A bad season continued to get worse on Monday as Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks announced that rookie wide receiver Christian Kirk would be headed to the injured reserve with a foot injury. He will be joined by veteran guard Mike Iupati, who injured his knee in Sunday’s improbable victory over the Green Bay Packers.
Kirk ends his rookie campaign with 43 catches for 590 yards and three touchdowns. In all, we saw that he is a promising young player that looked like he definitely belongs at the NFL level.
For the remaining four games of the season, the Cardinals will desperately miss Kirk and what he was able to provide. Not only had he become a great option as a wide receiver in the passing game, he was also the team’s punt returner and looked more than capable of handling that role.
So with Kirk now down for the season, who can Arizona count on to step up and attempt to mimic his production?
Chad Williams has had a disappointing sophomore season, playing in just eight games and having only 11 catches for 113 yards. He has not seen the field for the past four games as he continues to recover from an injury of his own.
Outside of Williams, the Cardinals could look to JJ Nelson to start getting more snaps. Nelson won’t be able to bring the same tools that Kirk did to the field, but he does add speed to the receiving corps that can pair nicely with Larry Fitzgerald.
The team will look at other internal options as well, such as undrafted rookie Trent Sherfield, who Steve Wilks mentioned specifically in today’s press conference. Look for Sherfield to pick up the bulk of the snaps that Kirk is leaving behind.
The Cardinals could also look to Kendall Wright, a former first round draft pick. Wright has been on and off the team since October, being cut when Arizona needs roster space to sign someone else. But with Kirk now out of the picture, they are going to need wide receiver help desperately and Wright could offer some of the same skills that Kirk does with his speed and elusiveness.
No matter who replaces Kirk, this is just more salt in the wound for Cardinals fans and is an otherwise fitting cap to what has been a dismal season. Let’s just hope Josh Rosen can stay healthy for the final four games at this point.