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Arizona Cardinals positional review: The offensive line

We look at the beleaguered unit of the team.

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like a broken record, but the offensive line struggled in 2013. It wasn't quite like 2012, when the unit gave up 57 sacks, but there were still plenty of struggles.

There were also new faces.

Levi Brown was traded a few weeks into the season, and Bradley Sowell took over at left tackle. Free agent Eric Winston was a late offseason addition and supplanted Bobby Massie at right tackle. Rookie first round pick Jonathan Cooper was supposed to be the starter at left guard, with Daryn Colledge moving to right guard, but Cooper broke his leg and was lost for the season before the season even began.

Colledge moved back to left guard and Paul Fanaika won the starting spot at right guard. Lyle Sendlein remained at center.

How did they do?

Sowell graded out as the league's worst offensive lineman according to Pro Football Focus. He was not good in pass protection or in the running game, but he was scrappy. Colledge and Sendlein had okay seasons, Fanaika struggled and so did Winston. Winston, though, played fairly well down the stretch.

As reserves, the team had 2013 starter Bobby Massie, 2013 starter Nate Potter, Mike Gibson and rookie guard Earl Watford. Massie saw playing time at right tackle for part of one game and did well. He also came in frequently as a jumbo tight end. He only ever blocked.

Looking ahead to the offseason and 2014:

Eric Winston and Mike Gibson are free agents. Whether to bring back Winston or not is a big decision and will say a lot about what the coaching staff feels about Bobby Massie.

Daryn Colledge has a salary cap hit of over $7 million. He could be a cap casualty, but his over $4 million in dead money might keep him around, in addition to the fact that he was one of the two best linemen on the team. He could potentially be a target to renegotiate his deal.

Cooper should return and take over left guard. Sendlein should return at center, although the team has two young guys signed to future contracts for 2014 in Philip Blake, who spent the 2013 season on the practice squad, and Tommie Draheim.

At right guard, there could be change. Colledge could move back over there, as he was going to do in 2013, or they could stick with Fanaika, who is signed through 2014. Or they could see if Earl Watford is ready to go. How confident they feel in Fanaika and Watford could be the determining factor in whether or not the team moves on from Colledge.

Essentially, just as the team saw three new starters on the line in 2013, the same could happen in 2014. Three positions are not set in stone -- right guard and both tackle spots.

The situation at left tackle is interesting. The vibe from the media is that the team will target a left tackle in free agency. The name that comes up a lot is Branden Albert. Other free agent names include Anthony Collins and Jared Veldheer. They could also go that way in the draft.


I expect a free agent at left tackle, with Sowell moving back into a reserve role. Nate Potter will be gone. Cooper returns, as does Sendlein. Colledge is in a right guard and Fanaika will be gone. I have no idea what will happen at right tackle. I can't get a feel for that. I would think that Massie would take over.

In a reserve role, I think Watford will be the reserve guard. Philip Blake seems like a name to keep an eye out on. While I wouldn't be surprised to see Mike Gibson return, Blake could fill his role of backup center/swing guard. Sowell would be the backup tackle who can slide over in at guard. I expect another lineman drafted somewhere to fill the other reserve spot.

How do you think things pan out on the offensive line? How many new starters do you expect to see?