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With Markus Golden Down, Someone Must Step In

The three players vying to fill the vacant defensive end spot during Markus Golden's rehab are (from left) Vontarrius Dora, Benson Mayowa and Arthur Moats.
The three players vying to fill the vacant defensive end spot during Markus Golden's rehab are (from left) Vontarrius Dora, Benson Mayowa and Arthur Moats.

The physically-unable-to-perform list for Markus Golden means not only that he isn’t taking part in practice but that he’s not even watching.

For now, the injured defensive end is rehabbing elsewhere when his teammates are on the field. But he’s in the meeting room, he watches the practice video each day, and even if he doesn’t see live the current battle – between Vontarrius Dora, Benson Mayowa and Arthur Moats – of who will replace him with the starters, he still watches it unfold.

“Ever since I got injured – especially once I found out I wasn’t going to be in camp – I wanted to encourage guys,” Golden said. “You can tell they are competing. And that’s what I want to see.”

Missing Golden, who tore his ACL in Week 4 last season, isn’t ideal. He has yet to practice in the new defense of coach Steve Wilks and coordinator Al Holcomb, although he insists that will not be an issue when he returns.

First, though, he has to return. Golden said he continues to work toward the field – the 10-month anniversary of his injury was Aug. 1 – and Wilks is anxious to see a player who posted 12½ sacks in 2016, before the injury ruined 2017. Golden declined to put a timetable on when he could come back, and so has the team.

“Everything I have heard about him in the past and just talking to him, he brings a lot of energy, and that’s what I love,” Wilks said.

In the meantime, Holcomb called finding someone to pair with NFL sack leader Chandler Jones with the first unit a “fluid situation.” Dora opened training camp running with the starters, although Mayowa got some reps there this week as Holcomb tries to find the best combination.

Moats has the most NFL experience, although he has spent a good chunk of his NFL career playing linebacker in a 3-4 base. As someone who grew up playing defensive end, Moats said it’s a position with which he feels comfortable. As for the opening with Golden down, Moats defers.

“It’s always about just learning,” Moats said. “You come in, get better every day, all that stuff takes care of itself.”

The Cardinals originally talked to Moats at the beginning of free agency about potentially signing, but didn’t bring him in until right before training camp, after an injury to Praise Martin-Oguike. It was Martin-Oguike who was getting a lot of first-team work in the offseason.

As camp opened, the spot went to Dora, who had two separate stints on the Cards’ practice squad last season and has played only one NFL game.

“I know it’s early in training camp, and a long way to the season, but I’m trying to maximize every opportunity I can get, whether it is first team, second team, whatever,” Dora said.

Mayowa had six sacks two seasons ago with Dallas, but the Cowboys cut him after he slipped to just one last season. The vacancy with Golden down can’t be ignored, but “to be honest, if he were healthy, I’d still be competing,” Mayowa said. “I don’t really use that as fuel. I’ve got to stack days to get better for myself.”

The position isn’t just about sacks or the pass rush, Wilks emphasized, not when the edge has to be anchored against the run. Jones proved excellent at that despite his gaudy sack totals, and Wilks wants to balance it on the other side.

Golden will contribute encouragement to the mix, because for now, that’s all he can do.

“All these guys, they’ve played in the league enough to show they can play,” Golden said. “I feel good about our depth, but I won’t feel fully good about it until I’m out there. Because I know I can help. I can help better than anybody could.”

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