3 Cardinals Who Must Step Up In J.J. Watt’s Absence

Defensive end J.J. Watt #99 of the Arizona Cardinals reacts after a sack during the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on October 24, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Texans 31-5.
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)


Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt will be missing the rest of the season due to shoulder surgery.

The three-time Defensive Player of the Year suffered the injury against his former team, the Houston Texans, but finished the game.

He will sit out their Thursday Night Football encounter against the Green Bay Packers.

His absence will be a big blow to the Cardinals’ defense which ranks fourth in total yards allowed at 316.7 per game.

They also rank third in pass defense (201 yards per game) and first in points allowed (16.3).

A report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport mentioned that the recovery period could last for three months.

If that timeframe stays true for Watt, he might have a chance to play in the NFC Championship Game or Super Bowl LVI, granted that the Cardinals reach that far.

For the Cardinals to achieve that goal, other people must take his spot and step up.

They must match or exceed the 16 tackles, 10 quarterback hits, and one sack he has in seven games.

Executing trades won’t be an excellent idea because it will disrupt team chemistry, and the Cardinals have no significant cap space left.

Therefore, they can rely on their reserves only.

Here are the players who must rise to the occasion and fill the void that Watt left.


3. Michael Dogbe

The Cardinals drafted Michael Dogbe in the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft after playing for Temple.

Last season, the team waived and signed him to the practice squad before elevating him to the active roster.

This year, Dogbe is second on the depth chart behind Watt at the left defensive end, and he will pick up most of the playing time moving forward.

That privilege comes with the challenge of maintaining the pressure that Watt brings upon opposing quarterbacks.

The 25-year-old New Jersey native needs to produce more than the nine tackles and one sack he has this season.

Otherwise, opponents will be comfortable executing run plays on his side.


2. Jordan Phillips

The former Oklahoma standout is finally healthy after spending the start of the season on injured reserve.

With Leki Fotu being Zach Allen‘s backup at the right defensive end, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will likely put Jordan Phillips with Dogbe at left end.

Arizona hopes he can regain his form with the Buffalo Bills in 2019 when he had 9.5 sacks.

Anything close to that level of production will help maintain the Cardinals’ undefeated run.

Phillips registered a sack during their 31-5 win against the Texans.

So far, he has 17 sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception throughout his NFL career.


1. Chandler Jones

He made noise in Week 1 when he had five sacks against the Tennessee Titans.

Unfortunately, he played one more game after but did not register a sack.

Chandler Jones went to the reserve/COVID-19 list and will be active against Green Bay.

In his absence, Watt and Markus Golden became the leaders of the Cardinals pass rush.

He can announce his return with flair by getting to Aaron Rodgers.

Having Golden and Jones playing together is a scary thought for opposing offenses.

Jones also has nine tackles and two forced fumbles this season.

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