For pretty much their entire history since moving to Arizona in 1988, the offensive line has been a bit of a sore spot for the Arizona Cardinals.
Sure, there have been seasons where they were OK, and along the way many draft picks were used and money was spent in order to upgrade its blocking unit.
In 2014, it seems, that started to happen.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Arizona’s O-line finished as the 24th-best unit in the NFL this season.
While that may not seem like much of achievement, they had the group ranked 32nd — last in the league — in 2013. This year, the Cardinals ranked 24th in pass blocking, 23rd in run blocking and 26th in penalties.
Stud: The offseason acquisition of Jared Veldheer (+16.5) has proven to be a big hit. The former Raider has given them the kind of security at left tackle that predates the PFF era.
Dud: Usually the steadiest of the group, the form of Lyle Sendlein (-29.1) has seen a sharp decline. Only one center had a worse rating with him with a lack of control of blocks in the run game and too much pressure allowed in the pass game being the charges laid against him.
Breakdown: Slowly they get better, but we’ve seen false dawns before in Arizona. Veldheer lifted the talent level of the team, but the interior remains something of a mess. What they wouldn’t give for Jonathon Cooper to get completely healthy and deliver as his draft pick suggested he would.
This season, Arizona mostly featured a line that included Veldheer at left tackle, Ted Larsen at left guard, Sendlein at center, Paul Fanaika at right guard and Bobby Massie at right tackle. Cooper also saw time at left guard, even starting two games while Fanaika was injured (the team moved Larsen to the right side).
When asked about Sendlein’s performance this season, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians praised his leadership while adding, “I don’t see any diminish in his play.”
Veldheer and Massie have likely solidified themselves as the team’s tackles, and if Sendlein returns, that leaves the guard spots as the only ones in flux. If healthy, Cooper should challenge for a starting spot at left guard, while Fanaika is a free agent and may not be back. If he leaves, or even if he stays, he will likely have to battle both Larsen and Earl Watford for the starting job.