Background: Sep 18, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Arizona Cardinals defensive end Zach Allen (94) celebrates after making a stop against the Las Vegas Raiders during a game at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie
One of the most notable aspects of the Cardinals’ pre-season success was the improved play of the “Big Nasties” on both sides of the line. Thus, I wrote Part I about this improvement during the pre-season.
After what we witnessed during the Cardinals’ historic 29-23 comeback overtime win in Las Vegas on Sunday, a great deal of the team’s success can be attributed to the impressive ways in which both the defensive and offensive lines stepped up just when the team need them to the most.
During the prep-season, it was a rarity of sorts to see multiple defensive and offensive linemen head the lists of the top PFF game grades. And now that has carried over to the regular season.
Top 12 PFF Grades in Cardinals 29-23 OT win:
- 89.9 —- DE Zach Allen
- 82.8 —- QB Kyler Murray
- 77.9 —- ED Dennis Gardeck
- 76.6 —- T D.J. Humphries
- 74.4 —- G Justin Pugh
- 72.9 —- DE JJ Watt
- 72.3 —- CB Byron Murphy
- 70.7 —- LB Isaiah Simmons
- 69.9 —- C Rodney Hudson
- 66.9 —- DT Leki Fotu
- 66.7 —- RB Eno Benjamin
- 66.6 —- T Kelvin Beachum
Did you notice the symmetry of these top 12 grades?
- 4 defensive linemen
- 4 offensive linemen
As alluded to —- how often have we seen that kind of production from both side of the Cardinals’ lines?
Obviously, the first half for the Cardinals did not go as planned. Whatever was said at halftime and whatever adjustments were made, the Cardinals knew that they had to play a near perfect second half in order to have a chance to win the game.
2nd Half and Overtime Possessions:
- ARI PUNT (0-20)
KEY PLAY: 3rd and 9 at ARI 42, Kyler Murray short incompletion right
- LV PUNT
KEY PLAY: 3rd and 9 at LV 9, 7 yard pass from Derek Carr to Darren Waller, tackle by Marco Wilson
KEY PLAY: 3rd and GOAL at LV 5 yard line, 5 yard TD pass from Kyler Murray to Greg Dortch
- LV FIELD GOAL (7-23)
KEY PLAY: 1st and 15, 47 yard pass interference call on Marco Wilson covering Mack Hollins
KEY PLAY: 4th and 1 from LV 11, incomplete pass from Kyler Murray to Zach Ertz
- LV PUNT (7-23)
KEY PLAYS: Zach Allen and JJ Watt disrupting 2 of Derek Carr’s three incompletions
KEY PLAYS: 4th and 4 at LV 25 yard line, 24 yard pass from Kyler Murray to Marquise Brown and Darrel Williams’ 1 yard TD run.
- ARI 2-PT CONVERSION (15-23)
KEY PLAY: Kyler Murray 2 1⁄2 yard run
- LV PUNT
KEY PLAY: 1st and 10 at LV 35, -4 yard tackle for loss on Josh Jacobs by Rashard Lawrence
KEY PLAY: 4th and GOAL at LV 3 yard line, Kyler Murray 3 yard TD run
- ARI 2-PT CONVERSION (23-23)
KEY PLAY, 7 1⁄2 yard pass from Kyler Murray to A.J. Green
- ARI DOWNS
8 PLAYS, 38 YARDS, 4:30
KEY PLAY: 4th and 1 at LV 37, incomplete pass from Kyler Murray to Marquise Brown
- LV FUMBLE RETURN TOUCHDOWN (29-23)
5 PLAYS, 23 YARDS, 1:39
KEY PLAY: 2nd and 10 at ARI 39, forced fumble by Isaiah Simmons on Hunter Renfro, scooped up and run for a 61 yard TD by Byron Murphy
2nd Half and OT Totals:
- ARI —- 59
- LV —- 24
- ARI —- 325
- LV —- 113
Time of Possession:
- ARI —-24:56
- LV —- 11: 58
- ARI —- 29
- LV —- 3
- ARI —- 28
- LV —- 20
- ARI —- 78
- LV —- 61
- ARI —- 413
- LV —- 324
- ARI —- 143—- (5.1 ave.)
- LV —- 80 —- (3.8 ave.)
- ARI —- 270
- LV —- 244
- ARI —- 1 for -7
- LV —- 1 for -8
- ARI —- 1
- LV —- 1
Time of Possession:
- ARI —- 33:22
- LV —- 29:47
- Do you see how these numbers reflect so positively on the Cardinals’ line play on both sides of the ball?
The Cardinals’ OL Sucks Myth
As mentioned on this week’s Red Rain podcast, hosts of Cardinals’ fans on Twitter and elsewhere continue to perpetuate a myth that the Cardinals’ offensive line is awful. The same fans use this myth as an indictment of GM Steve Keim’s and HC Kliff Kingsbury’s abilities as GM and HC..
Let’s lay this falsehood to rest.
One of the most common refrains from fans is : “ Keim has never built a decent offensive line to protect Kyler...”
OK —- then let’s take a look at how Keim built the current offensive line:
- C Rodney Hudson from Raiders for a 3rd round pick
- G Cody Ford from Bills for a 5th round pick
- G Justin Pugh
- T Kelvin Beachum
- G Will Hernandez
- C Sean Harlow
- R1 —- T D.J. Humphries
- R3 —-T Josh Jones
- R6 —- C Lecitus Smith
- R7 —- G Marquis Hayes
Offensive Lineman Re-Signed (Once, Twice or Three Times):
- LT D.J. Humphries
- LG Justin Pugh
- C Rodney Hudson
- RT Kelvin Beachum
Continuity and chemistry are of paramount importance for an offensive line. The way that Steve Keim has gone out of his way to preserve the continuity of the line is impressive.
I think this year, there’s a chance that the Cardinals could have two or more of their offensive linemen make the Pro Bowl. When has that happened? Not since the 1970s with T Dan Dierdorf, G Conrad Dobler and C Tom Banks.
Current PFF Grades (After 2 Games vs. 2021 Playoff Teams)
- Passing Game: 67.3 (10th)
- Running Game: 83.8 (3rd)
Offensive Lineman Grades:
- LT D.J. Humphries —- 78.6
- LG Justin Pugh —- 74.5
- C Rodney Hudson —- 62.1
- RG Will Hernandez —- 65.5
- RT Kelvin Beachum —- 71.0
The Cardinals’ offensive line not only dominated the second half in Las Vegas, they wore down the Raiders’ vaunted pass rush. Look at the hustle and determination of the offensive lineman on this epic 20 second 2-point conversion, where they created a second wall for Kyler Murray and escape routes:
it’s monday night and this is still INSANE pic.twitter.com/uwntPVfv9Q— Joanna Cards Fan (@cardsfanjoanna) September 20, 2022
The strength and character of the offensive line was on full display in that second half.
Yes, the entire offense needs to do a better job in the first half of games. But, when it mattered the most this week, everyone on the offense stepped up big-time.
- As posed on the Red Rain Podcast, isn’t it time for Cardinals’ fans to offer the offensive line more avid support and encouragement?
- If you ask Kyler Murray what he thinks of his offensive line, what do you think he would say?
- You know, Kyler is a tremendous challenge for offensive linemen to block for because he doesn’t step up into a pocket and he is apt to bail out from his spot at the back of what would be a pocket at, any given time. This means a whole lot of adjusting on the fly for his linemen —- and look at how they handled it on that 2 point conversion.
I think Keim’s most recent moves bode well for both the present and the future, specially if the team re-signs G Will Hernandez. If they do, next year’s line could look like this:
- LT D.J. Humphries or Josh Jones
- LG (if Pugh retires) Cody Ford or Marquis Hayes
- C (if Hudson retires) Sean Harlow or Lecitus Smith (or a draft pick or UFA?)
- RG Will Hernandez or Marquis Hayes
- RT (if Beachum retires) Josh Jones or Cody Ford
- What do you think of this foundation?