The faces may change year-to-year, but the issue of pass protection has been a prevalent one for quite some time when it comes to the Arizona Cardinals’ offensive line.
It’s an issue, though, that the Cardinals thought they had finally turned the corner on given a few notable upgrades during the offseason.
Following a 2012 campaign in which Arizona’s offensive line yielded a league-high 59 sacks, the unit gladly welcomed the additions of two veteran tackles — Levi Brown (missed last season with a triceps injury) and Eric Winston (signed a one-year deal in July).
Those additions, however, have played more like subtractions so far in 2013.
After their Week 3 loss in New Orleans, the Cardinals have given up nine total sacks — one more than they allowed through the first three weeks in 2012.
And although it hasn’t been all Brown or Winston, as the Saints’ sack party — led by outside linebacker Junior Galette and defensive end Cameron Jordan — illustrated Sunday, the tackle position is quickly becoming a position of weakness rather than one of strength.
“That’s a position obviously of concern,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf Monday. “We have to get more consistency out of the players we currently have. If that takes making some changes with the starting lineup, I’m sure that’s something Bruce [Arians] and I will talk about and look into this week.”
While Keim didn’t get into any specifics regarding a shift along the line, the first-year GM added that aside from a few snaps against New Orleans, he thought Winston has more-or-less been impressive through the first three weeks.
Well, instead of focusing on the Cardinals’ starting left tackle, Keim shifted the attention onto one of Brown’s possible replacements, Nate Potter.
“Nate Potter was a guy who was in competition with Levi [Brown] through training camp,” said Keim. “Nate would be the first to tell you I’m sure that there were a few instances where he didn’t step up against the second-team competition he was playing against in the preseason.”
Although the second-year tackle didn’t exactly do a whole lot to instill faith in the Cardinals’ coaching staff during training camp, Keim noted that philosophically he’s not opposed to a team playing young players if more established starters aren’t pulling their weight.
“I’m a strong believer in baptism by fire,” said Keim. “You’ve got to put these guys out there at some point, whether it’s young players or inexperienced players.
“The only way you can replicate live-game action is live-game action. I feel that way about young quarterbacks and I feel that way about most positional players. You can’t replicate the speed of the game in practice like you can on Sundays.”
While Potter is still “inexperienced” in comparison to Brown, the seventh-round pick out of Boise State isn’t exactly a novice at the tackle position. During his rookie year, Potter played in eight games, including six starts.