Perhaps the premier point of emphasis for general manager Steve Keim and the Arizona Cardinals heading into the 2013 season was the offensive line.
From the drafting of now-injured guard Jonathan Cooper in the first round of the draft to the trading away of slumping tackle Levi Brown, Keim and company clearly valued the importance of a trustworthy offensive line for new quarterback Carson Palmer.
On Monday, the day after his team ensured their first winning season in years with a win over the Tennessee Titans, Keim spoke about the improvements on the offensive front while a guest on The Doug and Wolf Show.
“I think they’re playing in unison better,” Keim told the hosts. “I think they’re playing better as a group, whether it’s working together on combination, passing off stunts — those sorts of things that it takes as a group to get better.”
According to FootballOutsiders.com, the Cardinals front has jumped ten spots from last year to this year in pass protection rankings, standing as the 16th-best line in the league — just above league average — and eighth in the NFC.
“Harold Goodwin, Larry Zierlein have done a great job with those guys,” Keim went on, talking about the Cardinals’ offensive coordinator and assistant offensive line coach and their work with the unit.
“Just from a technique standpoint, I think those guys have really improved.”
With two games left on the schedule, the line has seen Palmer sacked 36 times thus far — a major improvement over the 58 times Cardinals quarterbacks were sacked last season.
“And quite frankly,” Keim began, “Bruce really turns up the heat on those guys.
“These guys want to play hard for him and they love him.”
Despite the improvements, though, Arians has had to work around the weaknesses of a still-flawed line, which Keim went on to point out to the show.
“Bruce just understands the schematical limitations (of the offensive line) knowing where we need to chip or where we need help,” the first year GM said.
Lately, Arians has been using two-tight end packages in order to help his line.
“It’s not a pride thing; he’s not going to leave the left tackle out there on an island the whole game.”