ARIZONA CARDINALS

PFF: No change in ranking for Cardinals’ revamped O-line

Sep 6, 2018, 7:20 AM
Arizona Cardinals' Mason Cole (64) hits Greg Pyke (68) during practice at the NFL football team's t...
Arizona Cardinals' Mason Cole (64) hits Greg Pyke (68) during practice at the NFL football team's training camp, Tuesday, June 12, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
(AP Photo/Matt York)

The Arizona Cardinals made the offensive line a top priority in the offseason.

But even with a new-look O-line, the needle didn’t budge, according to Pro Football Focus.

Prior to the preseason, PFF ranked Arizona’s offensive line 27th in the league. After revisiting the rankings, the team still finds itself sitting near the bottom of the league at No. 27. They were No. 31 at the conclusion of the 2017 season.

Out of the projected starters, D.J. Humphries led the way with a score of 81.7 in limited reps this preseason. He’s followed by rookie Mason Cole (75.9), Mike Iupati (64.7), Justin Pugh (64.0) and Andre Smith (55.3). Before going down with an injury before the preseason, projected start A.Q. Shipley had a score of 45.7.

This group will look much different than the 2017 version – which can’t be a bad thing. The only problem is that this group – more than maybe any other in the NFL – has serious injury concerns and they’ve already reared their ugly head and forced rookie Mason Cole to start for A.Q. Shipley at center. Almost every starter has missed significant time in each of the past two seasons and the Cardinals don’t exactly have quality depth to make up for it.

Shipley, who is lost for the season after tearing his ACL during the team’s Red & White practice, was the lone lineman to make it a full 16 games in 2017. Iupati (one game played), Pugh (eight), Humphries (five) and Smith (13) all missed multiple games last year.

But could the fact that the ranking didn’t get worse necessarily be an good thing for Arizona?

The team suffered a huge blow when it lost Shipley, replacing him in the trenches with a rookie in Cole. Just like the veteran, Cole brings with him consistency.

The center has made 104 consecutive starts between his high school days and his time as a Michigan Wolverine under former NFL coach Jim Harbaugh. He played well as the line only allowed one major hit to starting quarterback Sam Bradford in the preseason and opened enough holes for starting back David Johnson to rush eight times for 50 yards.

And while injuries greatly dampen any expectations, there is a silver lining, according to PFF’s Michael Renner.

If Mike Iupati, Justin Pugh and Andre Smith all return back to their career-best form, this could be a top-10 group. The odds of that happening, or even them playing all 16 games, seems incredibly slim after all the injuries they’ve suffered.

With four former first rounders in Pugh, Iupati, Smith and Humphries, the talent’s there.

Given that the line can stay healthy in 2018, each of the veterans have proven they can affect the game when healthy, the Cardinals could possibly bolster one of the top lines in the NFL.

Possibly.

Looking at the NFC West as a whole, PFF’s rankings didn’t change for the Los Angeles Rams’ offensive front (10), the San Francisco 49ers (16) or the Seattle Seahawks (30).

The Carolina Panthers saw the biggest drop-off from the previous rankings, falling four spots from No. 21 to No. 25. The Houston Texans were the worst in the league, while the Philadelphia Eagles took home the top spot.

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PFF: No change in ranking for Cardinals’ revamped O-line