When the Arizona Cardinals open their season against the New England Patriots on Sept. 11, their offensive line will have a much different look than it did at the end of last season.
Gone are right tackle Bobby Massie, guards Jonathan Cooper and Ted Larsen, and center Lyle Sendlein.
Sixty-percent of the offensive line is projected to be different, with left tackle Jared Veldheer and left guard Mike Iupati as the only holdovers from a group that paved the way for the NFL’s eighth-best rushing offense and No. 1 offense overall.
The Cardinals signed veteran Evan Mathis to play right guard, which means just two spots — right tackle and center — are currently up for grabs. The favorites for those roles are D.J. Humphries and A.Q. Shipley, respectively, but the rest of the offseason and then training camp will be about determining who is best for each job.
“As you look at it, let’s be honest with ourselves, from a money situation certain people don’t get moved, and from there you go,” Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said, referring to Veldheer, Iupati and Mathis. “Right now it’s still open competition; D.J.’s in open competition, A.Q. is in open competition.
“I think we’re pretty set — unless something happens — between now and fall practice, that Jared, you’ve got Mike, you’ve got Evan who are having great springs so far, should be there.”
Goodwin went on the praise the work being put in by young linemen Antoine McClain, Taylor Boggs and Evan Boehm, the last of whom is competing with Shipley to be the starting center.
“At the end of the day we’re going to need seven bodies,” he said. “Right now I have a pretty good clue who five are, but I don’t know who six and seven are going to be. So competition’s wide open, and we’ll see what happens.”
Goodwin, who is in his fourth season with the Cardinals, added that the battles will truly be won during training camp when the pads are on because “everybody looks good in shorts.”
Still, he is evidently high on a handful of his linemen, including Humphries. A second-year pro who was not active for a single game last season, Humphries is currently slotted to be the team’s starting right tackle in Week 1. It’s a far cry from where he was last season, when Humphries went from being a first-round pick to almost an afterthought.
“I think one of the things that people get caught up in and forget about D.J. is when he was drafted, he was a young kid, came out of a program that was a spread offense; let’s be honest, he was a little immature, and he’s grown up a lot between B.A. calling him ‘Knee Deep’ and other things — and myself doing the same thing,” Goodwin said. “And just sitting on the bench; when you’re a competitor and you sit on the bench for a year, you don’t dress and you don’t really participate other than practice, it hurts a little bit.
“And I think he’s a little bit more focused. He’s matured a whole bunch — I don’t think he’s quite there — but it’s night and day as far as last year being on the grass and this year. I’m not worried about D.J. from a physicality standpoint or a knowledge standpoint, and I just want to make sure he’s prepared and I think he’s going to be OK by the time the season starts.”
Should Humphries not be ready, or if the need for someone else to step in for one of the other projected starters arises, one option to fill the role would be Earl Watford. A fourth-year pro, he started the first two games last season at right tackle while Bobby Massie was serving a suspension and has seen time all across the offensive line this offseason.
“Earl’s like my Swiss Army knife,” Goodwin said. “Earl’s played tackle, he’s played guard, he’s played center, and he’s done well at all those positions. Right now Earl’s got probably a leg up just because he can do everything. He’s played in a game at right tackle, he’s played in a game at guard. Never played in a game at left tackle but he’s done really well at center — kind of shocked me a little bit — he’s done well as far as ID’ing the front making the calls and getting the ball up to Carson.
“He’s matured a whole bunch too, so the more you can do in this league the better chance you’ve got of sticking on a roster.”
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