GLENDALE, Ariz. — Last season, the Arizona Cardinals surrendered an NFL-high 58 quarterback sacks.
Now, some of those could be attributed to the quarterback not getting rid of the ball soon enough or a running back or tight end missing on an assignment, but ultimately the blame fell on the offensive line.
Injuries and ineffectiveness forced the team to shuffle the lineup a considerable amount, but at the end of the day it often ended up being a case of replacing one struggling player with another.
That is not the case this season.
“This is the deepest line that I’ve ever been on since being in Arizona,” center Lyle Sendlein said. “This is going to be the hardest team to make for us that have been here in the past.”
The starting line in Friday’s 17-0 win in Green Bay consisted of Levi Brown at left tackle, Jonathan Cooper at left guard, Sendlein at center, Paul Fanaika at right guard and Eric Winston at right tackle.
Of those five, zero started the team’s final game of the 2012 season.
Sure, injuries played a role, as both Brown and Sendlein were sidelined in 2012 and Daryn Colledge, who was a starter last season, missed Friday’s game with his own ailment.
However, the amount of turnover the line has undergone serves to underscore how important improvement was deemed.
Should that happen, the credit would belong to new head coach Bruce Arians who, along with first-year general manager Steve Keim, was tasked with fixing things up front.
The early returns appear to be positive, as the Cardinals allowed just one quarterback sack in the preseason opener against Green Bay and rarely allowed much pressure.
“Overall, for the first time out,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Monday, “especially in the silent snap count situation, I thought we protected the quarterback very well.”
“Did a great job in the pass protection,” quarterback Carson Palmer added. Palmer, who completed 4-of-6 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown, had enough time to consistently try and find receivers down the field.
Of course, the run game was once again an issue. Running backs Stepfan Taylor and Alfonso Smith combined for 85 yards on 32 carries, which averages out to just 2.65 yards per tote.
So, lest you think the offensive line has completely turned the corner, it may be worth a step or two back.
Sendlein believes there is still work to be done and the veteran Brown admitted that they are “not where (they) need to be, technically, yet,” but there is certainly an air of optimism surrounding the line.
It’s a far cry from where things were last season, where the struggles up front directly led to the offense’s inability to move the ball.
“Offensive line really determines how good an offense is going to be,” Brown said. “The eye is definitely always on us because if we don’t give the quarterback time, then nobody else can get their job done and in the running game we have to open up holes.
“Eye is always on us; we accept the challenge and we’ll go out there and do what we have to do.”