Mike Sando has debated different positions in the NFC West with Scouts Inc. analyst Matt Williamson recently. Today they discussed which team had the best offensive line in the division and Williamson had this to say about the Cardinals offensive line:
I also think [the Cardinals'] Russ Grimm is as good an offensive line coach as there is in the league. Alan Faneca is more or less washed up, but his toughness, leadership and intelligence will help all the linemen in general. Having a full-blown leader to look to in the huddle and the meeting room helps. The other guys can learn how to prepare as a professional. You can ask Faneca anything. But he is a declining player that cannot protect very well. I think Arizona's tackles not very good and Kurt Warner made them look better than they are.
He went on to discuss in the difference in quarterback:
The Cardinals' line is better suited to be run-blockers than pass-blockers. But because you had Warner, he got the ball out quick ... With Matt Leinart, they are going to look worse than they really are.
While I agree that Warner and Leinart are two different breeds of quarterback, wasn't Warner the same quarterback that was criticised at one point in his career for not getting rid of the ball quick enough? Warner also became less and less mobile towards the end of his career. Matt - who will never be mistaken for an Olympic sprinter - has the legs of a 27-year old. I think the margin isn't as wide as some are suggesting. Jack London of NFL Touchdown had this to say about Faneca last month:
It appears like Faneca is a shoe-in for this job, but the veteran isn’t what he once was. Every Cards fan, including myself, hopes to see Faneca regain his Pro Bowl form, but if he should not, the Cards need to be ready. It should be interesting to see who the Cardinals will trot out on the line for their opener in St. Louis. Needless to say, this training camp is an important one for the offensive line.
ProFootballFocus ranked all 32 offensive lines a couple weeks ago. It's no surprise the Cardinals' line didn't score too well with them:
No. 27 -- Arizona Cardinals (Run No. 11, Pass No. 32, Penalties No. 22)
With Matt Leinart now in the driver's seat (although we wouldn't bet against Derek Andersonbeing the man at some stage this year) and Beanie Wells looking like a keeper, the relative merits of this line (i.e. being much better run than pass blockers) may be better suited to what lies ahead.
Best Player: C Lyle Sendleinwas the best of a poor bunch last season but, as bad a year as Alan Faneca had pass blocking in 2009, he still looked like pick of the crop here.
Biggest Concern: Levi Brown has struggled in pass protection since he was a rookie. Last year he gave up 9 sacks, 16 hits, 28 hurries and was penalized 11 times as a RT. Will a change to LT be the straw that breaks Leinart's back?
Not likely. Brown won't be blocking Matt Leinart's blindside. That job goes to the mammoth Brandon Keith, whom I have much confidence in. Finally, Andy Benoit from The Fifth Down Blog also discussed the changes at tackle for the Cardinals:
Warner didn’t need great protection; when he wasn’t getting rid of the ball in a hurry, he was showcasing an uncanny ability to complete passes with defenders in his face. Because of this, people failed to notice things like how awful left tackle Mike Gandy was in ’09, or how slow-footed right tackle Levi Browncould be at times. Gandy is gone now. Brown, who has Pro Bowl caliber strength but too often lacks nastiness, moves to the left tackle position that he played at Penn State. Because the Cardinals don’t trust Jeremy Bridges in pass protection, third-year pro Brandon Keith will be given every opportunity to earn the right tackle job, which carries the responsibility of protecting the left-handed Leinart’s blind side.
I'm not going to deny that Mike Gandy had a porous, injury-plagued year in 2009. I am however, denying that Warner made them look that much better. In the two significant games that Leinart played in 2009(2nd half vs Rams, full game vs Titans), he was only sacked twice. The Cardinals' offensive line has played musical chairs this offseason, so I'm not surprised at the scepticism. I am surprised that people are quick to criticize Alan Faneca. He did play in the Pro Bowl last season right?