Sando: Veldheer Cardinals’ most important non-QB player

Oct 15, 2015, 12:35 PM

Arizona Cardinals tackle Jared Veldheer (68) during an NFL football game against the New Orleans Sa...

Arizona Cardinals tackle Jared Veldheer (68) during an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

As Carson Palmer goes, so do the Arizona Cardinals.

That fact is pretty much universally accepted, especially after last season in which the team went 6-0 in games he started and just 5-5 in the matchups he did not.

This season, the veteran QB is off to an incredible start, completing 64.9 percent of his passes for 1,316 yards and an NFL-best 13 touchdowns against just three interceptions. Not surprisingly, the Cardinals are 4-1 and have the look of one of the NFL’s real contenders.

If, of course, Palmer can stay healthy, which he didn’t do last season.

It is that very reason why ESPN’s Mike Sando, in an Insider piece presenting the 10 most valuable non-QB players on contending teams, chose left tackle Jared Veldheer as the Cardinals’ representative.

Deone Bucannon was a sleeper consideration given all he does in the Cardinals’ defense. But keeping Carson Palmer healthy is the No. 1 priority for Arizona this season, and no player other than the quarterback himself figures into that equation more prominently than the Cardinals’ current left tackle. Veldheer has not been at his best so far this season, but his addition before the 2014 season solved one of Arizona’s most gnawing problems (so well, in fact, that Veldheer is increasingly taken for granted). Losing Veldheer would destabilize the line and complicate life for Palmer, left guard Mike Iupati and the offense in general.

If keeping Palmer upright and healthy is the most important thing the Cardinals can do this season, then there probably is not a single player on the roster who carries more responsibility than the left tackle. That’s why the Cardinals pried the 6-foot-8, 321-pound lineman away from the Oakland Raiders last year with a five-year, $35 million contract, and it’s why you are not likely to find many fans who disagree with Sando’s selection.

Should Veldheer get hurt and miss time, the options on the roster to replace him would be Earl Watford, who began the season as the team’s starting right tackle, veteran Bradley Sowell and rookie D.J. Humphries.


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Sando: Veldheer Cardinals’ most important non-QB player