Background: GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 15: Offensive lineman Justin Murray #71 of the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of the NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns at State Farm Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona.
ARI: Justin Murray, 27, 6-5, 304, 3rd year, CFA DEN 2016, 2019 PFF grade: 62.9, 1/$750K
LAR: Rob Havenstein, 28, 6-8, 330, 6th year, R2 2015, 2019 PFF grade: 50.9, 3/$23.4M
SF: Mike McGlinchey, 25, 6-8, 315, 3rd year, R1 2018, 2019 PFF grade: 70.7, 2/$11.1M
SEA: Cedric Ogbuehi, 28, 6-5, 308, 6th year, R1 CIN 2015, 2019 PFF grade: 67.0, 1/$3.3M
Over the Cardinals’ last 6 games, RT Justin Murray was by far the highest graded offensive lineman, averaging a 69.4 grade, plus earning PFF’s Right Tackle of the Week distinction following his outstanding game in Week 11 at the 49ers (74.2 overall, 85.2 pass blocking, 63.4 run blocking, 0 sacks, 0 pressures, 0 penalties vs. Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa and Dee Ford).
Murray’s game grades were up and down for his first 8 games, but, seeing as he started game 1 versus the Lions (after projected starter Marcus Gilbert was lost to the IR) having practiced with the team for only 4 days (waiver wire pickup from OAK), it’s impressive that Murray learned the offense as quickly as he did.
Murray’s final grades fit the Cardinals’ OL pattern as he graded well in pass protection (67.3—-giving up 4 sacks, 25 pressures and incurring 3 penalties), but his run blocking grade was a below average 54.3. However, during the stretch during the second half of the season where the Cardinals’ running game began to surge, Murray’s run blocking grades improved—-he scored in the 60s in 4 of the last 6 games, with his best game (65.4) coming in the win at home versus the Browns.
During the off-season, the Cardinals re-signed UFA RT Marcus Gilbert (6-6, 330, 32, 10th year, R2 PIT 2011) to a 1 year incentive contract worth up to $3.75M ($1M in guaranteed money). The plan is for Gilbert, whom Kliff Kingsbury called the “best offensive lineman on the team in the pre-season” to try to reclaim his starting spot. But, Gilbert has now only started 5 games the past two years, and the year prior to that in 2017, he missed 4 games to a hamstring injury and 4 games to a PED violation. Gilbert is coming off an ACL injury.
Thanks to a surprising development in the 2020 NFL Draft the Cardinals were able to draft T Josh Jones of Houston in Round 3. Pro Football Focus gave Josh Jones a 93.2 grade for his phenomenal season, “the highest grade ever given to a collegiate offensive tackle.” “This was no one-year wonder for Jones.” According to PFF, the Texas native “allowed just 18 pressures over the past three years of his career.”
Due to the lack of OTAs and mini-camps this off-season and what projects to be a shortened pre-season, it would be unlikely that Josh Jones will be a Week 1 starter. But, as the season progresses, he could have a chance to earn his way into the lineup.
The other NFC West RTs are high draft picks, led by the 49ers’ 2018 1st round pick Mike McGlinchey. McGlinchey played well in 2019, but was lost for 4 games due to a right knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery.
The Rams’ Rob Havenstein was very good as a rookie, but struggled last season in his 5th year, before suffering a torn meniscus that caused him to miss 7 games.
The Seahawks signed UFA Cedric Ogbuehi, who was the Jaguars’ swing tackle. In 2019 Ogbuehi started one game at LT at Cincinnati and his game grades were: 65.9 overall, 42.6 in pass protection and 72.5 in run blocking.
How Justin Murray matched up in pass protection versus Rob Havenstien and Mike McGlinchey:
Murray (12 games): 67.3: 4 sacks, 25 pressures, 3 penalties
Havenstein (9 games): 51.1: 5 sacks, 33 pressures, 8 penalties
McGlinchey (12 games): 67.4: 6 sacks, 28 pressures, 7 penalties.
Those are encouraging numbers for Justin Murray and the Cardinals.