Once again, change coming to the Arizona Cardinals offensive line
TEMPE, Ariz. — Death and taxes. The two certainties in life.
Unless of course you’re the Arizona Cardinals, and then it’s death, taxes and offensive line changes. Another one is coming this week. That makes seven in 14 games this season.
Against Washington, the Cardinals plan to start — from left to right — Will Holden, Alex Boone, A.Q. Shipley, Evan Boehm and John Wetzel.
Holden and Boehm are replacing Jared Veldheer and Earl Watford, respectively; both of whom got hurt in the Tennessee game.
Veldheer has been lost for the season, becoming the third starting offensive lineman to be placed on injured reserve, joining left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Mike Iupati.
“It’s like déjà vu from last year,” Shipley said.
In 2016, the Cardinals had eight different offensive line combinations. That year five different players started at least one game at right guard. This year the magic number is four, as in four different starters at both left guard and left tackle.
“It’s definitely been difficult, there’s no question. I didn’t know that combination number. Four. I thought it was less than that. But, man, four? I don’t like, I don’t like that number,” said Shipley, who’s been the one constant, starting every game on that unit the past two seasons.
“It’s my job to be the glue right in the middle and that’s what I try and do every week.”
Holden will be making his second career start. Back in Week 4 against San Francisco, the 24-year-old rookie was the starting left guard.
“He’s got no more chances to not be ready,” head coach Bruce Arians said, adding about the fifth-round pick out of Vanderbilt, “He’s big, and he’s athletic. He’ll get stronger and stronger as he grows and matures, but he’s athletic, and he’s very smart.”
Meanwhile, Boehm is rejoining the starting lineup. He was the right guard for the first five games of the season and then lost the job to Watford. Most of Boehm’s playing time since has been on special teams with the occasional snap at fullback.
“It’s tough,” he said Wednesday. “It’s just like somebody coming up to you saying, ‘hey, we’re going to have somebody else interview Evan Boehm today, good luck’ and you’re out for five week or six weeks or how ever long it was. You got to keep a level mind about it, you got to keep a level head.
“Earl came in and did a great job. I was in Earl’s back hip, I was in A.Q.’s back hip, just learning from those two because those guys have been here a long time. They know what it takes, they know what to do.”
And on the sideline, Boehm added, he watched and learned.
“I didn’t prepare any less than when I wasn’t playing. I’ve had time to correct some mistakes that was going on out, that I was seeing myself doing out there,” he said. “I got to go out there and be fundamentally sound and do the things that I’ve been coached to do and go out there without hesitation and just do what I need to do to help this team win.”
There is a silver lining with this latest offensive line change: Both Boehm and Holden have been with the Cardinals all season and even going back to training camp and offseason workouts.
It’s not much, but it should help, according to Shipley.
“I’ve at least been in games with these guys and know what they can do and been in practice and stuff,” he said. “It’s better than bringing a guy off the street, and even then, when we did that with Earl, I had some familiarity with him.
“The familiar faces definitely plays a huge role in at least being comfortable throughout the week.”
Still, it’s not easy. The constant shuffling of players in and out of the lineup has an effect on a team. Just ask the Redskins. They’ve had 27 different offensive linemen walk through their facility, 11 of whom have started.
“The tough thing is getting the continuity,” head coach Jay Gruden told Arizona reporters this week. “People don’t understand how much they work in unison and how much communication there is before every snap with different fronts and different blitzes and all that stuff.”
Of course, no team is going to feel sorry for either the Cardinals or the Redskins.
“We’re just going to pick up and roll. The offense can’t lose a beat,” quarterback Blaine Gabbert said. “They know that they have a big job ahead of them, going against a good football team. But, at the end of the day, we’re just going to worry about the things that we can control, and that’s executing each and every play.”
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