Cardinals’ offensive line struggles persist in loss to Falcons

Nov 28, 2016, 5:50 PM
Carson Palmer attempts to escape the pass rush in the Cardinals' loss to the Falcons. (Associated P...
Carson Palmer attempts to escape the pass rush in the Cardinals' loss to the Falcons. (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)
LISTEN: Bruce Arians, Cardinals head coach

The Arizona Cardinals fell to 4-6-1 with their 38-19 loss against the Atlanta Falcons (7-4) on Sunday, and a reshuffled offensive line showed a mixed bag in terms of production.

The Cardinals were forced to go to their backups after injuries to left tackle Jared Veldheer and right guard Earl Watford. Offensive lineman Ulrick John made his first career start on Sunday as right tackle D.J. Humphries moved to left tackle, but it was a start that he’ll want to forget.

John made Pro Football Focus’ worst players of the week at No. 9.

There is a dearth of quality starting tackles in today’s NFL, so when you are forced to go to the bullpen, things typically get pretty ugly pretty quickly. Arizona started John at right tackle against the Falcons and he made Vic Beasley look like Reggie White. John allowed a sack, a hit and seven hurries over the course of 51 pass-blocking snaps, putting Carson Palmer under pressure nine times, or more than half of the total snaps he was pressured in the game.

While John struggled at right tackle, Humphries held his own moving to make his first start at left tackle to replace John Wetzel, who shifted to right guard in Watford’s spot. PFF gave Humphries the fifth-best offensive grade for the Cardinals in the loss to Atlanta.

The Cardinals made some changes up front to try and better protect their quarterback, with mixed results. D.J. Humphries held his own in his first start at left tackle for the most part, but had some late trouble with Dwight Freeney.

Cardinals’ coach Bruce Arians was proud of his offensive line’s performance through three quarters. He put much of the blame on stamina, which only got worse as Arizona fell behind and went with pass-heavy drives in the fourth quarter.

“I thought for three quarters they were very, very good for their first start out,” Arians said. “D.J. (Humphries) played extremely well. I think both the right side guys, (Ulrick) John – that’s probably the first time John has played a game since Georgia State – I thought they got tired. I thought Ulrick got tired and John Wetzel got tired and it showed up out there, so we have to do something about that.”

Wetzel was responsible for three hits and three hurries in pass protection, and finished with a team-worst 40.9 run-blocking grade.

Before the Cardinals fell behind and went heavily to pass protection, the offensive line showed promise by helping Arizona to its first game-opening drive for a score this season. In the run game, running back David Johnson recorded 58 yards on the ground.

PFF’s ranked Johnson in its top players of Week 12, who was ranked at No. 10.

Although the offensive line issues haven’t been alleviated, the line has helped Johnson thrive this season, and the reshuffled look will look for improvements next week.

Arians said that he would stick with the same lineup against Washington Redskins.

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