It is never a good thing to lose a starting linebacker at this early stage of the NFL season, but when a team loses two starting linebackers after week 3, it could spell disaster.
That is exactly the situation that the Arizona Cardinals find themselves in after it was announced (by head coach Bruce Arians) on Monday that they would be without Sam Acho (broken fibula) and Lorenzo Alexander (Lisfranc injury) for the rest of the year. To make matters even more grave, both players are the starters on the outside in a 3-4 scheme, and their combined loss decimates the presumed depth at the position.
ESPN obtained the following quote from Arians surrounding the loss:
“Obviously, they’re core people. Their energy will be missed as much as their play. They’re both high-energy guys and that part of it as a football team will be hard to replace but somebody is going to have an opportunity to step up and do it.”
Clearly, that is a head coach being a head coach in looking forward, but I am not so quick to dismiss these injuries and move forward. Although neither player is a star at this point, the drop-off appears to be severe on both sides, and only rookie Alex Okafor could reasonably be expected to rush the passer effectively in their stead.
For a team that is based on a stout defense at this stage, this is a big blow for Arizona. They left New Orleans after an embarrassing, 31-7 loss and this adds insult to injury. It’s time to regroup, but it won’t be easy to move on.