Value of reps against Seahawks true for Cardinals’ O-line, too

Dec 28, 2018, 2:07 PM

Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle Will Holden (69) during the first half of a preseason NFL footba...

Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle Will Holden (69) during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TEMPE, Ariz. — One last time, the Arizona Cardinals enter a game with a new look along the offensive line.

A re-tethered group will face the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, the loudest venue in the NFL, on Sunday in the 2018 finale. And as much as the game marks a final opportunity for rookie quarterback Josh Rosen to earn valuable reps — with the hope he can remain healthy — his young offensive line will continue trying to make strides with next year in mind.

Six Cardinals who have started on the offensive line this year, plus expected starting center A.Q. Shipley, end the season on the injured reserve list.

The latest casualty was rookie seventh-round pick Korey Cunningham, who was placed on the IR this week with a foot injury.

Cunningham joined offensive linemen Shipley, D.J. Humphries, Justin Pugh, Mike Iupati, John Wetzel and Jeremy Vujnovich on the injured reserve list. Second-year pro and midseason pickup Will Holden is listed on Arizona’s depth chart as starting in Cunningham’s place at Seattle.

“We have a group message, a group chat for the whole O-line. There were times where I got first names, and I’m like, ‘Wait, give me your last name one more time,'” Pugh said Friday. “This has been bizarre to say the least.

“Just getting reps, getting experience, it’ll make them better,” Pugh added.

Arizona general manager Steve Keim must address the offensive line once again after decisions made this offseason turned sour quickly.

Pugh, who is signed through 2022, was one of the Cardinals’ first offseason signings after quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon. The team’s starting right guard when healthy, Pugh said he is prepared to compete to play at left or right guard as the Cardinals must reset along the line this offseason.

But he only played in seven games this year.

Right tackle Andre Smith was waived after playing in eight of the first 12 weeks, struggling to perform when he was on the field.

Iupati, the left guard who has a club option for next season, played in just 10 games.

Meanwhile, left tackle Humphries and center Shipley will be coming off injuries heading into contract seasons in 2019.

Depth players Jeremy Vujnovich and John Wetzel are restricted free agents this offseason, and the two remaining healthy veterans on the line, tackle Joe Barksdale and right guard Oday Aboushi, are unrestricted free agents after one more game.

Barksdale said he signed with the Cardinals midseason after being released from the Los Angeles Chargers with the intention of making Arizona a long-term home.

The eight-year veteran added he could play left or right tackle, wherever the team needs him, adding depth along with Humphries and Cunningham.

“I love it here. I really like the guys, the organization is really classy,” he said. “I feel like this team, I feel like the talent’s here. I know for a fact that the talent’s here. I feel like regardless of what happens in the offseason, they’ll be adding to that talent.

“I told the guys, I told them this like the second week I got here: ‘You get to write your own story at the end of the day, regardless of what anyone else says about you or how anyone else feels about you.’ How many times have you guys heard of the undrafted guys that go on to have great careers and vice versa, the guys that get drafted really high that don’t happen? I told them, at the end of the day, you’re going to move towards the most dominant thought in your mind.”

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Value of reps against Seahawks true for Cardinals’ O-line, too