As we round out the offense in our latest roster-projections, we breakdown the interior of the Cardinals' offensive line. With two free agency signings this offseason, one could argue that the Cardinals deepest position on the team is at guard. (How long has it been since we've been able to say that?) Russ Grimm and Ken Whisenhunt have their sights set on a more balanced attack; will the guards be able to accommodate the new offensive scheme?
Starting LG: Alan Faneca
- When Faneca became available in April, the Cardinals didn't hesitate to grab the nine-time pro bowl guard. He had just been released by the Jets, and although the 33-year old guard showed some wear and tear last season, he was a better option than what the Cardinals already had in stock. Faneca should keep a stranglehold at left guard, a position he's played at his entire career, and a position he's also dominated at. Although Ken Whisenhunt preaches that every player isn't guaranteed a starting position, the Cardinals wouldn't have quickly signed Faneca to a one-year deal if they didn't plan to start him.
Starting RG: Reggie Wells
- After Faneca was signed, Reggie Wells certainty of remaining a starter was in question. Luckily, with Deuce Lutui still unsigned, the Cardinals were able to swing Wells to right guard. Wells has already deep-rooted himself as a veteran guard in the league in spite of a poor 2009 season. Furthermore, it was important that Wells slide over bearing in mind that Brandon Keith is expected to start his first season at right tackle. Wells can sprinkle some of his knowledge on Keith while also ministering productive play at guard.
The Cardinals starting center and depth are after the jump ...
Starting Center: Lyle Sendlein
- After going undrafted in 2007, Sendlein has succeeded at becoming the starter at center for the last three seasons under the guidance of offensive line coach Russ Grimm. He's also the only lineman to remain at his position from last year, which says a lot about his commitment and strong work-ethic. The Cardinals didn't actively pursue another center when they had every opportunity to this offseason, and Whisenhunt expressed nothing but praise for Sendlein. Although he's been criticized because of his size and weakness to larger nose tackles, Sendlein has been able to out-perform the expectations and perform admirably.
Primary Back Ups: Rex Hadnot, Herman Johnson
- Hadnot: The Cardinals originally locked up Hadnot to a three-year deal during free agency signing in hopes that he'd compete for a starting spot along the line. That may still be so, but after Faneca was signed, Hadnot's job along the line was set primarily as depth. He can play both guard positions and center and will give the Cardinals commendable support.
- Johnson: Johnson is entering his second season and if we've learned anything from Whisenhunt so far, it's that rookies need a two-year learning curve before then can contribute for the Arizona Cardinals. Johnson's massive (6'8, 360 lbs) size gives the team belief that he can pair with 3rd-year tackle Brandon Keith next year to form an imposing 700-pound wall along the right side of the Cardinals' offensive line next season.
On the bubble: Deuce Lutui
- With roughly one week remaining to sign his tender or risk making less money, the Lutui-situation has been a main headline through camp in 2010. He wants a long-term deal, but he's also gone against the grain on how to handle it. Now, with Hadnot and Faneca joining the team, his chances on returning as a stater next season may very well be over. Should he return, it's not completely out of the question to rule Lutui as a back up guard next season.
Out of the mix: Tom Pestock, Jonathan Palmer, Ben Claxton
- Both Palmer and Pestock stand virtually no chance at making the Cardinals roster next season. They were signed from the practice squad at the beginning of the offseason and that's likely where they will stay in 2010. Keeping Claxton is an intriguing option for next year, but with the depth the Cardinals already have, I'm ruling him out. Wells and Hadnot can both play center and Lyle Sendlein has been able to stay healthy each of the last three seasons.
If Lutui were to sign with the team soon, it would certainly shake up the roster for the time being. Lutui would want his position back, but with Wells taking all the reps so far, he may not be able to. I'm confident that Faneca, Sendlein, and Wells will be the starting interior of the line heading into next season. What are your thoughts? Will Ben Claxton make the team?