Cardinals depth being tested with CB and RB injuries

Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

BY: ED COLE

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Three of the Cardinals biggest assets – cornerback Jerraud Powers, running back Chris Johnson, running back Andre Ellington – all left in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the 49ers with different injuries. Powers injured his right calf, Johnson injured his left knee and Ellington injured his left foot.

Arizona was able to survive and go onto victory, but it was a major blow losing these three athletes in what seemed like mere minutes between each injury.

Fortunately, none of the injuries are very serious, according to head coach Bruce Arians.

“We know that Jerraud Powers does not have an Achilles (injury). He has a calf strain, similar to a hamstring pull,” Arians said. “The one thing about J.P. is that he’s a very fast healer, so there is really no timetable. We’ll just go day-to-day with it. Chris Johnson is in the MRI right now. He has a knee contusion. We’ll see the extent of it. Andre Ellington is a turf toe and we don’t know the extent of how bad it’s going to hurt him for this week. Other than that, just normal bumps and bruises.”

These injuries really put a strain on the team’s depth at these two positions. With Powers only able to run 32 of a possible 56 snaps on defense, Justin Bethel came in and performed admirably in his 27 defensive snaps.

If Powers were to miss Sunday’s game against the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome, Arians wouldn’t hesitate to slide Bethel in opposite Patrick Peterson at the other cornerback spot.

“I have no problem with Justin (Bethel) being out there,” Arians said. “It’s just that if he has to play some nickel, which would be new for him.”

As far as the running backs were concerned, the brunt of the load went to rookie running back David Johnson once Chris Johnson and Ellington departed. Johnson ended up playing 31 snaps, and he even had a one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. It was one of two rushing touchdowns the Cardinals had on the afternoon. The other came from quarterback Carson Palmer, which ended up being the game-winner.

If Powers, Johnson or Ellington have to miss any games due to these injuries, the team’s depth at those positions will be severely tested.

“Oh, there’s no doubt,” Arians said. “David (Johnson) stepped in and did good job. We always trust Stepfan (Taylor) to do his job. Whether or not we’ll have to make a roster move for (running back) Kerwynn (Williams), we’ll have to wait and see as the week goes on. That’s a possibility, but I’d rather not do that right now. With depth in the secondary, we’ll have a transitional player – (wide receiver) Britt(an) Golden will play some nickel corner this week.”

All year long, Golden’s been running in practice with the secondary, so if there’s anyone who’s suited to slide in at that cornerback position to provide some much needed depth, it’s Golden, who Arians just loves because of what he can do on special teams also.

“Yeah, he’s (Golden) more than capable of doing it,” Arians said. “You could bring a guy in off the street, but then I’d have to sit down a guy who’s playing 25 plays on special teams. I’m not going to do that. He’s too good on special teams. So, we’ll work with Britt and see what’s available as far as bringing guys in.”

Johnson’s had his fair share of ups and downs in his rookie season, but for the most part, Arians has seen more of the former than the latter.

For Johnson to step his game up against San Francisco, in as tough a situation as that was, spoke volumes about his ability to grab the bull by the horns when needed.

“David (Johnson) is working on his ball security. He’s much better,” Arians said. “He still struggles sometimes out in space, reading hots and blitzes, like most rookies do, but he did a great job on the goal line by putting his foot into the ground and making that run for the touchdown. I have all the confidence in the world in him and him starting.”

UPDATE: Jay Glazer, who Chris Johnson trained with before he signed with the Cardinals, tweeted out some sad news about Johnson. Glazer said Johnson has a fractured tibia, which would put him out for an unspecified number of games.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter followed Glazer’s tweet about Johnson with one of his own.

This is devastating news for the Cardinals. Johnson came in during the middle of training camp, worked his tail off both on the field and off if it, just so he could make a contribution to the team, which is the understatement of the year.

Johnson lit the NFL on fire prior to the injury, rushing for 814 yards and three touchdowns. Johnson’s 814 rushing yards are the fourth most in the league. Johnson had four 100+ yard performances this season for Arizona, making him the first Cardinals player since current running backs coach Stump Mitchell (4, 1985) to rush for 100+ yards in at least four games in a season.

Arians will address the media on Wednesday, and provide more information on Johnson’s injury, and where they’ll go running backs wise in the wake of this news.