After allowing 58 sacks in 2012, everyone has been clamoring about how the Arizona Cardinals have to fix their offensive line. Fans in Arizona have been talking about that since Timm Rosenbach was under center. A revamp is what is needed...or is it?
Head coach Bruce Arians does not seem to think so. "Not that we could never use more help, but I like what we have," Arians said. "Those three guys are a very good rotation, and the guys in the middle have a very good competition going on right now."
"I'm not a believer that we need an offensive lineman desperately, like everybody else thinks," he continued.
Those three guys he is referring to are tackles Levi Brown, Bobby Massie and Nate Potter. Brown is recovering from a torn triceps that cost him the entire 2012 season. Massie and Potter were rookies. Massie started from Week 1 and struggled mightily, but turned it around in the second half. Potter took over at left tackle later in the season and help up decently.
But still, "58 sacks was too many." Arians pointed to a number of things that contributed to all those sacks. He cited how the entire line could have had someone blocked but the play still resulted in a sack, and that could have been a missed block by a tight end or a running back, a quarterback waiting too long to throw, a quarterback "sacking himself with phantom pressure" or a receiver missing a change in route.
However, Brown is the key. Arians has talked him up ever since he got here, even calling him "elite." But he has not yet reached the point where he can practice fully. He did not participate in the offensive drills, and it does not sound like he will be ready during the spring.
"Levi, we're going to make sure he's well, and we need him in the fall," said Arians about Brown. "He's not a soccer player. We don't need him in shorts, but he does need the work."
It sounds like training camp is the goal.
If Brown recovers and is healthy, then things are much better. It may even allow the team to push Nate Potter over to guard. For now, Potter is running with the first team offense at left tackle. But Arians was not worried that Brown's absence would make it hard to see if Potter could move over. He minimized the position change, saying that playing left tackle and left guard are not too different, much easier than changing sides.
So if Potter is to play guard, it sounds like it would be left guard, where Daryn Colledge currently starts.
Now, we all saw the line play a season ago. Why is it that Arians is so confident? Well, the line was decimated by injuries. Brown did not play. Adam Snyder was banged up for much of the early part of the season. Lyle Sendlein ended up on IR, and then his replacement at center, Rich Ohrnberger (who is now with the Chargers). Two rookies ended up starting.
Arians looks at the latter part of the season for reason to be optimistic. "The barometer is those last six games when there were very few sacks," he said. "I look at it at those young guys progressing and everybody playing a little bit better."
Potter and Massie have a season under their belt. Brown is coming back. Sendlein returns. If things go right, they could have a top tier rookie coming from the draft, or at least more competition to push everyone.
But. once again, the key is Brown. His return adds stability and strengthens the depth across the board. Whether or not the team drafts any lineman early, just having Brown back should make the line play so much better. Will it be enough, and will he come back and play as he did late in the season in 2011? If so, it will make Arians sound like a genius, rather than just a coach talking up his players early on.
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