Keim: Lamont Gaillard’s debut validating for Cardinals O-line depth
Part of the Arizona Cardinals’ decision against re-signing veteran center A.Q. Shipley for 2020 was about replacement Mason Cole. They felt he was ready to play and liked his athleticism in the scheme.
From a big-picture view, it was also a vote of confidence in backup Lamont Gaillard, who was banged up and didn’t play as a rookie last season because he wasn’t needed.
So when Cole went down with a hamstring injury Sunday, Gaillard stepped in to play more than half of a 24-20 win against the San Francisco 49ers.
“I haven’t played for a whole year so I knew if today was going to be my chance, I had to take full advantage of it,” Gaillard said Thursday. “When I got in, I felt good. My guys was comfortable with me, they talked to me, I talked to them and let them know we was going to keep this thing moving.”
Move the Cardinals did in the second half, scoring on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives to steal a road win from an NFC West rival.
Gaillard jumping into the lineup seamlessly against a team with a formidable defensive front was validating for Cardinals general manager Steve Keim as well.
“To play his first game, I thought he played exceptional, not only from a physical standpoint, but we all know that position requires you to play with awareness and to use your eyes and to make the Mike point and the other things a center has to do,” the GM told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf.
“I feel like on the offensive line, this is the first time in my tenure with the Cardinals that we have two deep at every position, where we can play with (Justin) Murray or we can play with Gaillard or Max Garcia. So I love our depth. All of them have experience except for Lamont, and again, I think he certainly proved his worth this past weekend.”
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray said Gaillard, a 2019 sixth-round pick, did a “great job” in place of Cole last week.
With Cole ruled out for Week 2, Gaillard’s debut performance is a good sign for Arizona’s matchup against the Washington Football Team. Washington’s defensive front had eight sacks in its Week 1 victory.
Meanwhile, Arizona’s offensive line put together a promising performance in its 2020 opener. Cardinals running backs rushed for 86 yards on 3.9 yards per carry against an athletic defensive line, and Murray took only two sacks — he was dragged down by the shirt on one scramble outside of the pocket.
Three penalties against the line, two on Justin Pugh and one on Gaillard, contributed to the team’s nine flags for 102 yards on the day. That, Pugh said, needs to be cleaned up.
“We’re going to look at how productive we were on third down, yards per carry, how efficient we were. Those things are more the markers we’re going to look at,” Pugh said.
“We had some very (un)timely penalties, two on myself, which is unacceptable, even though I didn’t think that tripping was a very good call. I think if you look back, we could have put 40 points up if we didn’t have those penalties.”