TEMPE, Ariz. — The last time the Arizona Cardinals squared off with the St. Louis Rams, things did not go particularly well for their offensive line.
Quarterback Carson Palmer was sacked four times and pressured many others, with the majority of the damage being done by third-year pro Robert Quinn, who was responsible for three of the sacks, along with two forced fumbles and four quarterback hits.
It was a rough afternoon for left tackle Levi Brown, who was traded away a few weeks later.
“Nobody wants to see him,” Palmer said. “Tackles, quarterbacks — he’s got probably 15 sacks it seems like. He’s getting after the quarterback on film.
“He’s gotten better in the run game, too. He’s not a good matchup for anybody.”
Actually, Quinn has 13 sacks on the season, which places him second in the NFL behind Indianapolis’ Robert Mathis. Incidentally, Mathis collected one of his 15.5 sacks against the Cardinals two weeks ago, and the responsibility for Quinn — just like Mathis, then — will fall mostly on left tackle Bradley Sowell.
“Probably the biggest one he’s had, probably bigger than Robert Mathis because this is a young Robert Mathis,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said when asked about the challenge facing Sowell this week. “It’s a challenge for us as coaches to give him some help, somehow, someway, without butt-nugging it — blocking him up and having nowhere to go with the ball and get sacked by somebody else.”
In other words, the Cardinals do not want to have to help Sowell on every play because doing so will inhibit what they can do offensively.
“We’re going to do whatever we can do to try to help both our tackles and our guards as well,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “But he’s got to get his mind right and he’s trying to and he will do a good job.”
Coming off a game in Philadelphia where he allowed two sacks, one hit and three quarterback hurries, Sowell knows things are not going to get any easier.
“Watching him on film, he’s really impressive,” the second-year pro said of Quinn. “He’s gone against some good tackles and given some good tackles trouble.”
In a way, if not for Quinn giving Brown trouble in the opener, Sowell might not be preparing to face him this week.
“Right now, I’d say right now with the people we’ve played, he and Aldon Smith are the two young, dynamic guys, especially in our division,” Arians said. “Then Seattle’s got five of them.”
Sowell will get another shot at Seattle in a couple weeks, but for now the focus for him — and the rest of the line — is doing what it couldn’t do just a couple months ago: Protect Palmer against the Rams.
“It’s been a long time since Week 1 for them and us,” guard Daryn Colledge said. “We know they’ve had a lot of success, the defensive line’s doing a great job and we know our hands will be full.
“But we have to put some pride on ourselves that we’ve improved as an offensive line, and we’ve got to get the job done.
Colledge believes the Cardinals are better situated as a line than they were the first go around against the Rams, with different players and schemes in place.
“I just think we’ve spent more time working together,” he said. “We’ve improved as a group at every position on offense so for us, we’ve got another big game and we need to step up and play well for us to have success.”