General Manager Steve Keim made the offensive line a priority for improvement, after the Cardinals had the third-worst rushing offense (86.6 avg) and allowed the third-most sacks (52) in 2017. He made a major upgrade at right guard by signing Justin Pugh, formerly of the Giants, to a five-year $45 million contract. Andre Smith was signed to a two-year deal to start at right tackle.
Former first-round pick D.J. Humphries continues to rehab from MCL surgery and is progressing well to be ready to start in the season opener. Although his career has been plagued with injuries, when healthy, he is one of the better offensive tackles in the league. The Cardinals are going to need him stay healthy if they want to keep Sam Bradford upright.
A.Q. Shipley is the most durable offensive linemen on the team, starting 32 games for the Cardinals the past two seasons. Although he is the most consistent lineman on the team, he is one of the worst in the NFL in pass protection. According to Pro Football Focus he allowed five sacks last season, more than any other center in the NFL. Left guard Mike Iupati took a significant pay cut to remain on the team, with his contract now voidable in 2019. The former Pro Bowler landed on injury reserve after week one with an arm injury and has made a full recovery. He is not particularly good in pass protection but, when healthy, he is one nasty run blocker.
It seems like every season the offensive line is decimated with injuries, which is why depth is more important than ever. John Wetzel has started 19 of 32 games since 2016 at both guard and tackle positions. Cardinals’ 2017 fifth-round pick Will Holden made five starts last season, struggling in the beginning before making big strides in the season finale. Evan Boehm will be moved back to center after being benched for his struggles at right guard early last season.
The Cardinals made more additions to the team, drafting interior lineman Mason Cole in the third round and Korey Cunningham in the 7th round. Cole played 2,554 snaps as a left tackle at Michigan but is expected to move to the inside due to his size. He was one of the best run blockers in college and he could be in the mix to start at center in 2019. Cunningham did not allow a single sack in 469 pass blocking snaps at Cincinnati. The 6’6’’ 305-pound tackle is extremely athletic of his size, posting a 4.9 40 time and jumped 36 inches in the vertical jump. I wouldn’t be surprised if he challenged Andre Smith for snaps at right tackle.
Mason Cole checks in on our list of most versatile offensive linemen for the 2018 NFL draft after logging 864 snaps at center and 2,554 snaps at left tackle in his careerhttps://t.co/KCMA7YDuTo pic.twitter.com/xNp6xeGHW1— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 24, 2018
Daniel Munyer and Vinston Painter were brought back on one-year deals. Undrafted rookie Will House ran a 5.17 40 and benched 31 times at his Pro Day. Guard Josh Allen has bounced around the NFL, only active for three games since 2014. Greg Pyke and Brant Weiss are the other offensive lineman on the team.
The Cardinals have experienced depth with plenty of new faces who have had success in the NFL. Ray Brown was hired to be the new offensive line coach and was credited for making the Carolina Panthers’ offensive line one of the best in the NFL. Health will always be a big concern for this team but everyone has looked good so far. With the new additions and the quality leadership on the offensive line and coaching staff, the offense should be more consistent and dominant in 2018. Any big injury to this offensive line could spell trouble to an offense with a lot of potential and big expectations.