PFF: If there’s a strength for 2023 Cardinals, look to the O-line

May 28, 2023, 6:56 AM | Updated: 8:09 am

It’s not hard to scan the Arizona Cardinals’ roster at this point in time and find what’s clearly the strongest position group.

While there are questions about scheme fit and injury returns across the board for first-year head coach Jonathan Gannon, it’s the offensive line that should provide him with some sense of calm.

Pro Football Focus broke down each NFL team’s strength and weakness to give a preview of the league, and the Cardinals’ only known factor is what should be a relatively solid offensive line.

Arizona’s 71.6 pass-blocking grade in 2022 was good for 13th in the league. D.J. Humphries, Will Hernandez, Kelvin Beachum and Josh Jones all put up 75.0-plus pass-blocking grades. The Cardinals suddenly have a glut of starting-caliber tackles at their disposal. Jones and rookie Paris Johnson Jr. have some versatility, so one of them will likely slide inside. The Cardinals’ offensive line isn’t as bad as some narratives make it out to be.

There’s even enough talent on the offensive line to wonder if Arizona’s rebuild could include a trade of a tackle.

ESPN’s Mina Kimes along with Robert Mays on The Mina Kimes Show tabbed rookie first-round pick Johnson as the Cardinals’ X-factor, and that’s because the Ohio State lineman joins a group that includes three starting-caliber tackles. The podcasters wondered if the Cardinals could trade Humphries, though they don’t believe there’s a strong market for starting-caliber tackles NFL-wide.

Beachum surprisingly re-signed on the rebuilding team this offseason to join Humphries, who is coming off a back injury that ended his 2022 campaign early. With him injured, 2020 third-round choice Josh Jones got reps at left tackle and held up well.

The big questions are at center, where Rodney Hudson looks to retirement while leaving a large hole. But there’s also an opening at left guard, where current free agent Justin Pugh has not been replaced with an obvious candidate to start. Johnson, who has guard experience, could vie for that starting role. Jones also has guard reps in his back pocket on the right side.

Those along with Humphries’ availability coming off injury — he sounded on track when he joined Wolf & Luke this week on Arizona Sports — are mild questions compared to other roster issues facing the Cardinals at the moment.

Who knows which backup quarterback will have confidence in that offensive line to begin 2023? Who knows if safety Budda Baker will suit up for Arizona to start next year? And who knows if former first-round picks Zaven Collins and Isaiah Simmons are starting, playing or considered inside linebackers as they were a year ago?

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PFF: If there’s a strength for 2023 Cardinals, look to the O-line