The Arizona Cardinals will have to be more diligent with their choice in the draft this year and aim towards younger offensive linemen, according to Mike Sando, an NFC West blogger for ESPN.
He told Arizona Sports 620's Burns and Gambo Friday that if the Cardinals decide to keep offensive tackle Levi Brown, they'll have to draft someone young.
"I think he comes back for a reduced number as one of their five starters probably next season, and then I think they'll draft somebody as well. I don't know if it's going to be at 13, but they have to," Sando said.
The main reason they'll have to focus on the line is because they're starting to show their age.
"You know, I've been documenting it for a long time just how they've gone in the draft and not drafted an offensive lineman," Sando said. "They've had top to bottom, one through nine, the oldest offensive linemen in the league for the last couple of years. That's because they don't have young backups."
Of the five offensive tackles and four offensive guards, four are in their 30's and four are in their late 20's. The last time the Cardinals drafted an offensive lineman was in 2007 with Brown, and haven't taken a new one in two years.
"Most teams, even if you have veteran starters, you have some guys who've been grooming in background who are 22, 23, 24 years-old, and they have not gone that route. I think that has to change in the draft this year. They have to make it a priority," Sando said. "And I expect them to do that. You just can't go forever with trying to pass with older guys, whether it's a Rex Hadnot or Floyd Womack, all those older guys they've tried to find. Eventually you need the next guy, and they haven't had that."
But before they make their choice of draft pick, they must first address the issue of Brown. His performance has been in question if he can stay out of penalty trouble and protect the quarterback. Sando said he could stay on the team and move from left to right tackle, but the Cards will still have to consider a backup for him.
"I don't think anything is in stone because we don't know who else is going to be a tackle on the team. I don't think they're locked into Levi Brown," Sando said. "I think they realize that it's really easy to say who you don't want, but you've got to have someone better.
"And I don't think the Cardinals, while publicly they're high on Levi Brown, I don't think they really think he's a great tackle, but he's better than somebody not as good as him. And if you move on from him, you better have something that's a better plan."
Running back and offense injuries:
Cardinals rookie Ryan Williams never got a taste of a regular season NFL game as he tore a patella tendon in his second NFL exhibition game.
The Cards said it's an unusual injury for football players, but with the surgery and rehab, it's unclear if the former Virginia Tech running back will be able to come out of the gates completely healed.
"This is new territory for Ryan Williams, I mean he's going to be trying to come back in the time frame, it's not like he's rushing it back." Sando said. "I wouldn't be surprised at all if by mid-season or even training camp we're talking about how, you know really it's after that first year back that you start to feel it. You know that's always something you hear after guys come back is usually those initial expectations of, ‘Wow, he's back.' But then you realize, okay it's going to take a while to get back."
It's a matter of concern because Sando emphasized that several of the Cardinal offensive players battle injuries throughout the season.
"When I look at the Cardinals last season, think of their offensive backs though in general. Beanie Wells playing hurt, Ryan Williams out, [Kevin] Kolb hurt, even the fullback they drafted was hurt for a while," Sando said. "Basically their whole offensive backfield has injury concerns, certainly a quarterback and both of the running backs, and I think that is something to really keep in your mind because we do get drawn into this idea that everyone rehabs and is going to be fine, and it's not necessarily the case."