Jordan Phillips, Zach Allen must step up for Cardinals in J.J. Watt’s absence

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Wednesday night brought terrible news for the Arizona Cardinals. Defensive end J.J. Watt’s season might be over because of a shoulder injury he sustained on Sunday and needs surgery.

Arizona faces the Green Bay Packers Thursday night in Week 8, their first game of the year without him.

It is an injury they certainly can weather, but if they are going to continue to play at the level they have through the first half of the season, two players will need to step up in particular.

They need a lot from defensive linemen Zach Allen and Jordan Phillips.

You can forget a trade for anyone significant. The Cardinals have almost no room under the salary cap.

They will naturally need Chandler Jones to be productive from the edge and he returns against the Packers, although he has not had a sack since Week 1, when he had five. They also need Markus Golden to continue playing at the level he has. He leads the team with six sacks and has four in the last two games.

But those two play outside. Watt was their best interior defender and was causing the most disruption on the team.

They certainly have talent on the defensive line without him, but now they really need both Phillips and Allen to be great.

Phillips is finally healthy. The Cardinals need him to be something like he was in 2019 with the Buffalo Bills, when he had 9.5 sacks.

Allen has struggled with health so far in his career. But when they drafted him, they saw him as a player who could do a lot of the things Watt can do. There have been flashes here and there, but too many times he has been invisible on the field.

They need tackles, pressures, batted balls, quarterback hits and sacks.

The help isn’t coming from outside the organization.

If the Cardinals are going to continue to be one of the best defenses in the league, then the defensive linemen they have left on the roster need to stay healthy and play up to their potential.

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