The Cardinals lost their standout rookie wideout last week in Green Bay when second-round pick Christian Kirk broke his foot late in the game.
A less-heralded first-year player made the most of his new opportunity in Sunday’s 17-3 loss to the Lions.
Undrafted rookie free agent Trent Sherfield had five catches for a team-high 77 yards. His 19-yard catch in the second quarter was the longest Cardinals’ pass play of the day.
“I thought he had a nice game,” coach Steve Wilks said. “I thought he stepped up.”
Sherfield flashed enough promise in the preseason to make the 53-man roster and steadily worked his way up the depth chart. Sherfield stole some practice time with the starters early in the season when Larry Fitzgerald took veteran's days off, and now he is playing side-by-side with the future Hall of Famer.
"Trent continues to get better every week," Fitzgerald said. "He made a huge play for us last week on that third down in Green Bay. Took another good week of practice and took the next step with five catches for 70-something today and he made some timely third down conversions again."
Kirk was the team’s leading receiver when he was injured and his absence leaves a void. J.J. Nelson was more involved than in any other game this season, with three catches for 43 yards on seven targets. Nelson entered the game with only four receptions for 21 yards all season.
Undrafted rookie wide receiver Jalen Tolliver made his NFL debut, catching two passes for 22 yards. His first professional catch was an eventful one, as the ball popped loose at the end of a 10-yard gain. The fumble was overturned on review.
The Cardinals will rely on those three pass-catchers and second-year wide receiver Chad Williams – who missed the game with a hamstring injury – to complement Fitzgerald down the stretch.
“We all have to step up for Christian,” Sherfield said. “Obviously he’s not replaceable. Christian has done things or us that we need. We’re missing him right now.”
A SLIPPERY FIELD
Several players on both teams slipped early in the game. Running back David Johnson, who lost his footing on an early run, said he changed to longer cleats during the contest.
“I think it threw a lot of guys off how slippery it was, but that’s no excuse,” Johnson said. “In the NFL, we have equipment for that, and I was glad I was able to change.”
Wilks downplayed the impact of the field.
“I thought the field conditions were fine,” Wilks said. “They played on the same field that we played on.”
BARKSDALE STARTS AT RIGHT TACKLE
Veteran Joe Barksdale, who was signed earlier this week after his release from the Chargers, started the game at right tackle. Will Holden got the start last week after veteran Andre Smith was released.
“We felt that it was the best mix for us this week,” Wilks said. “I thought Will did a tremendous job last week. Joe came in understanding our terminology, had a good week of practice and we felt we wanted to go with him, and that’s what we did.”
PETERSON RETURNS PUNTS
Wilks said wide receiver J.J. Nelson would return punts with Kirk on injured reserve, but it was cornerback Patrick Peterson back deep.
He finished with five returns for 25 yards, an average of 5.2 yards per return. Peterson’s longest return – an 18-yarder in the first quarter – was wiped away on a block in the back call against cornerback David Amerson.
NKEMDICHE LEAVES GAME
Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury. Wilks said after the game Nkemdiche should be fine.
Images from the Week 14 matchup at State Farm Stadium