With A.J. Green unlikely to play Sunday because of Covid and DeAndre Hopkins still fighting a bad hamstring, the Cardinals might want to lean on new tight end Zach Ertz just a little more.
But Ertz says his focus is earning the coaches' trust and progressing as a player, and the reality that he might not quite be ready for too big of a load in a new offense.
"I think they are still trying to ease me in," Ertz said. "My role is growing every week. The coaches are seeing what I do well and how they can use me. It's still early; I've only been here for essentially two games. So, we're still in the beginning stages. I think they are very confident in what I can do when I'm on the field. And I think my role is going to continue to evolve."
Ertz played 35 snaps in his debut against Houston Week 7 and received 43 snaps last Thursday against Green Bay. Ertz has combined for seven catches for 108 yards and a touchdown on nine targets through two games.
Hopkins and Green lead the team's receivers in targets, total yards season, and yards per game, so there would be more opportunity if one or both do not play.
In nine seasons in Philadelphia, Ertz became one of the premier tight ends in the NFL, earning multiple Pro Bowl nominations behind consistent impressive numbers. It's why the Cardinals' acquisition of his services was such a huge deal.
But anything Ertz has accomplished in the past means nothing to the tight end. He knows things are different in the early stages with a new franchise.
"Just because I've done something in one place for so long doesn't mean I'm just going to come here and do it again," Ertz said. "I've got to build trust with these coaches each week; that's what it's about. Being where you're supposed to be, when you're supposed to be there, in the passing game. It's a process."
FINDING OPPORTUNITY FOR CHANDLER JONES
Chandler Jones returned last Thursday against Green Bay after missing time due to Covid, and while the linebacker was quiet in the loss, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph blamed that mainly on the defense's inability to stop the run.
Packers running back A.J. Dillon and Aaron Jones combined for 137 yards on 31 carries. On the night, the Cardinals allowed 151 rushing yards in total.
"Chandler was fine; he wasn't perfect," Joseph said. "The game plan for Green Bay – you guys saw it – was quick passes, screens, and boots. We didn't play good enough on first and second down with tackling on the run and on screenplays to have enough third and longs – where Chandler could've been a difference."
Stopping the run against the 49ers Sunday is the main priority, Joseph said, which should create more opportunities for Jones to have a bigger impact.
KYLER MURRAY SITS AGAIN
Kyler Murray did not practice on Thursday. Murray has not practiced this week, but Kingsbury said on Wednesday the quarterback is progressing. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, running back Jonathan Ward, and safety James Wiggins were not present at the open part of practice, and defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence was also absent after being limited on Wednesday.
The full injury report comes out later today.
JUSTIN MURRAY PRACTICE WINDOW OPENS
The Cardinals designated Justin Murray to return from the injured reserve list on Thursday, allowing the offensive lineman to begin practicing. At some point during the next three weeks, the Cardinals can activate Murray to the 53-man roster.
Murray suffered a back injury Week 3 in Jacksonville. Murray has been used at right tackle while Kelvin Beachum was injured, and at right guard with Josh Jones moving to right tackle.
Murray has allowed one sack in 90 playing snaps this season. Pro Football Focus handed Murray a score of 60.8 for his performance this season.