When looking at the Arizona Cardinals offensive line, almost all the starting jobs are set and stone.
Left tackle D.J. Humphries, left guard Justin Pugh, center Rodney Hudson, and right tackle Kelvin Beachum are the four players guaranteed to start up front.
That would leave the starting right guard position up for grabs.
Let’s take a look at each player in this position battle:
#65 Brian Winters
Winters is entering his ninth season in the NFL since being a third-round selection by the New York Jets in 2013. He made 88 starts (105 games) in his NFL career, which makes him the most experienced guard in this four-way battle.
Although he made nine starts for the Buffalo Bills last season, he was benched in favor of the inexperienced Ike Boettger in Week 13 against the San Francisco 49ers. He had his hands full against the Chargers the week before and the run game was a huge weakness on the offense. The Bills eclipsed over 100 yards rushing in four of the nine games he started. The Bills rushed for over 100 yards three out of the next five games without him in the lineup.
Right now, it is Winters’ job to lose considering he has received first-team reps during OTAs. He reunited with Kelvin Beachum, who was his teammate for three seasons (2017-19) with the Jets. He signed a one-year veteran minimum deal this offseason and if he starts, that would make him a valuable addition for a very cheap contract.
#71 Justin Murray
Before becoming one of Steve Keim’s best waiver claims in 2019, Murray was a journeyman just trying to stick to the backend of a 53-man roster. Murray was an undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati in 2016 that hopped around on practice squads with the Broncos, Buccaneers, Saints, and Bengals before receiving some playing time with the Raiders in 2018.
After being waived by the Raiders, the Cardinals made him a priority waiver claim and he has since become an integral player as the swiss-army knife of the offensive line. In 362 pass blocking snaps last season, he allowed only 11 pressures and zero sacks. He replaced J.R. Sweezy in the starting lineup permanently in Week 15 against the Eagles.
Murray earned PFF pass blocking grades above an 83 in three of his seven starts in 2020. While filling in for the injured J.R. Sweezy in Weeks 6-9, he allowed no pressures and sacks. Run efficiency was lacking last season by the running backs and a big reason why is because of the interior offensive line. With Rodney Hudson, that should change and should help whoever wins the right guard job.
#79 Josh Jones
Jones was a projected first-round pick in 2020 that saw his draft stock drop due to his struggles in the Senior Bowl and the low level of competition that he had in Houston. It even shocked Kliff Kingsbury when he asked “Did he kill somebody?” after he fell to the Cardinals in the third round. Unfortunately for him and many of the rookies last year due to a shortened offseason, he did not have much playing time with only 54 total offensive snaps (47 as a blocking tight end).
We first heard of Jones’ potential move to guard after run-game coordinator and offensive line coach Sean Kugler spoke briefly about his versatility and progress in February.
“He offers positional flexibility,” Kugler said about Jones. “He can play tackle. He can play guard. We’ll see where that goes as we get into the offseason.”
Josh Jones will have an uphill battle to win the starting job but he is one that many will be rooting for as a potential draft pick success.
#73 Max Garcia
Garcia is a former fourth-round pick by the Broncos in 2015 that has 41 career starts (78 games) under his belt. That makes him the second-most experienced guard in this competition. His ties with Sean Kugler dates back to 2018 in Denver.
Even then, he has the longest odds to win the job.
He has been a reserve for the Cardinals since signing with the team in 2019. Garcia had his best year in 2016 when he surrendered four sacks in 673 pass blocking snaps. Just like Josh Jones, Garcia does not have much experience playing the right guard position with only 16 career snaps there. He has primarily played on the left side in the NFL and at the University of Florida.
With all of that said, let the best player win!