RB James Connor Goes On IR As Injury Bug Continues Biting Struggling Cardinals

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Cardinals Week 5 Recap

The Arizona Cardinals are facing challenges as they adapt to the absence of their seasoned running back and inspirational figure, James Conner. After sustaining a knee injury in last Sunday’s matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, it has been confirmed that Conner will be out of action for a minimum of four weeks. The team moved him to the Injured Reserve list this past Tuesday.

Conner is expected to be eligible to return to play by the Cardinals’ November 12 game against the Atlanta Falcons. During his time on the sideline, he will miss several key games, including road contests in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Cleveland, as well as a home fixture against the Baltimore Ravens. 

“I don’t think a lot changes,” offensive coordinator Drew Petzing said. “A.D. (running backs coach Autry Denson) does a good job getting all those guys ready, and I think you saw that when (Conner) went out in the game.

“I think Emari (Demercado) did a great job with that and I expect everybody in the room to pick up the slack.”

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The team has also been dealing with the absence of Keaontay Ingram due to injuries. To augment their running back position, the Cardinals acquired Tony Jones Jr. from waivers, originally from the New Orleans Saints. Head coach Jonathan Gannon stated that this move doesn’t necessarily reflect on Conner’s status. Gannon noted that Jones was someone they believed could offer some assistance to the team.

Tony Jones joins a backfield that also includes practice squad veterans Corey Clement and Damien Williams. Clement has been activated for the last two matches but has not yet had any offensive action. Plans for distributing Conner’s playing time remain flexible, according to team staff.

Conner injured his knee during a remarkable 35-yard run in the game against the Bengals. Although he attempted to re-enter the game, the Cardinals chose to rely on rookie Emari Demercado instead. Gannon mentioned that assessments are still ongoing concerning Conner’s injury, as well as safety Jalen Thompson’s hamstring injury.

Apart from Conner, the Cardinals have had to juggle their running back depth throughout the season. Ingram, listed as the second choice, has been out for the last two games due to a neck injury. Rookie Demercado has already been used for third-down situations and recorded 10 carries for 45 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals.

Conner has accumulated 364 yards on just 68 carries this season, averaging an impressive 5.4 yards per carry. He ranks eighth in the NFL in both total rushing yards and yards per carry.

“Nobody is going to fill James’ shoes perfectly,” Petzing said.

Look for under-utilized wide receiver Rondale Moore to receive additional snaps. Moore has seen a few snaps in Petzing’s “Wildcat” formations, and has the longest TD run of the season for the Cardinals in that same role. Moore has been the dubbed “breakout star” since he’s been drafted. Every year, he produces little and seems to have wasted potential from mismanagement. The Cardinals are known for being bad talent evaluators, preferring to keep young players at positions their preferred draft positions instead of modifying their roles to maximize potential. Hassan Reddick is only one of the many examples of this. 

Drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft as an ILB (middle linebacker), Reddick struggled his first three seasons as the “future” signal-caller for their defense. It wasn’t until a season-ending injury for premiere edge-rusher Chandler Jones that Reddick was able to utilize his athleticism, recording double-digit sacks & career-highs in almost every major defensive category in the process. 

When given the chance to retain Reddick for a measly 2yr/$6M, the dumbos in the Cardinals front office opted to let Reddick go, opting for the 2yr/$34M salary of future retiree J.J. Watt. Reddick moved onto Carolina where he recorded another season of double-digit sacks. From there, he progressed even further, catching the eye of current Cardinals Head Coach Jonathan Gannon & former Defensive Coordinator for the reigning NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles. Reddick has only improved since being moved to OLB/edge rusher. 

Unfortunately for the cancer survivor Connor, injuries are a recurring theme since joining the NFL. Throughout his seven-year career in the NFL, Conner has yet to play a full season. Last year, he missed four games, and in the current 2021 season, he has already been absent for two.

To fill the roster holes in the running back’s room, the Cardinals have promoted Corey Clement from the practice squad in recent weeks, although he has not yet participated in any offensive plays. They also adjusted their practice squad by releasing linebacker Davion Taylor and bringing back cornerback Quavian White.

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