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
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) is sacked by San Diego Chargers outside linebacker ...

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) is sacked by San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Melvin Ingram (54) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(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.”

Indeed.

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.”

Life Changer Loans
Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington (38) is hit by San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu (97), outside linebacker Melvin Ingram (54), inside linebacker Donald Butler (56) and defensive back Jimmy Wilson (27) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York) San Diego Chargers' Josh Lambo, right, prepares to kick the game-winning field goal against the Arizona Cardinals as holder Mike Scifres (5) sets the football during the second half of an NFL preseason football game Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  The Chargers won 22-19. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals training camp coach Jen Welter watches from the sideline during the second half of the team's NFL preseason football game against the San Diego Chargers on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York) San Diego Chargers' Nick Dzubnar celebrates his sack against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals' Drew Stanton (5) gets sacked by San Diego Chargers' Nick Dzubnar, left, during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals' Drew Stanton, top, grimaces as he is sacked by San Diego Chargers' Darius Philon (93) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals' David Johnson (31) gets tackled by San Diego Chargers' Lowell Rose, left, and Kavell Conner during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) leaps over San Diego Chargers defensive back Jahleel Addae (37) as Kavell Conner (53) watches during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown (12) recovers his own fumble as San Diego Chargers' Darrell Stuckey (25) and Nick Dzubnar (48) defend during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton (5) throws as San Diego Chargers linebacker Nick Dzubnar (48) pursues during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington (38) is hit by San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu (97), outside linebacker Melvin Ingram (54), inside linebacker Donald Butler and defensive back Jimmy Wilson (27) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown (12) celebrates his touchdown against the San Diego Chargers with fans during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) is sacked by San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Melvin Ingram (54) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws against the San Diego Chargers during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) San Diego Chargers quarterback Kellen Clemens looks to pass under pressure from Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown (12) celebrates his touchdown with teammate Larry Fitzgerald (11) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the San Diego Chargers, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer throws against the San Diego Chargers during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver J.J. Nelson (14) pulls in a pass as San Diego Chargers cornerback Richard Crawford (35) defends during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown (12) makes a catch as San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Melvin Ingram (54) defends during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) tries to fend off San Diego Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) San Diego Chargers running back Branden Oliver (43) scores a touchdown as Arizona Cardinals defensive back Jimmy Legree (46) defends during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton (5) throws against the San Diego Chargers during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians yells during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the San Diego Chargers, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) San Diego Chargers inside linebacker Kavell Conner (53) is tackled by Arizona Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton (5) after an interception during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Jaron Brown (13) can't hold on to a pass as San Diego Chargers' Richard Crawford, left, and Darrell Stuckey defend during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) is sacked by San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Melvin Ingram (54) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, front, talks with San Diego Chargers coach Mike McCoy prior to an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York) San Diego Chargers coach Mike McCoy talks to other coaches prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

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