It is the time of year -- the slow offseason -- when NFL Network starts its countdown of the top 100 players in the league for the coming season. Other sites do the same thing, including analytics-based site Pro Football Focus. The site does a top 101 and released the list of players ranked from 76-101. The Arizona Cardinals have a player in that group -- guard Evan Mathis, whom they signed to a one-year deal this offseason.
Mathis comes in at 76.
Injury and playing time hurt Evan Mathis, but we also saw him slip as a pass-blocker at times during the season. Pass protection has always been the weaker side of his game, but this season it was actually marginally below average, and he surrendered three sacks and 19 total pressures despite splitting time at the position. His run-blocking was still peerless, however, and he had the highest grade in the league among all guards. He may not destroy people, but he is the most consistent guard in football, rarely losing in the run game.
Consistency is what the Cardinals need and he should be a step up from what they have had at right guard the past few seasons. They have played Paul Fanaika, Jonathan Cooper and Ted Larsen there the last three seasons. It hasn't been good. Fanaika and Larsen have always graded very poorly on PFF and Cooper just couldn't get mentally back. He could move, but couldn't block anyone the way he could coming out of college.
Now the Cardinals add some nasty to the line. He is old, but apparently is still one of the league's best.
That gives the team three positions on the line, along with Jared Veldheer at left tackle and Mike Iupati ta left guard, where you don't really have to worry. Those guys will do their job and do it well.
As most Cardinals fans will attest, that is something uncommon for this team. The offensive line is transforming from an area of worry to an area of consistency. Mathis is part of that.