The continuity of the Arizona Cardinals at OL put to the test by internal injuries


TEMPE — The start of Arizona Cardinals rookie offensive lineman Lecitus Smith’s NFL career was slower than most.

After seeing just eight offensive snaps and some special teams work on two games played before Week 9, the chances of seeing the field in an expanded role against the Seattle Seahawks were slim.

That was until starting guard Will Hernandez injured his pectoral in the first quarter of Arizona’s 31-21 loss.

Dubbed as doubtful to return, Hernandez failed to return to the field, leaving Smith to fight a tough Seattle Seahawks front on the volley alongside an already depleted Cardinals O line.

“I think he got his way for the very first time,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday. “It’s a tough unit he was going against. They’ve played really well up front, have big run saves and guys that can really rush the passer and play at a really high level defensively. I thought he was holding on and would improve with more reps than he got. We’ll try to get more this week.

Obviously, it’s not all going to be pretty, with Smith being hit with a false start penalty and allowing a sack. But on short notice and on his first legitimate shot in the NFL, the rookie has gained some confidence that he can hold on to the highest level of competition. At the same time, he knows there is a lot to improve.

The more time he can dedicate to his task and watch his own movie, the better, especially with the number of injuries that affect the line each week.

With Kingsbury already ruling out Hernandez and starting center Rodney Hudson not expected to play in the team’s Week 10 game against the Los Angeles Rams, in addition to losing Justin Pugh for the season, Smith has good chances of seeing a good chunk of shots in week 10.

Max Garcia and Sean Harlow, who is the team’s backup center behind Billy Price, are two other candidates who could step in if necessary, Kingsbury said Monday.

“You never know when your number is going to be called,” Smith said after Sunday’s game. “You never know when you’re going to get up. To be completely honest, I didn’t expect to play this week.

“But at the same time, I prepared as I was going because (veterans) lead me and show me right from wrong, especially (OL coach Sean Kugler) he’s doing a great job and getting us ready for the Game. I didn’t think I was going to play but I prepared throughout the week like I was going to.

So far this season, the Cardinals have deployed six different iterations of the starting offensive line, including four in the past five games.

And for all the injuries plaguing Arizona’s bodyguards, their Week 10 opponent is worse. Given the Rams head coach Sean McVay’s comments to reporters on its offensive line, Los Angeles may deploy its ninth starting roster in as many games.

“I just think you understand that sometimes it’s battle attrition and you have to find ways to win games no matter what,” Kingsbury said when asked about teams going through. similar injury issues. “It’s a tough league and it’s part of our job to figure out how to maximize the guys we have there.”


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