If you look back over the history of the Arizona Cardinals, particularly since they came to Arizona, you can find a few things which have been historically bad. The offensive line is right there near the top. It seems they have always had line issues, which has led to running back and quarterback issues.
This year, things have changed.
Pro Football Focus released its midseason rankings for the offensive line units in the league and the Cardinals come in at number nine.
The numbers support the notion. Carson Palmer has only been sacked 11 times in eight games. The running game is one of the best in the league -- 10th in yards per game and sixth in yards per carry.
Last season the team was last in yards per carry and second to last in rushing yards.
That is a big improvement.
PFF writes this:
Pass blocking rank: 20th
Run blocking rank: 4th
Penalties rank: 13th
Stud: The Cardinals brought Mike Iupati (84.3) in to inject some life into their running game. Mission accomplished.
Dud: If there's one area that has proven problematic in Arizona, it's at right tackle. Bobby Massie (45.0) has had some problems since returning to the lineup, earning negative grades in pass protection the past five weeks.
Summary: The much-improved Cardinals' line is spearheaded by the fantastic left-side combo of Iupati and Jared Veldheer (83.2). Outside of that, it's still a world away from the Arizona lines of recent years, with no real liabilities.
This improvement has not happened by accident. Since the Cardinals hired Bruce Arians and Steve Keim in 2013, they have done the following with the line -- they drafted guard Jonathan Cooper number seven overall, they signed left tackle Jared Veldheer to a five-year, $35 million contract, they signed guard Mike Iupati to a five-year, $40 million contract and they drafted D.J. Humphries in the first round this year.
That is a lot of money invested in a unit.
But it is working. Carson Palmer is playing at perhaps the highest level of his career. Chris Johnson, who was signed off the street in the middle of training camp, is second on the league in rushing. The Cardinals are 6-2 and in control of the NFC West.
What is odd is how things have changed. Long considered to have the worst line in the division, the Cardinals now have the highest-ranked line in the NFC West. The rest of the teams rank very low -- the Rams at 25th, the 49ers at 29th and the Seahawks ranked last.
The thing is the Cardinals still have had great line play. They have stopped being bad, though. The left side is set. The middle has been solid this year. The right side could see improvement. Cooper still is not playing as well as he should. In fact, it went by almost unnoticed, but team broadcaster Dave Pasch said on the team's pregame show broadcast Cooper was in danger of being benched entering the game against the Steelers.
Massie is all right. Cooper could be better. But having a top-10 line is what general manager Steve Keim wanted. He has it and you can see why he did. It is not coincidental. They have a top offensive line and now they have one of the best offenses in the league.