Arizona’s offensive line could look a lot different come the 2011 season and based on the results from last year that should be a good thing.
The changes could start with left guard Alan Faneca, who’s mulling retirement following his 13th NFL season. Faneca brought a veteran presence to the Cardinals’ offensive line but his play wasn’t the same as it was during his tenure with the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite Faneca’s less than stellar performance, his departure would be a significant blow to an already short-handed group.
Center Lyle Sendlein and right guard Deuce Lutui were both serviceable players in the trenches but their futures in the desert are uncertain. Lutui will be seeking a long-term contract and could still have a bitter taste after the Arizona front office refused to succumb to his demands during last year’s offseason. Lutui eventually came back but could be leaning elsewhere because of the rift.
Right tackle Brandon Keith struggled at times before being placed on injured reserve but the coaching staff vowed that he was making progress. Keith is still somewhat of a project and will be prone to mistakes even next year. Jeremy Bridges did an admirable job filling in for the remainder of the season after Keith went down, but while Bridges is an excellent reserve, his role as a starter is suspect.
Levi Brown, the fifth overall pick in the 2007 draft, could be the biggest wild card of the group. Brown’s future at left tackle doesn’t look promising and the former Penn St standout might be best off playing on the interior. Other players such as Robert Gallery of the Oakland Raiders have made the transition from tackle to guard and revitalized their career. Brown would more than likely benefit from the same move.
While Arizona’s o-line didn’t live up to expectations in 2010, the unit received very little help from its surroundings. The Cardinals’ passing game forced to play musical chairs at quarterback and the offense as a whole could never get into a rhythm. Additionally, the team’s running game was stagnant for most of the year and must be more consistent to help balance the offensive attack.
If a legitimate starting tackle could be brought into the mix, it could pave the way for Brown to move to guard, something that may happen either way if Faneca retires or Lutui leaves via free agency. Rex Hadnot is another versatile option that could play on the interior but if he’s forced to start it would probably be a default move and not one necessarily made by choice.