Early in the season when the Arizona Cardinals started losing games, many fans and analysts pointed to the poor play by the offensive line.
The tackles, in particular, were playing poorly, with rookie Bobby Massie and D’Anthony Batiste failing to give the team’s quarterbacks ample time to throw the ball.
The Cardinals kept losing games — nine in a row, to be exact — but something rather unexpected happened along the way.
The tackles improved.
Though Massie has given up 13 sacks this season, according to ProFootballFocus.com, he has not allowed one in the last six weeks.
And while Batiste never really seemed to figure things out, his replacement, rookie Nate Potter, has. The former Boise State lineman has allowed four sacks in six games, but did not allow so much as a quarterback sack, hit or hurry Sunday against the Lions.
In short, it appears the Cardinals have something at two of the more important positions on the line. While the team has still allowed a league-leading 52 sacks on the season, the improvement is quite noticeable.
“There’s no question they’ve played better,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said Friday. “But we had a stretch there earlier in the year where we were giving up sacks like crazy.”
Whisenhunt reiterated that the tackles were not solely responsible for the team’s issues before, though he knows they certainly absorbed the brunt of the blame.
“You have to give them credit, they have played better, and that’s important,” Whisenhunt added. “I think that when you look at the season in its entirety for both Nate Potter and for Bobby Massie, it’s been painful at times having to grow through those things but you also feel good about where they’re going to be going forward because you think both of these guys can play.”
Massie, who was taken by the Cardinals in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, was considered to be a good prospect coming out of college. A rocky beginning to his career had some question whether he’d make it, but he understood all along there would be some growing pains.
“You’ve got to learn from your failures, so I messed up and I had to make changes in the way I play and the way I prepare and it worked out for me,” Massie said.
Massie said there are still plenty of areas he can improve in, and at 23 it’s hard to believe he’s anything close to a finished product.
And as Whisenhunt said, his and Potter’s improvement does give hope that perhaps the Cardinals have this whole offensive tackle thing figured out.
At the end of the day, though, Massie said it’s important to finish this, his rookie season, playing well.
“It’s a job, you’ve got to compete, and we’re not the only people watching it,” he said. “Other people around the league are going to watch it, so you’ve got to make sure you put good tape out there.”