In our continued breakdown of each and every position heading into camp, we round out the offense today by previewing the interior of the offensive line. If you missed any previous breakdowns you can catch up on the tight ends, wide receivers, running backs, full backs, quarterbacks and offensive tackle. The interior of the offensive line is the bread and butter of the offense because most of the running plays (especially with Edge at RB) will be between the tackles. They're also responsible for keeping pressure out of the quarterbacks' face and with two rather immobile quarterbacks, that can be critical. The good news is that the starters are projected to return for 2008 and with another year of experience and continuity this group will have a chance to gel and help the offense excel.
Al Johnson (C): Johnson anchors the middle of the offensive line and while he's not specatular, he is productive and most importantly he's consistent. He signed a four year $17.5 million contract before last season and played up to his contract in the first year. His second season could be even better considering that he was having to learn a new system and play with a group of guys for the first time. He's a leader on the line (45 career starts) and could be the key to this line becoming great.
Lyle Sendlein (C): Sendlein had a great rookie season, especially considering he was undrafted out of the University of Texas. He appeared in 14 games and even more impressively started two games (weeks two and three). During Sendlein's two starts Edge averaged 5.44 yards per carry and the line only gave up one sack. That'll certainly open some eyes especially considering that the opponents were the Seahawks and the Ravens. The coaching staff raves about Sendlein and he could seriously push Johnson for playing time next year, if not this season.
Deuce Lutui (OG): Deuce played well in his first full season as a starter and even though he'll have to improve his consistency, he looks like he'll be a solid starter for years to come. He's a mauler who at times doesn't play under control but the coaching staff really likes his aggressive style of play. Another season of starting experience combined with the tutelage of Russ Grimm, could have Lutui step up as one of the most productive and consistent lineman for the Cardinals.
Reggie Wells (OG): Wells is a small school success story and he just keeps getting better. The 27 year old out of Clarion University has been the full-time starter for the Cardinals for the past four seasons and has almost 60 games as a starter. Despite Wells starting experience, there is still hope that he can improve in 2008 since he bounced between guard and tackle in previous seasons but this will be the first time that he's spend two consecutive seasons at left guard. He signed a five year contract last year and should be a Cardinal through 2010.
Elton Brown (OG & OT): Brown's the top backup at every position on the line except center. He's a versatile player but has problems staying healthy. If he could stay healthy some scouts think that he could push either guard for playing time. He's on a one year contract though so this could be a make or break year for him. He's got a good initial punch at the point of attack but at times plays with poor leverage and can overextend. Brown's the second in line at both guards and tackles so he'll see playing time during the season.
Scott Peters: Peters can play either guard or center but hasn't appeared in a NFL game since 2003 when he started four games for the Giants. The Cardinals are his fifth team since 2002 but it will be the first time in his career that he's spent two consecutive seasons with the same organization. He spent the 2007 season on their practice squad, but he'll have to perform well enough in camp to earn a roster spot if he wants to stick around. The Cardinals have too many young lineman to use a practice squad spot on a guy who'll turn 30 years old during the season.
Hercules Satele: Satele's an interesting prospect even though he's a bit small (6'2 308) for a guard. At Hawaii's pro day he put up 40 reps on the bench (Jake Long led all OL at the combine with 37) and he started the last 25 games for the Warriors high flying offense. He ended his senior season with a 1st Team All-WAC honor and second team FWAA All-American Team. He'll likely have to gain a little bit of weight or he could also seem an eventual move to center. Either way though, he'll likely see at least one season on the practice squad.
Carlton Medder: Medder started two seasons at RT for the Florida Gators but his lack of quickness kept him from being drafted. In the post-season Texas vs. the Nation game he showed that he didn't have the foot quickness to handle speed rushers. Still though he started 26 straight games for the Gators and earned second team All-SEC honors his senior season. The Cardinals list him as a guard so they must think that he'll be able to use his size (6'5 316) to engulf opponents while masking his lack of speed by allowing him to play inside. Regardless of where he lines up, he most likely destined to the practice squad for at least a season especially if he's learning a new position.
The offensive line as a whole is a good mix of proven, established veterans and developing talent. If Lutui continues to grow as a player and the interior of the offensive line gels, this unit could help Edge revive his career and help Leinart stay comfortable in the pocket. Injuries to the starting five have the potential to be catastrophic though considering that Sendlein and Elton Brown are the only capable backups. Thoughts/Concerns? Any possible guys that you'd like to see the Cardinals take a look at for depth?