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Cardinals lose Chris Johnson, Tyvon Branch to IR

The Arizona Cardinals' depth will be tested after losing a couple of key contributors during their Week 4 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

The Cardinals placed running back Chris Johnson and defensive back Tyvon Branch on injured reserve, the team announced Tuesday. Both veterans suffered groin injuries on Sunday. Both Johnson and Branch will undergo hernia surgery, coach Bruce Arians confirmed.

Per the NFL's new rule, teams can designate one player to return from injured reserve after eight weeks, which means either Johnson or Branch may be available for the Dec. 4 home game versus the Washington Redskins. A source informed of the team's decision to place Johnson on the injured-reserved list confirmed to NFL Network's Mike Garofolo that it's possible the running back will return depending on his recovery and the state of the Cardinals' backfield in December.

Operating as a change of pace to starter David Johnson, the elder Johnson was in the midst of his best game of the young season when the groin injury struck. The Cardinals are fortunate to boast one of the league's most effective tailback insurance policies in Andre Ellington, who will now complement the younger Johnson with recently promoted Kerwynn Williams in the third-string role.

"Andre just takes those snaps," Arians said. "We'll continue to keep a good rotation."

A safety for the majority of his nine-year career, Branch had been handling slot corner duties in Arizona. His absence is all the more reason to grant Tyrann Mathieu's request to return to his 2015 role as a swiss army knife, playing primarily in the slot while moonlighting as a linebacker, safety and blitz specialist.

"We're 1-3, man," Mathieu said. "It's not really time for me to sit back and play it slow."

Look for Mathieu and Ellington to be elevated to more prominent roles when the Cardinals square off with the San Francisco 49ers in Thursday Night Football.

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