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Reacting to J.J. Watt's (potential) season ending shoulder injury

Johnny Venerable Avatar
October 28, 2021

The Arizona Cardinals are 7-0 and yet they’ve just suffered their first real defeat of the 2021 season.

Via ESPN’s Adam Schefter, defensive end J.J. Watt will undergo what is now likely to be season-ending shoulder surgery.

Watt apparently suffered the injury during the second half of the team’s home victory over the Houston Texans. While Watt was seen exiting the game earlier than many of the team’s defensive starters, there was no real sign that the future Hall of Famer was ailing from injury. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury did not mention a potential injury to his star defensive end during his post game presser.

That all changed on Wednesday when it was reported that Watt would miss Thursday’s pivotal matchup against the Green Bay Packers.

As it turns out, that was only the tip of the iceberg.

While no definitive date has been set regarding Watt’s surgery, a typical rotator cuff recovery timeline can be anywhere from four to six months. Considering that the Cardinals are already nearing the midpoint of the NFL season, the best case scenario for a potential Watt return would likely come late January should team advance that far.

What’s more realistic, however, is that the team’s prized free agent acquisition does in fact miss the remainder of the season while working toward getting healthy for 2022.

The loss, while devastating for the Cardinals suddenly revamped Super Bowl expectations, should not come without proper context. The Arizona Cardinals do not achieve their current unbeaten status without the presence of Watt on the team. Outside of Kyler Murray, no singular player has meant more to this franchise over the course of the first seven games played than Watt.

Looking ahead to the remainder of the season, you can’t discount GM Steve Keim from making some kind of acquisition to help offset Watt’s absence. Perhaps the savvy deal maker can swing a trade for the likes of Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox or Jacksonville’s Dawuane Smoot. Tuesday’s impending deadline combined with the team’s already sparse draft capital makes this unlikely, however.

In the short term, expect the team to lean on the likes of Jordan Phillips (yikes), Zach Allen and Corey Peters.

The return of Chandler Jones should also help alleviate some pressure from an Arizona front seven playing perhaps better than anyone in the NFL. Jones, in conjunction with fellow edge rusher Markus Golden, is a fearsome combination that most team’s would die to have.

If there was ever a time to prove his worth to the Cardinal organization, it’s now or never for Chandler Jones.

The aforementioned Kyler Murray will also need to take on a larger leadership role as the team attempts to cope with no J.J. Watt. Murray, alongside Kingsbury, must ensure the team is not suddenly deflated by the loss and instead continues to carry the torch on behalf of the All-Pro defensive linemen.

At the end of the day, the hope following his eventual surgery is that Watt can remain a part of this 2021 Arizona Cardinal team in some facet. His leadership has been culture changing, and the team needs his presence to continue in some capacity. The impact he’s had on players young and old cannot be quantified.

With the adversity this team has already faced so early in the season, this beat reporter is done doubting this particular Arizona Cardinal team. Lesser Redbird squads of years prior would have immediately folded following an aggressive COVID-19 outbreak, but not these Cardinals.

They will persevere despite this blow because that’s what Watt has taught this Cardinal team to do.

Next man up.

Here’s to a speedy recovery, #99.

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