Breaking Down the Cardinals Center Situation

In recent posts, there has been a lot of discussion regarding Cardinals current center, Lyle Sendlein, and if the Cardinals should consider drafting a center in the 2009 draft. One of the main questions is whether or not Lyle is indeedOffensive_line2_medium, a starting caliber center in the NFL. He did prove that he could play through a whole season, but most will say he won the position by default, due to Al Johnson's knee injuries. Nevertheless, Sendlein played through some of the 2007 season and all of '08. 

The most common criticism towards Sendlein is his size, speed, and aggression. Sendlein currently stands 6'4 inches and weighs about 300 lbs. He's certainly tall enough to play center, but he could stand to add a little weight. As far as speed, he's an offensive lineman and there main job is to protect the quarterback and run-block. So at most, you could knock him for not getting to the secondary quick enough to make blocks. It's hard to judge his aggression, but from what head coach Ken Whisenhunt says, he likes Sendlein, and has stated already that he didn't have plans on replacing him in the draft. Obviously he's doing something right. As far has his skill or effectiveness, lets take a look at his recent stats.

Year

G

GS

Penalties

Yards

False Start

Holding

Sacks Allwd

Yards

2007

16

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

2008

16

16

3

20

1

1

0.50

3.50

Obviously, Lyle didn't play much in 2007, but to come in last minute for Al Johnson and play in '07 was pretty impressive. That play carried over to '08 and it showed, as he was able to handle the pressure of starting. He only committed 3 penalties and allowed half a sack. That was by far the best on the entire offensive line. One thing that stats fail to show is his run-blocking. The center is the core of the offensive line and needs to be an effective run-blocker to make it in the NFL (I'm not going to lie...when the play kicks off, I'm usually looking that the quarterback or running back and not watching how well the line is blocking). The only other complaint I've heard is Lyle's tendency to step on quarterback Kurt Warner's foot. This didn't happen much during the rugular season, but seemed to happen quite often during the playoffs. A possible reason could be Lyle getting overly excited due to the fact that they were in the playoffs, or the level of play from the opponents nose tackles. Either way Kurt was able to make a play out of it, including a touchdown.

Now the next question, is whether or not it would be an upgrade to take a center in the draft. How much of an upgrade would it be to add a rookie to the offensive line that is really starting to gel going into their third year together? The most obvious reason would be a quicker, bigger, more physically gifted center. The only Sp-cal31_ph_rile_0499060209_medium"upgrade" over Sendlein would be Alex Mack out of Cal. Here's a piece from a 'Potential Draft Pick' breakdown we did earlier:

He is very consistent at both pass and run protection. He plays with a low 
center of gravity, and shows the proper form when blocking. He doesn't hesitate to put a defender on his back, and won't stop till the whistle blows. He has great hand and feet movement, and will often drive defenders backwards. He is a great guy off the field and is the ideal player for a team, but turns into a beast when on the field. He will often take command of the line and call plays as he sees them. He has great work ethic, and strives to become stronger. In college, he would often stay late in the weight room and as a result, became one of the strongest players on the team.

While Mack will likely be a solid center in the NFL one day, it's not for certain as to whether or not he would be better then Sendlein. Any other centers taken later in the draft would add depth, but wouldn't be ready to start right away. Now's your chance, voice your opinion. What's everybody's take on the center position? Does Sendelein have an upside or is this all he's got? Should the Cardinals consider Mack in the 1st round or add depth later on?

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