To say the 2017 Arizona Cardinals have been bit by the injury bug would be an understatement. According to Spotrac, Arizona has placed 15 players on injured reserve this season, effectively flipping a quarter of the roster. Each player lost translates to another player needing to be brought up to speed whether they come from the practice squad or outside the organization. The Cardinals are far from the most injury plagued team in the NFL although they have suffered more intensely than most. To put the issue in perspective, here are three key factors when examining the Arizona injury problem.
The biggest issue on the field is the inconsistency of the offense. A slightly lesser issue is the inconsistency of the pass rush. Injuries are first and foremost the leading contributor to both issues. Taking a look at the injured reserve list the following players were starters at the beginning of the season:
- Mike Iupati (Guard)
- D.J. Humphries (Tackle)
- Jared Veldheer (Tackle)
- Carson Palmer (Quarterback)
- David Johnson (Running Back)
- Markus Golden (Linebacker)
The list includes three of the five starting offensive linemen, the starting quarterback, starting running back, and starting outside linebacker. Johnson’s loss came in game one, which put added pressure on Palmer and the rest of the offense. With the entire left side of the offensive line battling injuries, pass protection became an issue, eventually leading to the broken left arm for Palmer against the Rams.
On defense the loss of Golden took longer to feel. The team’s sack leader in 2016, Golden was injured in the fourth game of 2017. The loss of his pass rushing ability has put the pressure on bookend linebacker Chandler Jones. While Jones has played well, the lack of another pass rushing option has caused long stretches of zero pass rush for the defense.
Money Tied Up
The Cardinals have major talent on the injured reserve but also large sums of 2017 cap space on there as well. Below are the cap numbers for the Arizona starters on injured reserve:
- Carson Palmer – $14,191,180
- Mike Iupati – $7,988,232
- Jared Vledheer – $1,764,705
- D.J. Humphries – $1,000,825
- Markus Golden – $817,193
- David Johnson – $752,800
Palmer is the leader in salary among the wounded Cardinals. He is second in the NFL behind Ryan Tannehill’s $20 million, on injured reserve since before the regular season. Overall Arizona has $29.2 million on the injured reserve, second behind Miami. If money indicates how valuable a team views the player, then the Cardinals have major value on the trainer’s table.
Playoffs Still in Play
Somehow, even with the injuries, the Cardinals find themselves in contention for the playoffs. Arizona is two games back of the last wild card spot with a 6-7 record. Wins in their last three games coupled with some help from teams above them could get Arizona into the playoffs. At the end of the day a chance at the playoffs is what anyone wants.