The Arizona Cardinals figured they would likely have a rookie playing quarterback in December.
But they never envisioned Josh Rosen getting his on-the-job training behind an offensive line with three other rookies undergoing the same baptism by fire.
The Cardinals (3-9) try to regroup behind their sewn-together offensive line when they host the Detroit Lions (4-8) on Sunday.
Center A.Q. Shipley suffered a knee injury in training camp, right guard Justin Pugh injured his knee in mid-November and right tackle Andre Smith was released in late November. Standout left guard Mike Iupati suffered a season-ending knee injury in Sunday's victory over the Green Bay Packers and he was placed on IR on Tuesday.
That leaves a patchwork unit of rookie left tackle Korey Cunningham, rookie left guard Colby Gossett, rookie center Mason Cole, right guard Oday Aboushi and right tackle Will Holden. Aboushi and Gossett joined the team in late October and Holden came aboard last week.
"You know you're going to have some difficulties," Arizona coach Steve Wilks told reporters. "You face that each and every year. But the attrition that we've had on the offensive line is just, I never experienced anything like this. But again, we've got to find ways to get guys ready to play."
The group will try to provide Rosen (10 touchdowns, 11 interceptions) time to throw as the first-round pick looks to shake out of his recent doldrums.
But Lions coach Matt Patricia fears a breakout could happen at any time. He feels Arizona has the type of skill players to pose problems.
"They've got a lot of good players, (receiver) Larry Fitzgerald and (running back) David Johnson, they just give him an opportunity to get the ball to those guys in different ways, to allow him to control it," Patricia told reporters. "He's obviously learning and going through the process right now."
Detroit ranks 26th in scoring defense (26.3) and has given up 30 or more points in four of its defeats.
The Lions have dropped five of their past six games and close the season with three of four games on the road.
Defensive tackle Damon Harrison said it is important for Detroit to finish the season strong.
"It's all about confidence," Harrison told reporters. "It's hard to gain confidence when you're losing. Just stay in it. Be able to go into the offseason on a good note."
Meanwhile, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is having a spotty season despite throwing for 3,086 yards. Stafford has thrown 18 touchdown passes -- 11 shy of last season's total -- and his 11 interceptions top the total of 10 he threw in each of the past two campaigns.
Detroit revealed Wednesday that Stafford is dealing with a back injury, and he is officially questionable but expected to play. As for the rise in interceptions, offense coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said the miscues aren't solely the fault of the signal caller.
"I think turnovers are always an offensive team stat," Cooter said during a conference call. "There's 11 guys on the field, there's a bunch of coaches, bunch of other players. We're all trying to do our job at the highest level we can do it."
The Cardinals rank 29th in the NFL in turnover margin at minus-9 but are receiving standout play from defensive end Chandler Jones, who ranks third in the NFL with 12 sacks.
The Lions posted a 35-23 victory in last season's meeting to end a seven-game slide against the Cardinals. Stafford passed for a season-high four touchdowns.
Detroit will remain without rookie running back Kerryon Johnson (knee), while cornerback Darius Slay (ankle) joins Stafford on the questionable list.
The Cardinals will be without linebacker Deone Bucannon (chest), and safety Budda Baker (knee) is questionable.
--Field Level Media
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