Cardinals’ patchwork O-line rises to occasion vs. Aaron Donald, Rams

Nov 14, 2022, 7:45 PM

TEMPE — The outlook wasn’t stellar when it came down to the Arizona Cardinals offensive line in Week 10.

With Rodney Hudson and Will Hernandez joining fellow starter Justin Pugh on the injured reserve this past week, the Cardinals were hit with some serious blows along the interior. Adding to the injury woes was D.J. Humphries, who continues to deal with a back injury that has forced him to miss time.

But you don’t get a pass in the NFL for injury issues. Every team at some point or another will have their fair share of ailments. It’s how the coaching staff and backup options respond to the adversity in front of them.

Despite a quick turnaround and a Los Angeles Rams defense known for wrecking Cardinals game plans, the quartet of Lecitus Smith, Josh Jones, Rashaad Coward and Billy Price did what was needed of them in Arizona’s 27-17 victory.

“I thought they battled,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said of the full complement of linemen on Monday. “To see some of the runs that we had late in the game when we really needed it — particularly down near the end zone was big time and that’s not easy to do. (We) patchworked it together. You’ve got to give (offensive line coach Sean Kugler) and (assistant offensive line coach Brian Natkin) a lot of credit.

“The competitive spirit of that group yesterday was really impressive in going against one of the better D-lines and one of the best football players in the history of the game.”

For a player who has been an absolute thorn in the side of the Cardinals, recording 16 sacks and 30 QB hits over 18 career games against Arizona, Rams All-Pro defender Aaron Donald was held without a sack and just one QB hit on Sunday.

As a team, Los Angeles finished with two sacks and seven QB hits, a similar mark to Round 1 between the two sides. At full strength in Week 3, the Cardinals OL surrendered two sacks and five QB hits in the eventual loss.

Not too bad for a line that featured just one original Week 1 starter in Kelvin Beachum.

“I try to be the same person every single day. I try to come in and be an example as best I can,” he said. “I really didn’t change up much to be honest with you. I said a couple things more than I would say during a normal week but for the most part, the preparation stayed the same, the accountability stayed the same.

“We pushed each other, we held each other accountable. That’s a credit to the room, not so much one person, but a credit to the room.”

Aside from the line hanging tough against Donald and Co., Kingsbury’s game plan also provided some cushion for the trenches. The name of the game was getting the ball out fast while playing relatively clean football behind backup QB Colt McCoy, who started in place of the injured Kyler Murray.

Check and check.

With McCoy firing off passes at a 2.16-second rate, the Cardinals relied on short passes to move the football before turning to bullying the defense into submission with the running game.

And without the mountain of pre-snap penalties that have plagued the team for weeks on end, Arizona’s offense got out of its own way.

“I think that was just a focus deal that we’ve continued to harp on and at some point, it needed to change,” Kingsbury said. “Hopefully that was a step in the right direction, but all those guys in that group coming together, those four new linemen, for them to put that together and limit those mistakes was really impressive by them.”

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