Arizona Cardinals’ offensive line struggles to protect the quarterbacks in loss to San Diego Chargers
Aug 23, 2015, 1:35 AM | Updated: Aug 24, 2015, 10:42 am
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The first-team offensive line the Arizona Cardinals sent to the field Saturday night against the San Diego Chargers was not the one they had last week against Kansas City.
It also was not the one the team began training camp with, nor the one they were hoping to have on the field for Week 1 of the 2015 season.
However, a suspension to right tackle Bobby Massie and a meniscus injury suffered by left guard Mike Iupati forced the team to shuffle things up a bit, inserting Bradley Sowell in Massie’s spot and Ted Larsen in Iupati’s.
The result, at least, Saturday, was uneven.
The run blocking, actually, was pretty solid, with David Johnson finding enough room to gain 66 yards on 13 carries.
Protecting the quarterback, however, was a different story.
Arizona’s Carson Palmer was pushed to the ground on his first pass attempt and sacked on his third and fourth. His backup, Drew Stanton, was brought down four times, including on consecutive plays late in the second quarter. In all, Cardinals QBs were sacked six times, which is a high number for a team that is placing a premium on keeping its passers upright.
“We had a couple busted assignments and it turned guys free on the quarterbacks,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “We obviously can’t have that.”
Given how things went for the team last season, when both Palmer and Stanton suffered serious injuries, the very idea of the team’s quarterbacks getting touched by a defender is enough to make anyone a bit queasy.
Saturday’s struggles were a group effort, one that saw both Sowell and left tackle Jared Veldheer beaten for sacks.
Incidentally, Palmer said he enjoyed getting hit.
“I did, I did,” he said. “It’s just good to get those out of the way and get your body acclimated; like I said last week, wanting to start getting that soreness, get your body used to that soreness and I did.”
It was certainly a far cry from last week, when Palmer wasn’t so much as breathed on in any of his four pass attempts (all of which were completions). And while the QB may have been fine with getting roughed up a bit, seeing him on the ground is something the offensive line took offense to.
“No matter who is back there at quarterback you take it personally as an offensive lineman that you want to get the job right and keep him upright and run the ball,” guard Jonathan Cooper said. “We do take that personal and then we took it really personally and tried to fix it.”
It wasn’t just the first-team line that struggled. Right tackle D.J. Humphries, the team’s first-round pick and second-team right tackle, also had issues, with Arians saying he displayed, “bad technique and bad effort” in getting outfought when he gave up a sack of Stanton.
But when people look at the game, they will mostly focus on the first-team and its inability to keep Palmer clean.
The good news for them is that after a slow start, they seemed to find their groove.
“I think early on we knew what they were going to do, we knew they were going to twist a lot,” center A.Q. Shipley said. “It’s a staple of a (John) Pagano defense. That’s what they did. They were stemming, they were twisting, blitzing, doing all kinds of crazy things.
“Once we got settled down, figured things out, we were good.”
Cooper felt the same, saying there are a lot of moving parts to the Chargers’ defense and it took a minute for everyone to get on the same page with how to counter it.
But while the team had to adjust to the Chargers, one area the players will not point to as needing to work through is working with new teammates along the line. Cooper said that would be a crutch or an excuse because every member of the line has plenty of reps together, and as Shipley noted, preseason is here for everyone to get on the same page.
And while it wasn’t necessarily pretty Saturday night, Palmer and Stanton got hit and then got back up. So in a way, no harm, no foul, even if there is plenty to work on.
“At the end of the day, football’s football,” Shipley said. “There’s going to be hits, there’s going to be blitzes, there’s going to be things that screw you up a little bit and mix things up on defense, but our job is to keep 3 clean and we’ve got to do a better job of that.”