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Cardinals lost superior run blocker in D.J. Humphries

D.J. Humphries (left), Jared Veldheer (right). (AP Photos)

The loss of offensive tackle D.J. Humphries for the season could test the Arizona Cardinals’ ability to run the ball on the left side.

Pro Football Focus rated the 23-year-old Humphries as the fifth-best run blocking offensive tackle through the first 10 weeks of the season with a grade of 85.0.

Only Marcus Cannon of the New England Patriots (86.4), Andrew Whitworth of the Los Angeles Rams (85.9) Rob Havenstein of the Los Angeles Rams (85.9) and Ronnie Stanley of the Baltimore Ravens (85.7) were better, according to data powered by PFF Edge.

That leaves the running game Arizona is leaning upon less at than full strength.

At times, running back Adrian Peterson has helped stabilize the Cardinals’ offense since being traded from the New Orleans Saints.

In his first game as a Cardinal, Peterson ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 26 attempts for an average of 5.2 yards per carry against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He struggled against the Rams but ran for 159 yards on 37 attempts for an average of 4.3 yards per carry against the 49ers after the Rams loss and a bye week.

Then, Peterson could only muster 29 yards on 21 carries Thursday in a loss to the Seahawks. Much of that came after Humphries left in the middle of the first quarter with the knee injury.

Some of Peterson’s biggest runs against both the Buccaneers and 49ers happened partially because of Humphries’ ability to open up running lanes.

Peterson was able to walk into the end zone on this play thanks to a huge gap created partially by a block from Humphries.

Now, it’s about looking ahead.

With Humphries done for the season, head coach Bruce Arians announced veteran tackle Jared Veldheer will move back to the left side.

Thanks to Humphries’ emergence, Veldheer had moved from left to right tackle before the season began and initially struggled to perform at his new position. The Grand Rapids, Mich., native surrendered 27 total pressures out of 243 total pass-blocking attempts, good for 56th out of 61 tackles, according to PFF.

But in the three games prior to last Thursday’s loss to Seattle, Veldheer allowed only three pressures on 89 pass blocking attempts. Veldheer did account for three hurries against the Seahawks, but he blocked well on running plays, earning a PFF grade of 87.6.

He had started at left tackle from Week 7 in 2010 and performed well on the blind side before and after joining Arizona in 2014, achieving PFF grades of 80.0 or higher in four of seven seasons.

Time will tell how much the loss and Humphries and move of Veldheer will affect the Cardinals as Peterson carries them and health issues at quarterback linger.

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