As the lone remaining unbeaten team in the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals displayed no signs of slippage last Sunday in Cleveland despite playing without head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who was sidelined by COVID-19.
The Cardinals (6-0) opened preparations for the Houston Texans, whom they'll host Sundayin Glendale, Ariz., without Kingsbury, who remains in COVID protocol. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers split coaching duties during last week's 37-14 win over the Browns and their roles will remain the same until Kingsbury returns.
In the interim, Joseph acknowledged precisely what and where Kingsbury is involved.
"Everything. Everything," Joseph said. "Obviously the offensive game plan, he's obviously built that this week. There's been a bunch of virtual meetings with the offensive staff and the entire staff, obviously, so nothing's changed as far as who's building the game plan right now. It's Kliff.
"He has a lot of time right now, obviously, to be a scientist so he's enjoying that time. He misses his team, obviously, but he's enjoying the time to study football."
One certainty for the Cardinals on Sunday is three-time Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz, acquired last week from the Philadelphia Eagles. Ertz recorded 579 receptions for 6,267 yards and 38 touchdowns over eight-plus seasons and will fill the role of Maxx Williams, lost for the season to a knee injury.
Ertz practiced Wednesday for the first time with the Cardinals, whom he joined over the weekend. He delved headlong into grasping how the Cardinals operate offensively and, given his extensive experience, the expectation is for Ertz to be up to speed when the Texans visit.
"I think for most experienced veterans it won't take long," Joseph said. "Offensive football, even defensive football, it's not much difference from team to team. It's just terminology.
"Once that's cleared up he'll play Sunday, and play fine on Sunday."
The Texans (1-5) suffered their fifth consecutive loss last weekend in Indianapolis. For the second time in three weeks, they failed to muster a competitive effort, following a 40-point road loss against Buffalo in Week 4 with a 31-3 setback to the Colts.
Houston followed that showing by releasing veteran defensive end Whitney Mercilus in what was described as a mutual parting. Mercilus, a first-round pick of the Texans in 2012, amassed 57 sacks while starting 102 of 134 games. With the Texans leaning into a rebuild, Mercilus didn't fit their immediate plans. The chore moving forward is dealing with the optics of such a move.
"No, they understand that," Texans coach David Culley said. "We come in every day, they read and they hear, and they know, and they talk. That's part of the business, and they know that happens.
"Basically, when those kinds of things happen, all we do as a team in our team meetings is the guys that are coming in that are becoming additions to our football team, those are the guys that we sit and talk about in our meetings. And all the other stuff, we just move on to the next opponent."
--Field Level Media