The Arizona Cardinals offensive line has been much maligned historically, and rightly so. The lack of a dominant line has hindered the development of quarterbacks dating all the way back to Timm Rosenbach. Only when Kurt Warner was slinging the ball all over the field did the line reach respectability. Much was because of Warner, but the line also had continuity.
Last season, without Warner, the line was atrocious overall. However, in addition to the loss of Warner, three positions changed on the line. Levi Brown went from right to left tackle, Alan Faneca took over left guard and Brandon Keith started at right tackle for his first game experience.
This season, there is more continuity. Brown will be on the left side again, Keith is anchoring the right side and Lyle Sendlein is still the center. Rex Hadnot is now starting at right guard, but has been with the team a year and might be simply holding down the fort until Deuce Lutui is at an acceptable weight and level of conditioning. The only newcomer to the team on the starting line is Daryn Colledge, whom the Cardinals signed as a free agent.
Both Brown and Colledge talked to the media about the line play and how they are ready to step up.
Brown for one is ready to go at left tackle. "I feel real comfortable at left tackle" he said. "That's always where I wanted to play at."
He sees the continuity on the line as part of the key for the success he hopes to have this year.
He explains,"As far as offensive lines are concerned, the longer the guys can stay together the better they're going to be."
"When you've got guys that have to go out due to injury, retirement, or cutting guys, it hurts," he further explains. "That guy has to get caught up to speed and then we have to learn how to work with that guy in there." The funny thing about this is that last year there was no retirement or injury to start the year. Jeremy Bridges came in for Brandon Keith later in the season, but it was this offseason where Faneca retired.
But he has a point. The success has at least been evident so far. "We showed through the preseason that we can run the ball," said Brown. "All we have to do is give Kevin some time back there and I feel like he'll pick any defense apart so I'm real confident in what our team can do this year."
Colledge is the newcomer of the group. He had this to say:
"I'm the only guy that's not been out there so for me it's about catching up with guys like Levi (Brown) and Lyle (Sendlein) and making sure I'm on the same page as them. They've got the offense down, so it's just making sure I know exactly what they're going to be doing and they know what to expect from me. Once I've caught up with them, we'll be ready to roll."
I really like the confidence they are showing. Most would look at that as misguided, but as athletes you have to think that you are going to be better.
As for the criticism, Colledge said this, "I don't think anybody here really cares what anybody has to say about this offensive line right now."
"I mean, this offensive line is different than it was last year. Guys are making a lot of judgments about us off what happened last season. We've got a new quarterback and we've got a re-tooled offensive line and we expect big things."
I don't anyone is silly enough to think that this unit is going to be one of the most dominant lines in the league. However, they did provide the groundwork that led to the Arizona Cardinals leading the NFL in preseason offense.
There is no real reason why that success cannot continue.
Will it happen? That is yet to be determined. But the best part is that with the Carolina Panthers, Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks on the slate to start the season, they will have the chance to gel and get work in against teams that are not expected to do much this season.
In any case, it would be wonderful for us all to see the line turn itself around. If that happens, the possibilities for the Cardinals are endless.