Every defense has one player that it simply cannot lose. For the Arizona Cardinals, that player was Darnell Dockett, who suffered a non-contact torn ACL at practice Monday and will miss the entire season.

“Losing Darnell was huge,” Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said on The Morning Show. “You can always replace a player, but you can’t replace his spirit. His record is absolutely amazing. To be a defensive tackle and miss two games in 10 years is ridiculous. You get one of those non-contact injuries when you just stick your foot in the ground and it’s over.”

Dockett, 33, has been a disruptive defensive end throughout his career. He spearheaded the league’s stingiest rush defense a year ago and helped the Cardinals to a 10-6 record in the most difficult division in football.

So, who the heck replaces him?

“Well, Frosty Rucker will take his spot, and he’s been playing extremely well,” Arians said. “We’ve got some young guys and we signed Isaac Sopoaga yesterday, who amazingly came in and practiced with our first-team defense an hour after he signed. It was one of the freakiest things I’ve ever seen.”

“I think football-wise, we’ll be fine,” Arians continued. “Darnell and I talked about getting (his surgery) done as quickly as possible. I want him traveling with us and being on the sideline because we can’t replace his spirit and his fight.”

Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu, meanwhile, is back after tearing his ACL and LCL in Week 14 against the Rams last season.

Well, he’s sort of back.

“He looked pretty ginger yesterday,” Arians said. “I had to get on him yesterday. He’d been fighting me to get off of (the) PUP (list), and then he went out and kind of went about half speed. So I said, ‘Look, either go back outside and run in the grass, or if you’re going to come in here, go full speed.’ He got the message. He thought he was supposed to take it easy. I said, ‘There’s no easy here. When you come back out, you go full speed. I think he’s getting accustomed to the brace and (is) ready to go.”

Mathieu hopes to be ready to roll in Week 1, when the Cardinals host the Chargers on Monday Night Football.

Offensively, Arizona will turn once more to Carson Palmer, who last year threw for 4,274 yards, 24 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. Those numbers may seem ho-hum, but Palmer improved as the season went on. In fact, he had 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions in his final eight games.

Arians said Palmer looks much comfortable heading into his second season with the Cardinals.

“He’s been more of a coach than a quarterback this year because he does understand what we want to get done,” Arians said. “It’s much easier for him to go out and (coach up the receivers). He’s been great to work with.”

Should Palmer get injured, Arians is confident in rookie Logan Thomas, who, like Arians, played quarterback for Virginia Tech.

“He’s an unbelievable talent,” Arians said. “That’s the thing about him. He’s a hard-working kid. It means something to him. He’s just growing into the position.”

Thomas has looked good in the preseason, going 11-of-12 for 113 yards and a touchdown against Houston.

“It was a very simple game plan, but he was extremely accurate in that game,” Arians said. “He goes up and down in practice like most young guys, but he has a talent that makes you not want to give up on. I think he’s got a bright future.”


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