Chief among the questions — and concerns — facing the Arizona Cardinals as they head into the 2013 season is the offensive line.
Having given up the most sacks (58) of any team last season while paving the way for the fewest rushing yards (1,204) in the NFL, the hope is things are going to get better.
Not only because you’d think they have to, but because the team spent its first round pick on guard Jonathan Cooper and then signed free agent tackle Eric Winston.
Add them to a group that already included veterans Lyle Sendlein, Daryn Colledge and Levi Brown as well as second-year pros Bobby Massie and Nate Potter, and they may have the ingredients to make a pretty solid starting line. Sprinkle in others like rookie Earl Watford, Senio Kelemete, Jamaal Johnson-Webb, Paul Fanaika, Joe Caprioglio and Cholo Richal, and there is no shortage of options to choose from.
Now the only question who will play where. With Winston starting to get some run with the first team and Cooper not likely far behind, it appears things may be starting to clear up.
“We’re going to mix and match and see who plays well with each other,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said before practice Thursday. “They’re all such close battles that they’ve got to be able to get in there with Carson (Palmer) and get their shot too.”
The coach said that who the linemen are going against plays a key role in how they look, and it’s important to give everyone a fair shot when looking to put together the best possible group up front.
That process, he added, will hopefully come to a close soon.
“We want to settle on the five guys, hopefully, within seven or eight days.”
But, Arians cautioned, if things are not sorted out by then he’ll be fine letting the competition continue.
“It’s not going to make that big a difference,” he said, noting that injuries can and likely will play a role at some point anyway. “We just have to continue to build depth.
“I’m more concerned with depth than the first five.”