Regardless of OC change, Cardinals seek improvement from O-line

Oct 26, 2018, 2:38 PM | Updated: Oct 27, 2018, 11:09 am

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen (3) is sacked by Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack, beh...

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen (3) is sacked by Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack, behind, as Bears cornerback Bryce Callahan (37) looks on during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Hope is that Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich can become the magic elixir for the worst offense in the league.

But as he prepares for his first game since the firing of previous OC Mike McCoy, Leftwich’s biggest challenge might not be helping Josh Rosen develop, David Johnson seek mismatches or Larry Fitzgerald get cut loose.

Leftwich must find a way to do all that with an offensive line that has struggled in pass- and run-blocking.

Arizona enters Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers with starting guards Mike Iupati (back) and Justin Pugh (hand) questionable to play. Backup Jeremy Vujnovich has already been ruled out due to a hamstring strain, and it’s possible John Wetzel and Daniel Munyer will once again be thrust into starting roles.

Last Thursday, Rosen was hit 13 times, sacked six times, threw three picks and fumbled twice.

It didn’t help the offensive line that Denver scored two quick touchdowns, forcing Rosen to throw the ball 39 times instead of searching for balance with a run game that itself is a problem.

“We’re just going back, making sure we work through the fundamental stuff, through fits and stuff,” Wetzel said on Monday. “It doesn’t help when we put ourselves in position to get down like that. But really just focused on technique, staying on our double-teams and working on certain looks.”

Like it is across the board, Wetzel said finding the right “fit” of plays that work with the specific linemen and Johnson in the run game was necessary.

But the passing attack is arguably the bigger concern, especially considering Rosen’s future will depend on him finding time to throw.

Time hasn’t been something he’s had.

According to Pro Football Focus, Rosen has been getting rid of the ball within 2.5 seconds on 58 percent of his dropbacks, the fourth-highest rate in the NFL.

McCoy’s play-calling through a 1-6 start made it clear those quick throws were necessary, but what ultimately played a part in the Cardinals making the decision to fire him came as the line also allowed Rosen to face the second-highest amount of pressure of starting NFL quarterbacks, per PFF.

In other words, dreaming of Leftwich bringing back the aggressive passing attack off deep quarterback drops will probably remain just that — a dream. Unless the line can gain some traction.

“We got to execute better. That’s the bottom line,” Pugh said.


Safety Eddie Pleasant signed a deal with Arizona on Saturday as the team searched for depth.

Veteran safety Tre Boston was ruled out Friday for the second game in a row due to rib and shoulder injuries.

While head coach Steve Wilks called it a “possibility” that fellow safety Rudy Ford would play in place of Boston after giving up a deep post route for a touchdown last week against Denver, Pleasant could be another option.

The six-year pro said he expects to at least appear as a special teamer Sunday against the 49ers.

Wilks said Pleasant has been picking up the defensive schemes quickly while working with defensive backs coach David Merritt, but it remains to be seen if he’s comfortable enough to earn snaps at safety.

“It always tough to come in the middle of the season and learn some stuff when you’ve never really seen it. A lot of the stuff is the same, just different terminologies,” Pleasant said.

Pleasant recorded 32 tackles, 2.0 sacks and an interception in 2017 with the Texans, his sixth season in Houston. He spent 2018 training camp with the New England Patriots before signing with the Cardinals.


– Tre Boston (ribs/shoulder) and Jeremy Vujnovich (hamstring) were ruled out.

– Kicker Phil Dawson was limited on Friday with a hip issue, and Arizona signed rookie kicker Matt McCrane to the practice squad just in case, according to Wilks.

– Tight end Jermaine Gresham appeared for the first time this week on the injury report with a heel issue. He has appeared in five games since returning from an Achilles injury suffered last year.

– Corey Peters (ankle) did not practice Friday and joins Dawson, Gresham, Iupati and Pugh as questionable to play Sunday.

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