Actions speak loudly for Cardinals quiet receiver

Sep 21, 2017 - 2:20 AM TEMPE, Ariz. -- J.J. Nelson doesn't talk much. It's not that the Arizona Cardinals wide receiver is shy. He's just quiet and maybe everybody else is too loud.

"They get on me every day about not talking," Nelson said, referring to his Arizona teammates. "I let my play do the talking, for the most part. I've been that way since I was little."

Lately, the Quiet Man has been speaking volumes with his action on the field and it couldn't come at a better time for a Cardinals' team that is missing two of its biggest weapons on offense in the injured David Johnson and John Brown.

Johnson, the star running back who led the league with 20 touchdowns a year ago, is sidelined indefinitely following wrist surgery.

Brown, Arizona's primary deep threat at wide receiver, has been sidelined with a nagging quadriceps issue.

Enter Nelson, who caught five passes for 120 yards and a game-changing touchdown to help the Cardinals avert a 0-2 start with a 16-13 overtime win over the Colts.

It earned Nelson his first NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors, thus becoming only the third wide receiver in franchise history to ever win the award, joining Larry Fitzgerald (2015) and Roy Green (2008).

"Man that means a lot," Nelson said. "I didn't really know too much about that, but those guys are great players in this franchise so to be along those guys, that means a lot. But I couldn't have done it without these guys in the locker room."

More important than that honor is this: Nelson now has seven touchdowns in his last seven games and nine in his last 11. In the process, he has become one of fantasy football's most valuable pick-ups this week as the Cardinals prepared for Monday night's game against the visiting Cowboys.

It's another opportunity for Nelson to add to his increasing popularity and he's relishing the opportunity.

"It's going to be a big night, especially going against the Dallas Cowboys," he said. "They were one of the top teams in the league last year. We're just looking forward to adding another win on our belt and get better.

"We've got to come out fast and really start clicking on all cylinders."

That's what Nelson has been doing since Week 8 of last season, where his eight touchdown receptions are the second-most in NFL over that span behind only Green Bay's Jordy Nelson (10).

"As long as J.J. stays healthy, he's been pretty consistent now for a year-and-a-half," coach Bruce Arians said. "... We've just got to keep him upright, and he'll make big plays every week."

The Cardinals are counting on it because they just haven't been able to count on Brown, who has been slow to recover from soft-tissue injuries since it was discovered he has the sickle cell trait. He and the Cardinals thought they had found a remedy to help speed up his recovery process but it hasn't appeared to have worked.

When doctors removed a cyst from his spine this offseason, Brown believed that would also cure most of his ills. It hasn't and it's left Arians, one of Brown's biggest fans, incredibly grumpy. He knows that Brown's ability to stretch the defense and attract the attention of a second safety helps open everything else in the Cardinals' offense.

Brown's availability for Monday night's home opener at University of Phoenix Stadium seems to be jeopardy.

"It doesn't look hopeful, " Arians said. "It would have to be miraculous," Arians said Monday. "I have to see him run before I get encouraged."

SERIES HISTORY: 88th regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead series, 55-33-1. The Cardinals have won each of the past four meetings, including once in the Bruce Arians' era as Arizona defeated Dallas, 28-17, on Nov. 2, 2014 at AT&T Stadium. In that game, the Cardinals improved to 7-1 and had the best overall record in the NFC that late in a season for the first time since 1974. Carson Palmer threw for three touchdowns after being intercepted early in the game and watching the pick get returned for a touchdown. The Cowboys were forced to play quarterback Brandon Weeden with Tony Romo out because of two small fractures in his back. It was the first time in Arizona's four-game win streak over Dallas that the win didn't come on the final play of the game. Each of those three wins came at University of Phoenix Stadium. Two of the three wins for the Cardinals came in overtime, where Arizona is 3-0-1 under Arians overall since he arrived in 2013.

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