Well on Sunday the Arizona Cardinals lost another starter to a season ending injury when TE Leonard Pope went down with a dislocated ankle. That brings the total number of starters on the roster lost to injury up to seven, SEVEN STARTERS!!
Every one of these guys is a huge, HUGE contributor to the Cards gameplan. Allow me to explain what each of these guys brought to the table:
1. Oliver Ross, OT – torn triceps (Preseason)
Ross had worked his way back into the starting lineup under his old coach from Pittsburgh, Russ Grimm. He was set at Right Tackle as the starter and would have likely shared reps with rookie Levi Brown as the season progressed, allowing Brown to develop. But, instead Ross goes down in the first preseason game and Brown is forced to step up. Although he has been good at times, his inexperience in pass protection has been glaring, especially on Sunday against Seahawks DE Patrick Kerney.
2. Chike Okeafor, DE – torn triceps (Preaseason)
Okeafor was having a phenomenal training camp and had completely made the transition from down DE to OLB, showing he had the speed to cover in the passing game and the strength to still rush the passer off the edge. But, he also tears his tricep against the Raiders in preseason and consequently the Cards best pass rusher is done for the season. Sure, DT Darnell Dockett is having a great year, but imagine if an opposing O-line had to account for both Chike and Darnell. Man that would have been sweet!
3. Matt Leinart, QB – broken collarbone (vs St Louis in week 5)
The team prepared for 7 months with him in their minds as the guy who would get them to the playoffs. But, in week 5 Rams LB Will Witherspoon comes on a blitz untouched and breaks Leinart’s left collarbone. I know there were all of those talking heads out there criticizing Matt’s abilities, but I’ll say this much, Leinart can move when he has to. His mobility in the pocket and his ability to feel the pressure is what makes him the better quarterback for this franchise. That coupled with his football IQ and his leadership skills were a gigantic loss for this season. Want proof? Think about the first time we played Seattle this year, who was the QB? How many sacks did Kerney have in that game? I’ll answer – one, and only because Leinart had given himself up on the play. Nobody touched him all game, He was efficient and careful with the ball and the Cards won the game. But this year was lost for him in St Louis.
4. Bertrand Berry, DE – torn triceps (vs Detroit in week 10)
After two injury plagued seasons Berry had seemed to find his groove again. While not nearly as much of a force in the pass rush department (only 2.5 sacks), he was becoming an effective run stopper and anchoring that D-Line in the absence of Chike Okeafor. But, another freak tricep injury and he was done for the year. Berry may not have been back to his 2004 pro bowl form, but he is far better than back ups Joe Tafoya and Darryl Blackstock. For the third straight year, the Cards lose their starting defensive end.
5. Eric Green, CB – torn groin (vs San Francisco in week 12)
Green was fast on his way to becoming a shutdown corner. Sure he gave up a big play against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, but everybody does as a corner, that’s why it is one of the most difficult positions in all of football to play. He had become a strong run defender and a heavy hitter, not afraid of anyone. But, as he tackled RB Frank Gore out of bounds in week 12, he heard a pop. Now, Antrel Rolle is elevated to starting CB. You may ask, “Is that a bad thing?” Yes, it is. Rolle was flourishing as the nickel DB, evidenced by his 3 INT day against the Bengals. Rolle is better in more of a safety position, spying the QB and operating in space, not isolated on an island defending a WR one-on-one (as CBs are often forced to do). Green’s injury seriously damaged our pass defense.
6. Adrian Wilson, SS – heel surgery (after week 12)
A-Dub, what can you say about him. He changes how offenses play the game. He is a linebacker with the speed of a DB. He made game saving plays against Pittsburgh and St. Louis and was the Cardinals X-factor in the pass rush. But, a nagging heel injury puts him on IR, and without that added pressure on the QB, Trent Dilfer, Derek Anderson & Matt Hasselback picked the Cards apart on 3 consecutive occasions. Green’s loss hurt the passing defense; Wilson’s loss hurts the ENTIRE DEFENSE.
7. Leonard Pope, TE – dislocated ankle (vs Seattle in week 14)
The second year TE was living up to his potential, finally finding his way in the passing game. Pope was the Cards second best red zone threat, right behind Larry Fitzgerald, with 5 TDs on the season. But, down goes Pope in the third quarter against the Seahawks. Now rookie TE Ben Patrick is likely to get the start, and while he has shown great hands, Patrick spent the first 8 weeks on the practice squad and has limited game experience.
SEVEN Starters gone. SEVEN starters…….WOW!
So now, a banged up and tired team is trying to finish off December in a winning way. And with the possibility of future injuries to pro bowlers Anquan Boldin and Fitzgerald, the prospect of a deep run into the January seems further and further off. But good teams find a way to win when everyone expects them to lose, we just have to wait and see which team shows up on Sunday.
Because regardless of all of these injuries, there is still a chance for them to do something special here…….GO CARDS!!