GLENDALE, Ariz. – Good chemistry is key, especially along an offensive line.
Here in 2016, the Arizona Cardinals boast one of the better lines in their history, if not ever. Of course, right now, that’s all on paper.
Sure, the talent is there, but how will they work together? It’s one of the bigger questions of training camp and preseason.
“I get asked that question every single year. It’s important. Chemistry is important,” right guard Evan Mathis said. “We put so much work in, so much time together that our mentality is to get better every single day. So, from day one to two, we already had plenty of growth in that aspect, and we’ll continue to do that. As we put the pads on, learning how to fight the double teams, getting used to how each communicates and plays will just continue to evolve.”
Mathis is one of three new projected starters on an offensive line that anchored the NFL’s No. 1 offense a year ago. He joins center A.Q. Shipley and right tackle D.J. Humphries in replacing Ted Larsen, Lyle Sendlein and Bobby Massie. Larsen and Massie both signed with Chicago as unrestricted free agents. Sendlein, meanwhile, remains on the market.
The three new additions represent the biggest turnover of any Arizona position group, offense or defense.
“Nobody starts the same five. I can’t remember the last time in 13 years that we started the same five guys, so every year it’s the same challenge,” offensive coordinator and line coach Harold Goodwin said. “This is the time that the chemistry gets started, the communication gets started and seeing who’s tough enough gets started. I’m excited. I think we’ve got a good group right now on paper but we’ll see what happens moving forward.”
Mike Iupati and Jared Veldheer, both entering their seventh seasons, are the lone holdovers from last season. Iupati, the right guard, earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors in his first year in Arizona while Veldheer, the left tackle, has started every game since joining the Cardinals in 2014.
Neither sounded too concerned about the makeover the offensive line received.
“Because I know they’re really good players,” Iupati said. “Evan is coming from a winning team and D.J. is doing a hell of a job and then A.Q. is A.Q. He’s a dog. He’s a down and dirty-type of guy. He fights. He competes.”
Added Veldheer about the offensive line chemistry: “It takes a good amount of reps, and that’s what this training camp is for and the OTAs in the spring. Everything is going well so far. I mean, this group is jelling really nicely. It’s nice when you start getting in those preseason games, and then you’re ready to roll by the first week of the regular season.”
The Cardinals’ new-look offensive line debuts Friday against the Oakland Raiders.
Four of the five linemen have starting experience. Mathis, a two-time Super Bowl champion, leads the way with 90 starts in his 12-year career. Iupati has started 88 games, Veldheer 80 and Shipley 20.
All eyes will be on Humphries, the Cardinals 2015 first-round pick who spent his entire rookie season on the inactive list.
“He’s not a starter yet. He’s a participant and hopefully, he becomes a starter,” Goodwin said. “Jared gets respect, Evan gets respect, Mike gets respect, A.Q. gets respect. In the situation like D.J., you got to earn that respect. Obviously, being a first-round pick that didn’t even touch the grass or even dress on gameday, he’s still a rookie in my eyes. He’s yet to prove himself. He has gotten a lot better.”
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