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Sweet Baby Ray

Washington Redskins v Phoenix Cardinals Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

For offensive line coach Ray Brown to be back with the Cardinals is a football odyssey.

The Cardinals selected Brown with the #201st pick (8th round) of the 1986 NFL Draft.

In the photo above, Ray Brown (#62) sprang RB Earl Farrell (#31) for a TD at Sun Devil Stadium.

Brown played the first three seasons of his amazing twenty year NFL career with the Cardinals.

He won a Super Bowl with the Redskins in 1991.

Incredibly, Brown was an All-Pro tackle for the 49ers in his 16th season at age 39.

He retired in 2006 at the age of 43 following his last game in the playoffs for the Redskins.

His coaching career began in 2008 with the Bills. After a year with the 49ers as assistant OL coach, Brown joined the Carolina Panthers where he achieved a great deal of success through 7 seasons.

Seth Cox back in April wrote some highlights about Ray Brown’s coaching career. Here they are:

2008-09: Brown helps the Bills second year running back Marshawn Lynch to 1000 yards and works with Jason Peters to get to first Pro Bowl in 2008, in 2009 Brown broke in two rookies and a second year player on the Bills revamped offensive line.

2010: Helped to work in Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis as rookies.

2011-2015: Helped develop rookies Amini Silatolu in 2012, former defensive lineman Nate Chandler in 2013, and Trai Turner And Andrew Norwell in 2014. Since then Turner and Norwell have become All Pro linemen.

From 2014-2016, the Panthers had 30 consecutive games with at least 100 yards in a regular season game, the longest streak in the NFL since the Steelers from 1974-1977, according to

No doubt, this 2018 season with the Cardinals has been Ray Brown’s greatest challenge as an offensive line coach.

First off, Brown had to help install Mike McCoy’s offense—-which required Brown and his players to get accustomed to new terminologies and blocking schemes.

When you are the OL coach you do what the OC tells you, even if there is a contrast in philosophies.

At the start of training camp, Brown was working with a lineup 4 former 1st round picks (D.J. Humphries, Mike Iupati, Justin Pugh and Andre Smith) to go with returning veteran C A.Q. Shipley. Humphries, Iupati and Pugh were coming off injury-riddled 2017 seasons. Smith had been playing as a backup guard for the Bengals.

The commandment from Steve Wilks to McCoy and Brown was “run the football” and “run it often.” With 2016 Pro Bowler David Johnson back in the saddle, the prospects of running the ball looked rosy.

That is, until the games began and McCoy’s play calling was redundantly vanilla, and after suffering through a number of bad early season losses, Mike McCoy was fired and second year coach Bryon Leftwich took over as OC.

Under Leftwich and with the support of Ray Brown, the Cardinals’ running game has improved significantly—-despite a rash of injuries—-despite a revolving door of new backups—-and despite the cutting of RT Andre Smith.

What Ray Brown was able to accomplish this past week when the Cardinals upset the Green Bay Packers 20-17 in the wind and snow at Lambeau Field was nothing short of miraculous.

Only one of Brown’s projected opening day starters was in the lineup: LG Mike Iupati (who had been battling a host of injuries)—-and Iupati suffered an MCL knee injury during the game—-which left the Cardinals with this makeshift lineup:

LT Korey Cunningham—-7th round rookie (#254 pick) who was supposed to be on a redshirt type of year.

LG Colby Gossett—-a rookie who was drafted this year in the 6th round (pick #213) by the Vikings who cut him at the end of the pre-season but then signed him to their practice squad. On October 30th the Cardinals signed him off the Vikings’ PS. On Sunday against the Packers, Gossett had been with Cardinals for only 4 weeks.

C Mason Cole—-the Cardinals’ 3rd round pick in the 2018 draft who became the starter during the pre-season after A.Q. Shipley suffered a season-ending knee injury.

RG Oday Aboushi—-6th year journeyman guard who was drafted in the 5th round by the Jets in 2013 (pick # 141). He played briefly for the Jets and Seahawks (8 starts at RG in 2017 before suffering a season ending shoulder injury in Week 15). Aboushi was cut by the Raiders in early September and signed by the Cardinals on October 23rd. He has been with the Cardinals for six weeks.

RT Will Holden—-2nd year player who was drafted in the 5th round (pick #157) by the Cardinals in 2017, but who was cut in early September and then was on the Colts’ PS for 11 days before being released. Holden then signed to the Saints’ PS and was released on November 28th and the Cardinals signed him on November 29th—-thus Holden had only been back with the Cardinals for 4 days when he was inserted into the starting lineup at RT versus the Packers.

With early efforts from Mike Iupati, this makeshift offensive line produced 315 yards of total offense in the wind and snow of Green Bay—-182 yards rushing and 2 rushing TDs (Chase Edmonds). QB Josh Rosen was only sacked twice and one was on a safety blitz by Josh Jones that Rosen did not see coming.

Think about this....via draft pick numbers:

LT (#254—-2018)—-LG (#213—-2018)—-C (#97—-2018)—-RG (#141—-2013)—-RT (#157—-2017) coached by Ray Brown (#201—-1986)

The secrets to good offensive line play is continuity and coordination—-the line needs to move and block with precise timing off of each snap and each man players of the 5 player chain exhibiting a fundamental command of footwork, base (hips), leverage and hand placement. But when a coach keeps having to replace one or two or three of the five it’s like replacing the drummer, bassist and lead guitarist in a 5 man band. How tight is that band going to be on short notice?

When you watch Ray Brown’s boys move this past Sunday, they were surprisingly in sync and very physical at the point of attack. They had only 3 penalties, all by Cunningham, who otherwise played a very good game.

They were so solid—-that Cardinals’ fans could wonder and dream whether Colby Gossett could be the next Andrew Norwell and whether Korey Cunningham could be the next Daryl Williams.

One of Ray Brown’s strength and conditioning secrets—-check this out!

If the Cardinals keep running out of linemen—-looks like Sweet Baby Ray could strap on the pads and still get after it himself.

Ray Brown is a former All-Pro—-who is now in the business of grooming All-Pros.