The season is half over and the Cardinals are still looking for an offensive
line combination that works.
They have started the same group in only two games this season, and most of the
changes have been because of performance, not injury.
That was the case last Sunday when Reggie Wells moved from guard to right
tackle, and rookie Deuce Lutui made his first NFL start at guard.
"I'm just surprised our offensive line did not play a hell of a lot better,"
coach Dennis Green said of the first half of the season. "If you look at how the
team was put together, it looked to me that all pieces were there."
Two of the original starters, center Alex Stepanovich and right guard Oliver Ross, have been benched. Nick Leckey is starting at center now, with Wells going
to tackle. With Lutui moving into the starting lineup, the Cardinals clearly
have an eye toward the future.
The offensive line has been a source of consternation for the Cardinals and
their fans for years. If Green loses his job soon, the failure to assemble an
adequate line will have been the major reason for his departure.
The Cardinals signed Edgerrin James in free agency, hoping the running back
would be a key ingredient in improving the running game, which ranked last in
the league last season. Instead, James has yet to gain 100 yards a game and he's
averaging just 2.8 yards a carry, nearly 1.5 yards below his career average.
Steve Loney is Green's third offensive line coach. He's respected around the
league, but he hasn't been able to get this group to play well consistently.
"If you can get some consistency, then you at least know what you're going to
get," Loney said. "I don't want to go and wonder, what's it going to be today?
"Everybody, myself included, has to up their performance level. We've got to get
five consistent performances on a weekly basis."
Left tackle Leonard Davis is the only offensive lineman to start every game at
the same position. He hasn't played great, and it appears the club has decided
against trying to re-sign him. He's in the last year of his contract.
The line isn't totally responsible for the offensive problems. At times, running
backs have missed blocks and the club doesn't have a good blocker at tight end.
But the offensive line catches all the heat.
"We're a lightning rod a little bit," Loney said. "As an offensive line, we gave
up two sacks this last week. People are going to look and say, 'if you don't run
the ball well and there are sacks, it lies in their (offensive linemen's) lap.'
That's the nature of the business."
--RB Edgerrin James gained 84 yards on 24 carries. In his previous seven
seasons, that would have been considered an off day. With the Cardinals, it's
called progress. It's the most yards James has gained since he had 94 in week
three against St. Louis.
--QB Matt Leinart hasn't played well for the past two weeks. He's having trouble
finding open receivers and he's getting hit too much. He isn't getting any help
from the running game.
--WR Anquan Boldin is seeing more double coverage with Larry Fitzgerald out of
the lineup. Teams are bracketing Boldin because he has become a focal point of
this offense. He has still producing but it has been tough for him to run very
far after the catch.
--WR Larry Fitzgerald is expected to return after the bye for the Dallas game on
Nov. 5. Fitzgerald has missed three games because of a hamstring injury.
--CB Antrel Rolle is an aggressive player but that sometimes gets him in
trouble. He was called for two pass interference penalties against the Packers.