After finishing second-to-last in the league in rushing last season averaging 3.3 yards per carry, the Arizona Cardinals hope to have made significant strides in bolstering their ground game with the signing of free agent offensive guard Mike Iupati.
The five-year NFL veteran agreed to a five-year, $40 million deal with the Cardinals Tuesday before being officially introduced by the organization Wednesday.
“I really think that Arizona has a really good shot [at a Super Bowl],” Iupati told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday afternoon. “I really think they have a really good team … they have a great organization and great coaches, so I’m excited.
“There was a lot of teams [who made offers], but I didn’t think of Arizona until they really tried.”
Despite playing with a broken left foot all of last season with San Francisco, an injury that originally occurred two Januarys ago in the Niners’ 2014 NFC Championship loss to Seattle, Iupati ranked as second-best run blocking guard in the NFL by ProFootballFocus.com. Believe it or not, however, Iupati says he felt like the injury impacted his performance.
“I think [it affected me] a lot, because you’re missing OTAs and trying to fight through injury in training camp and then you go straight to the season. Everything happens fast.”
The biggest criticism of Iupati’s game come from those who highlight his struggles in pass protection. According the the same metric provided by PFF, Iupati ranked behind all but nine other guards in pass protection, and has never earned a positive grade by PFF in pass protection over a season since he’s been in the league.
“You’re always going to get criticized from everybody, but you know who you are,” said Iupati. “You just turn on the film and look at when I’m healthy. I know what I can do and I’m excited to showcase what I can do this upcoming year.”
Aiming to be 100 percent for the upcoming year, Iupati will not only have a chance to prove his detractors wrong, but he will now have an opportunity to seek retribution twice a season against the team that let him walk in free agency. However, the soft-spoken native of American Samoa says he won’t the let the inherent emotion of those games get the best of him.
“I’m going to treat [the Niners] as any other game,” he said. “I’m just going to come out and compete. I’ll always have a lot of respect for them. They’re my teammates, they’re my friends, they’re my family. But during the game it’s different. It’s 60 minutes and you give them all 60 minutes. After that, you go back to being family.”