Marcus Harrison; Lyle Sendlein (Getty)
These are the big, rugged dudes whose work goes mostly unnoticed. In Arizona’s case, the line has been consistent during its two playoff seasons. But there are a couple spots where an upgrade could be in order, and it will be intriguing to see how the line shapes up for the 2010 season.
The recent addition of free agent guard Rex Hadnot shows that Arizona won’t get complacent. While it is uncertain where Hadnot will line up or if he will even start, his signing demonstrates a commitment to improvement.
In recent years, the Cardinals offensive line has never been stellar. With that said, it has been good enough to help the team make it to the playoffs in consecutive years.
But there were notable concerns during the season, some of which still linger. Mike Gandy took a step back last season, as he struggled with certain matchups and had injury troubles. Jeremy Bridges filled in for Gandy and experienced success. He is still the frontrunner for left tackle in 2010, but the seven-year veteran is not the team’s long-term solution at the position.
A cause for greater distress is the right tackle spot. Levi Brown has yet to live up to his first-round status. Furthermore, the position becomes all the more important now that Matt Leinart is slated to be the team’s quarterback. The right tackle’s main concern will be protecting the left-hander’s blindside. There has been mention that Brown could move to the left side, but we won’t know for some time if that talk has any substance.
The guards for Arizona seem to be a little more set.
Reggie Wells is coming off another solid season. He has started all 16 regular season games for the last four seasons in Arizona. On the right side, the Cardinals have Deuce Lutui, whom they recently tendered. Lutui has progressed in his four years with the Cardinals, but he isn’t the punishing guard the team was hoping for. The addition of Hadnot may correlate with Lutui losing his starting job, but Leinart may be more comfortable with his former USC teammate.
There is little to worry about at center. Lyle Sendlein is a guy the organization loves. He works hard and continues to get better under the guidance of coaches. He’ll have a new quarterback to work with this season, but the change shouldn’t make a difference for him.
It is hard to say who the starting five on the offensive line will be going into 2010. We can’t forget about youngsters Brandon Keith and Herman Johnson, who are waiting for there shot and are sure to challenge for starting jobs at camp. The Cardinals could also target a lineman, likely a tackle, in the early rounds of the draft.
At this point, it's probable the five would be Bridges, Wells, Sendlein, Hadnot, and Brown, simply because they carry the most experience. But who knows, there could be some shakeup.
What's certain is that the play of the line must continue to improve. The running game will be at the forefront of the offense, and Arizona’s coaching staff will work tirelessly to beef up the run blocking. The line succeeded in protect Kurt Warner last season, except in a few games where unacceptable breakdowns occurred.
It is no secret that the key to winning in the NFL starts at the line of scrimmage. The Cardinals have found that the consistent play of the offensive line over the past two seasons is a big reason for their success. But if this is a Super Bowl caliber team, improvement and possible changes are must.
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