It is unquestionably a harsh reality the Cardinals and Tyrann Mathieu were officially handed Monday, with the news Mathieu had torn his ACL and was done for the year. Mathieu has had a fantastic season. They will miss him on the field. But what struck me is how personal this is, for Bruce Arians and players. This cuts them, because Mathieu is such a great person. This is ground that has been covered many times, but it makes sense why people want to root for this guy. He has a charisma that few have. He is genuine. Add in the fact he can play football, and it resonates. I’m not afraid to say he’s one of my favorite guys to cover in my 16 years around this team.
This is why the news is extra painful.
“Luckily we have the next couple of days off to let this emotionally sink in,” safety Rashad Johnson said. “Not so much not having our guy to play in the playoffs, but our hearts go out to him because of everything he’s been through and how hard he has worked to get back to this point and having the season he’s having.”
As for on the field, the Cardinals have to find a way to make due defensively without Mathieu. You can’t replace the playmaking ability. That’s innate. You do have — assuming no more serious injuries — depth, however. Johnson should be back from his ankle injury. Jerraud Powers plays more slot. Justin Bethel gets on the field. And new safety D.J. Swearinger plays more with Tony Jefferson.
Also part of the equation: This happens. Take a look around the top teams. Almost all have lost at least one significant player, if not for the season, for an extended period of time.
— Seahawks: TE Jimmy Graham, RB Marshawn Lynch, RB Thomas Rawls
— Panthers: WR Kelvin Benjamin
— Steelers: RB Le’Veon Bell
— Packers: WR Jordy Nelson
— Bengals: QB Andy Dalton
— Patriots: WR Julian Edelman, every decent running back they had
— Broncos: LT Ryan Clady, QB Peyton Manning (yes, I understand you can quibble with the Peyton pick.)
The point is it’s the living example of that well-worn quote coaches and some players have been saying for years: “The other team isn’t going to feel sorry for us.” The other teams have their own personnel losses. It’s the business.
Tags: Andy Dalton, D.J. Swearinger, Jerraud Powers, Jimmy Graham, Jordy Nelson, Julian Edelman, Justin Bethel, Kelvin Benjamin, Le'Veon Bell, Marshawn Lynch, Peyton Manning, Rashad Johnson, Ryan Clady, Thomas Rawls, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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The day Steve Keim was named general manager, the one-time offensive lineman spoke about his offensive line — the much-maligned line in 2012, for a variety of reasons.
“I think we have some pieces in place,” Keim said. “The level of physicality, the ability to run the ball consistently, that is a huge issue and that needs to be fixed.”
Last week before the Super Bowl, new head coach Bruce Arians said the offensive line situations is “not as dire as some might make it out to be.”
So what does that all mean? Certainly, injuries took their toll on the unit last season. Reading between the lines — and that’s all it is right now — it seems to me there is a good chance Levi Brown will be part of the unit in some way, shape or form. I don’t know if that means at guard or tackle. It would seem to be Bobby Massie has a chance to be a tackle going forward after he finished well in his rookie year after a difficult start. Where does Nate Potter fit in? And how do the current interior starters — guards Daryn Colledge and Adam Snyder, with center Lyle Sendlein — fit?
It’s still early. First, the new staff, which will have multiple coaches that will teach the offensive line, need to go through the video and analyze what players are already in place. Free agency gives the Cards some options, especially at tackle, although the cap implications of a big-dollar signing will have to be carefully considered. (Among the tackles currently slated for free agency — knowing a couple could get the franchise tag — include Denver’s Ryan Clady, Kansas City’s Branden Albert, New Orleans’ Jerrod Bushrod and the Giants’ Will Beatty.)
As for the guys already on the roster, the 2013 salary cap numbers for the four vets are as follows: Brown $7.65M, Colledge $7.3M, Snyder $4M, Sendlein $3.1M. (And before you ask, the “dead” money if those players were released would be $5.6M, $4.5M, $4M and $2.1M, respectively.) The draft seems like a more likely spot to add a piece, but whether that would be a tackle (like Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher) or guard (like Alabama’s Chance Warmack) or even after the first round, well, it’s way to early to have a good sense of that. The Cards have to have their meetings and again, the coaches need to evaluate what they have.
There has been a lot of talk about the quarterback and what the Cards will do about it, and that’s clearly the top topic. But what happens with the offensive line — and how that unit is addressed by Keim and Arians — will play into the quarterback story as well.
Tags: Adam Snyder, Bobby Massie, Branden Albert, Bruce Arians, Chance Warmack, Daryn Colledge, Eric Fisher, Jerrod Bushrod, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Nate Potter, offensive line, Ryan Clady, Steve Keim, Will Beatty
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