With Monday’s news that running back Ryan Williams will have to undergo season-ending surgery to repair his left shoulder, the Arizona Cardinals will be forced to evaluate their depth issues on offense.
But this is nothing new in 2012, after all the team’s makeshift offensive line — a proverbial punching bag following their 17-3 loss at St. Louis — is largely the result of preseason injuries to tackles Levi Brown and Jeremy Bridges.
While the absence of Williams and former 1,000-yard rusher Beanie Wells — suffered turf toe injury in Week 3 — creates a gaping hole for a unit that has already had their fair share of struggles over the first five weeks, head coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday he has confidence in LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell and Alfonso Smith to pick up the slack. But the question of who fills the running back role is almost less of a concern than the question of who will block for him.
This isn’t one of those debates about which came first, the chicken or the egg? In regards to depth, simply put, it doesn’t matter who the Cardinals have behind center or in the backfield, if the team doesn’t address the lack of stability along the offensive line, it won’t matter.
After their woeful collective performance against the Rams’ pass rush — a combined 15 pressures and eight sacks allowed — offensive linemen D’Anthony Batiste, Bobby Massie and Adam Snyder can’t hide from the obvious. They are starters in the NFL at the moment because of circumstance, and not because of their on-field assets.
According to ProFootballFocus, both Batiste and Massie are the lowest ranked players at the tackle position, coming in at No. 68 and No. 69 respectively. While Snyder, an eight-year veteran, is ranked as the worst guard in the league.
The rankings are based on screen blocking, run blocking, pass blocking, quarterback hits allowed, quarterback hurries allowed and sacks allowed.
Last season, as a member of the 49ers, Snyder started 13 of 16 games at right guard, and also struggled in PFF’s ranking system. Statistically, he finished as the third-worst right guard.
Batiste is in his third season with the Cardinals, making just five previous appearances before 2012. Massie was a fourth round selection from Mississippi in April’s draft.
Here’s what ProFootballFocus had to say about the struggling trio following Thursday’s game against the Rams:
Only four teams in 2011 had a worse offensive ranking at year’s end than the Cardinals do right now. The three worst offenders, Bobby Massie, D’Anthony Batiste, and Adam Snyder were in their customary level of performance this week as well. Each player allowed at least five pressures and both Batiste and Snyder accounted for a trio of sacks allowed apiece. Of those three, it was only Massie who even looked halfway decent as a run blocker, as he accrued a +1.1 grade after the Cardinals picked up 4.3 yards per carry off his right hip. The Cardinals were dealt a serious blow in the preseason when they lost Levi Brown to injury, but it is becoming apparent that their backups were simply not up to the job. Surely it is time for them to scour the list of street free agents (or engineer a trade) to try and find an upgrade, or at least some competition, at tackle.
The Cardinals have not made any free agent signings or announced any changes along the offensive line since Thursday, so by all accounts Batiste, Massie and Snyder will start again in Week 6 against Buffalo.