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2020 NFC West: LGs

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NFL: Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The NFC West boast 4 starters at LG who were 1st or 2nd round picks in their respective drafts:

AZ: Justin Pugh, 29, 6-5, 311, 3/$33M left on contract, 66.8 2019 PFF grade, 2013 #19 pick (Rd. 1)

LAR: Austin Corbett, 25, 6-4, 306, 2/$2.7M left on contract, 51.3 PFF 2019, 2018 #33 (Rd. 2), traded from CLE to LAR for 2021 5th round pick.

SF: Laken Tomlinson, 28, 6-3, 320, 2/$12M left on contract, 68.8 PFF 2019, 2015 #28 (Rd. 1), traded in 2017 from DET to SF for 2019 5th round pick.

SEA: Ethan Pocic, 24, 6-7, 303, 1/$1.4M left on contract, 43.4 2019 PFF, 2017 #58 (Rd. 2) by SEA, made PFWA All-Rookie team in 2017.

The Rams and Seahawks are hoping that Austin Corbett and Ethan Pocic can start playing with the kind of consistency that Laken Tomlinson has displayed in SF for the past three years (68.8, 66.6, 66.4 PFF grades 2019, 2018, 2017).

While, Tomlinson graded out as the overall best LG in the NFC West in 2019, Justin Pugh earned the highest pass blocking grade in the division at 82.2.

As we saw with D.J. Humphries, it was Pugh’s run sub-par blocking grade (55.1) that lowered his overall grade.

It is perplexing as to why the Cardinals’ run blocking grades were so low last year, when, as we saw, the Cardinals improved their rushing yards per game from a league low 83.9 in 2018 to 124.4 yards per game in 2019, which ranked the Cardinals as the #10 best rushing attack in the NFL.

That’s right folks—-the Cardinals cracked the top 10 in rushing!

The 49ers made quite a jump in rushing in 2019, up from 115.9 in 2018 to 153.5 (2nd in NFL) and there’s an indication that the Cardinals could be gaining on the 49ers in that over the last 3 games of 2019 the 49ers averaged 204.0 per game while the Cardinals averaged 183.3 yards per game. The Cardinals had the 3rd best rushing yards in the NFL the last 3 games, behind the Ravens and 49ers.

Justin Pugh had much to do with why the Cardinals started rushing the ball with success. Pugh emerged in 2019 as a bona fide leader of the OL room—-and his play backed it up, even when he was asked to play two games at RT when Justin Murray was injured. It also helped that the Cardinals found what appears to be their bell cow RB in Kenyan Drake.

Therefore, it stands to reason that the Cardinals rushing numbers and grades will continue to improve this season. Whether they can challenge the Ravens and the 49ers at the top of the league remains to be seen, but suddenly the Cardinals have worked their way into the conversation, especially because of having Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds back to pair with such a dynamic dual-threat at QB in Kyler Murray.

In my opinion, in terms of talent and veteran leadership, the Cardinals have the premier LG in the NFC West in Justin Pugh.

Stat you may appreciate:

Justin Pugh was the #1 ranked pass blocking LG in NFC in 2019:

And—-he was the #4 ranked pass blocking LG in the NFL:

87.4—-Joe Thuney, NE

86.0—-Joel Bitonio, CLE

82.8—-Quenton Nelson, IND

82.2—-Justin Pugh, ARI

Makes one wonder whether Justin Pugh can soar to the top now that that he has played a year in the K-Raid while being able to profit from the continuity the Cardinals have built on the offensive line under coaches Sean Kugler and Brian Natkin.