, at the game, much like fans chanting "Bud-da, Bud-da" for the All-Pro safety, the rookie said one fan was chanting "Zoom, Zoom" for Collins.
At least he has a good sense of humor about it.
-- The latter is officially questionable to play, but we all know we want to see Cardinals wide receiver A.J. Green go up against Browns cornerback A.J. Green at some point.
-- I could see this game with a lot of points. The weather will be cool and windy. You know Kyler would like to find that revved-up offense
-- Last word is from Conner, who had his quarterback briefly stop in to his press conference to throw him his most important pass of the week – tossing Conner his Kinexon tracer, which tracks close contacts in these Covid times.
"So I don't get fined," Conner said with a smile. "Shout out to Kyler. You're a real one for that."
See you Sunday.