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The questions of the offensive line

Posted by Darren Urban on January 4, 2012 – 10:47 am

Aside from the quarterback situation — which will always have top offseason billing unless you have an established stud in place — the spotlight would seem to fall brightest the next on the offensive line as the Cards plan for 2012.

The Cards were already going to have to figure out what to do with their starting tackles, and that was a given even before taking their performance into account. Right tackle Brandon Keith, ravaged by injuries the past two years, is an unrestricted free agent. Left tackle Levi Brown isn’t a free agent, but something will have to be done about his contract, which will slide up to a $16.9 million salary cap number in March. You figure center Lyle Sendlein and left guard Daryn Colledge are set, but do the Cards leave Rex Hadnot at right guard? Is there a chance Deuce Lutui comes back and gets that job? Or could they sign someone else?

The tackles, however, are the most important storyline. Jeremy Bridges filled in for Keith when Keith’s knee and ankle didn’t allow him to play, and  Bridges will return. Whether Bridges is a guy they want to make a full-time starter is another question. The Cards have always liked Keith’s raw potential, but he has not reached it, whether that’s because of injuries or otherwise.

Brown is the more famous question mark. The website profootballfocus.com, which studies such things, said that Brown, through 10 games, had allowed 10 sacks, five quarterback hits and 32 quarterback hurries. Over the last six games, Brown allowed one sack and eight hurries. That aligns with the thoughts of coach Ken Whisenhunt, who had noted Brown played well down the stretch. Does playing better the second half of the season create enough interest/comfort to bring Brown back? If the Cards did, might he move back to right tackle and a new left tackle found?

FootballOutsiders.com has compiled a list of “notable” free agents on offense and defense, including linemen. The tackles list is sparse: Jeff Backus, Max Starks, Vernon Carey, Sean Locklear, Stephon Heyer, Jared Gaither and Demetrius Bell. The Cards have to figure out if someone else is an upgrade (or draft a player). If Levi hits the open market, he’d probably be considered as “notable” as anyone else in this group. The Joe Thomases of the world aren’t available.


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Posted in Blog | 41 Comments »


41 Responses to “The questions of the offensive line”

  1. By Shaun Church on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    Darren,

    My thought is that it may be best to draft a left tackle at No. 13 and move Levi back to the right. We know he’s better suited for the right side, and there are some options coming out in the draft this year.

    No Joe Thomases, as you say, but how often does someone like him come around? Once per decade? (this is me pointing to Orlando Pace)

    Some believe Jonathan Martin may slip to us in the first. If he’s there, do you see that as being the best opportunity to improve the line, given that the free agent market for linemen is so feeble?

  2. By jim on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    If Brown doesnt CONSIDERABLY restructure his contract then he HAS to go. He was awful the first half of the season, and only adequate the second half. His $16.7M number could equate into two solid players. O line has to be the #1 concern. Skelton and Wells would have been even better with more consistent line play. A #2 receiver has to be the second priority.

  3. By Darren Urban on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    Shaun –

    RE: Draft

    No idea. This team has held a philosophy since Levi not to draft O-line early.

  4. By Shaun Church on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    Darren,

    At this point the right side is more in need than the left, isn’t it? Levi played well down the stretch, however Keith and Bridges were kind of a “revolving door” (to use the cliche I loathe so much).

    And Martin can start right now on the left side and be at the very least as good as Brown was the second half of the season. That, in my eyes, makes complete sense.

    I hope Whisenhunt and Graves don’t actually feel that way about drafting linemen early based on one pick five years ago.They are the ones who screwed him up in the first place; he was fine on the right side.

    Thanks

  5. By Darren Urban on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    Shaun –

    RE: L/R

    It isn’t really either/or. Levi’s contract must be dealt with, whether they like Keith or they want him to return.

  6. By Matt H on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    Any chance we’re getting one more Underground before the offseason lull Darren?

  7. By Rich on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    Try to resign Levi and move him back to RT (he was a pro bowl alternate there). Draft a left tackle with our first pick. Replace Alphonso Smith (our 3rd back) with a bigger running back who can block a bit……….ensuring that between Sherman and a 3rd back we can give the rookie left side tackle a bit of help.

  8. By MIKE G on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    Hey Darren–If they can work out something with Levi’s
    contract– I would welcome him back. He played well in the 2nd half and you just can’t keep moving him around. I think they will draft a right tackle but not real early in the draft. Maybe rounds 4 through 7. Bridges is always a good backup and spot starter. Brandon Keith is more of a question to me–he can’t have these injuries–it is hurting his growth as a player and also hurting the chemistry with the offensive line. The key is Levi’s contract and Keith’s health. Darren–Do you see the Card’s changing their philosophy in rounds 1-3 of the draft–if a stud lineman is on the board—do you take him????

  9. By kyle on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    hey darren,

    you may not know why but is levi the reason we dont take oline early, or in the case of the past two years none at all? if jonathan martin or reilly rieff was there at 13 we wouldnt take them no matter what?

  10. By Darren Urban on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    Matt H –

    RE: Underground

    http://www.azcardinals.com/photos-videos/audio/Cardinals-Underground—Season-Wrap/38772b16-44e1-43e4-af3f-f2fe9a0284cf

  11. By Darren Urban on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    Mike G –

    RE: Philosophy

    I don’t know. I would.

  12. By Darren Urban on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    Kyle –

    RE: OLine early

    I never say never. That includes taking a lineman first.

  13. By Doug on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    What about Grimm? Is his job safe? I like the guy but he’s been here for 5 years and we only have two guys on the o-line that are confirmed NFL starters in Sendlein and Colledge? And Colledge was brought in as a free agent. Russ Grimm really hasn’t done anything as far as progressing any depth. Do the Cardinals need to take some of his job tasks away and have him focus only on the o-line in getting them prepared and start building up some depth? Even in the Cardinals superbowl year, i’d say the o-line was the weak link, just Warner was fantastic in making such quick reads that it hidden the o-line as a weakness, could you imagine waht he could of done if he had some time in pass protection? It just seems that every year our line is a question mark and when does the coach become accountable for it?

  14. By Darren Urban on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    Doug –

    RE: Grimm

    As I said before, I don’t see Grimm going anywhere.

  15. By D on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    They are in a tough spot in regards to Off tackle. free agency right now doesn’t have much to offer and by 13th in the draft, the top 2-3 left tackles will probably be gone. Another problem, is some people will want them to try to trade down to add picks, which they need, but the next 3 teams in the draft have very same needs as AZ, (OLB and OL)

  16. By Chuck on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    Cut Levi Brown,Cut Brandon Keith,draft or sign a solid Left tackle and Right tackle,start Duece Latui at right gaurd,Cardinals go to playoffs in 2012-2013! Period,end of story!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. By cdubbbbb on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    The people saying Martin can step into the NFL and be, at the very least, as good as Levi are crazy. Look, the Tackle that Dallas took in.last years draft was far beyond the level of NFL ready then any Tackle in this draft besides Kalil. Even HE started on the right side. You dont just draft a guy who they list as a LT and think hes gonna automatically step into the NFL and be good. Kalil is the exception, he has the talent and experience to possibly start at LT on a team like ours IF Levi didnt come back.

  18. By cdubbbbb on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    Martin is a RT and honestly, I’m fine with bringing Levi back at a lower price to play LT, and draft Martin to hold down the RT position for the forseeable future! Cause he can be an above average RT. His strength is run blocking, not pass blocking, but going against the 2nd tier rushers on the right side, he could easily hold it down.

  19. By NJAzCardsFan on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    Darren- What is your take on the return of Todd Haley? Or any other offensive coordinator on the market?

    What do you think the needs are to have a better team for next year?

  20. By CJ on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    All I can say is that I really hope we can get a better O-Line and a better 2nd receiver. If we do both, I think we’re Super Bowl bound (or at least a definite and constant post-season threat).

    Judging from this year, we seem like we have most of the other pieces in place. Sure there could always be a little improvements but we’re mostly solid. With a great O-Line, we can really see Kolb (or Skelton when Kolb gets injured next) shine.

  21. By Peter in Canada on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    In retrospect I am really happy with last year’s draft.

    Peterson, Acho and Sherman made outstanding contributions

    Carter and Housler showed promise, I think the injuries and the presence of 2 other TE’s prevented Housler from having a better year but along with Williams he has much to contribute next year and in the future. Sampson lacked opportunity as the 3 primary wide receivers were all healthy.

    Sturdivant was the only real disappointment but was probably hampered by the short camp.
    If this year’s draft comes close to last year I will be very happy.

  22. By Rich on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    Darren,

    what is your take on Deuce. he has kept his weight down and has always been one of our best lineman. just seems once your in Whiz dog house you can’t get out. what do you think the chances are of him coming back. I have a feeling after loosing out on a lot of money last year that he will be in the best shape of his life this off season and we may miss out on keeping him here, if he is still in Whiz dog house. Thanks for always keep us fans up to date on whats going on with the Cards you do a great job.

  23. By Darren Urban on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    NJAz –

    RE: Questions

    1) As I have mentioned a few times, I wouldn’t mind seeing Haley back, but right now, there is no place for him to go and logistically, a lot of things would have to happen to make it work.
    2) They have to get more consistent QB play from someone. Offseason work better pay off. They need Ryan Williams and Beanie to be healthy. They need to straighten out the tackles on offense and add some defensive depth, like another pass rusher.

  24. By Darren Urban on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    Rich –

    RE: Deuce

    I think Deuce didn’t end up in the doghouse for no reason. I don’t know what will happen. He’ll look at the open market. I think the mere fact the Cards took him back this year after he went to Cincy says that Whisenhunt is willing to have him around. But Deuce has a weight problem, and to play for this team and this staff, he has to be serious about it. We will see when free agency starts what kind of market he generates.

  25. By Todd on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    I say keep Levi Brown and move him to RT. Darren said it correctly, there is no one in free agency considered any better than Brown at tackle so why not keep someone who already knows the system and not have to pay an arm and leg to get him? At RT, Brown is not the liability he is at LT. I say screw the Cardinals philosophy of “not drafting offensive linemen early”. That is why our offensive line has stunk since they moved to Phoenix. I would draft LT Jonathan Martin or David DeCastro G (both highly intelligent studs from Stanford) in that order if available in the first round unless a cant miss skill player is available. Then I would trade Early Doucet for a draft pick. Then I would look for a legitimate #2 big fast receiver. Juron Criner from UA was rated as a first round pick last year and because of some injuries and illnesses has dropped way down to late round pick. Pick this guy and don’t blow it like you did not drafting the last UA receiving stud I told you to draft in Gronkowski. It’s time for the Cardinals to start drafting local talent from UA and ASU to draw fans. I would draft more intelligent offensive linemen with good footwork and rebuild our weak line. We need another tough inside linebacker and a bruising runner to go alongside Beanie and hopefully Williams and Hyphen. Use FA to get depth on defense like Pitt does. Don’t go after marquee players, just solid depth. Another Paris Lenon type. Then we get Ryan Williams and Toler back healthy and this team is better than the Cardinals Superbowl team of a few years ago.

  26. By drummer-1 on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    @ Chuck

    Cut Levi and Cut Keith, add a solid left and right Tackle, sounds easy huh, don’t you think they thought they had a that in Levi? So tell us who’s out there that is a can’t miss left and right tackle.

    Darren you need stop this thread because Chuck said end of story, so nothing else need to be said..

  27. By AndHeSansSupper on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    Wasn’t Max Starks in contact with the Cards this offseason when he was cut by the Steelers?
    He could take Porter’s place in Whiz’s Steeler-based Witless Protection Program.

  28. By Scott H on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    I say this – attack the O-line needs in the draft. Not that we’re stocked and loaded everywhere else. but…significant improvement on the O-line makes everybody else on that side of the ball better. We NEED to be better next year up front, period. Not opposed to landing a FA but only if it is a clear up-grade over what we have. Again, I say come out of the draft with at least 2, maybe even 3, guys who look like they could push to be starters right from the beginning.

  29. By Javi on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    darren i believe you waive off brown and you draft jon martin

    agreed?

  30. By Chuck 1 on Jan 4, 2012 | Reply

    THIS JUST IN: BREAKING NEWS!!!

    Rumors abound that General Manager Rod Graves is negotiating a trade with the Indianapolis Colts to give them the Cards 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th round draft picks in order to move up to draft Doug Papy, senior QB of the Fordham Rams. Although Papy didn’t play much in 2011, Graves and Coach Whisenhunt believe that he shows great potential.

    It is rumored that GM Graves said: “There are those who believe that we need to bolster our Offensive Line. However, those linemen played very well toward the end of the season, so we believe that we need help elsewhere.”

  31. By attyedb on Jan 5, 2012 | Reply

    Great article

  32. By Peter in Canada on Jan 5, 2012 | Reply

    @drummer-1

    You are so right. It’s the easiest thing in the world to tear things down. Rebuilding and making it better given constraints such as player availability, competition for those players, and salary caps is far more difficult. I think picking up one tackle is enough if we can keep Levi without over paying.

    On another note Sherman had his first carry on Sunday. On a third and short he made the first down. I feel he has far more potential than being just a blocking machine. Darren, do you see him playing a bigger role in the offence next season?

  33. By Darren Urban on Jan 5, 2012 | Reply

    Javi –

    RE: OLine move

    I can’t say I know enough about Martin. I think right now Brown’s time could be done, but you have to have a backup plan.

  34. By Darren Urban on Jan 5, 2012 | Reply

    Peter in Canada –

    RE: Sherman role

    As in, do I think he gets 20 carries? I don’t know about that. I think he’ll continue to be a once-in-a-while guy.

  35. By Eric on Jan 5, 2012 | Reply

    @Todd

    Great points, and I am right on board with you. If Levi is, and always has been better at RT, PLAY HIM THERE! I am actually pretty pleased with our interior line and really hope Lutui has figured something out, because I have always loved his play.

    I also have never understood why we miss on local talent, aside from Tillman and Plummer, we have missed the mark on that one.

    Gronkowski clearly was a huge miss, as we have been struggling at bringing in a stud TE for a long time. Suggs is another stud we missed on, and he actually WANTED TO COME HERE! Now I am not sure Vontase Burfict would be a smart choice, as he has had issues beyond the field, ut there are other player to be had, perhaps in the later rounds, but it would be a smart thing for the Cards to show a little more commitment to ASU and UA, and they do both have some good to decent players.

  36. By Jroll on Jan 5, 2012 | Reply

    Darren,

    What is the status of Grimm’s contract? I believe it up. Hopefully he returns because I feel he has done a good job with the peices he has to work with and collaborates well with Coach Whiz.. Also, he seems to be very popular in he locker room with the players and other coaches. Just an outsider’s perspective. . .

  37. By Darren Urban on Jan 5, 2012 | Reply

    Jroll –

    RE: Grimm contract

    I’m not sure where that stands right now.

  38. By cards62 on Jan 5, 2012 | Reply

    Offensive line. Fans I think we need to hire a consultant as our offensive lines have been so bad for so many years and we just can not seem to draft the right players, and when we do we do not seem to play them at their right positions. I think if we want to be an elite team for several years we have to get better on the OL.

    I ask Darren to name me the last Cardinal Offensive Lineman that was drafted by the Cardinals and played in the pro bowl. Darren tried but he incorrectly gave me the answer Lomas Brown. Lomas was actually drafted by the Lions and played for them many years. We did draft Leonard Davis, 2nd player taken in 2001 draft and we even tried him at guard but we thought he was a tackle and let him go as he was not a great tackle. Dallas makes him a guard and he is a pro bowler.

    So my question to Cardinal Fans is the same who was the last lineman we drafted to make it to the pro bowl? I think it was Luis Sharpe, T from UCLA, first rounder 16th overall, and I hope the guy picking that year is still alive to consult as he also took Tootie Robbins in the 4th round who played with us for about 10 years.
    By the way the year was 1981 a very long long time ago.

    Hopefully I am wrong and someone can correct me, but my point is that we as an organization have been very poor for decades selecting and developing offensive linemen, and during this same time we played very poorly as a team. I think there is a correlation there, but just my opinion.

    Some names for you
    2006 Duece Lutui 2nd round
    2005 Elton Brown 4th round
    2004 Alex Step. OSU 4th round
    2001 Leonard Davis 1st round # 2 overall
    1999 LJ Shelton 1st round # 21 overall
    1998 Anthony Clement 2nd round # 36 overall
    xxxx Chris Dishman 4th round
    xxxx Aaron Graham 4th round
    1992 Earnest Dye 1st round
    1992 Ben Coleman 2nd round
    1991 Ed Cunningham 3rd round
    1991 Jeff Christy 4th round
    1988 Joe Wolfe 1st round

    I loved the Superbowl run, Fitz, Warner and oppenents turnovers, but our best records were the mid 70s when we had a great offensive line, and we were an elite team for 3 straight years with a very poor defense if memory serves me right.

    My two cents improve our line, but hire a consultant or new coach as I do not think we have anybody in house with the expertise to judge or develop the talent. I hope I am wrong, but history makes a strong case for me.

    Go Cards and Go Rod Graves as you are on the clock.

  39. By Mike Ellingboe on Jan 6, 2012 | Reply

    Obviously Levi needs to redo/restructure his current deal, but if he is what is the urgency to put him back at RT/cut him? It took five years to get to this level, but 1 sack in the last six games, with the offense we run and the inexperience of the QB’s running it is a very impressive stat. Plus, unlike most LT’s he’s a very good run blocker. You all saw Darren’s list of available FA’s, underwhelming to say the least, so that leaves three potential LT’s in the draft that are graded out as first rounders. Matt Kalil won’t get out of the top five, may not even make it past #2, so we can count him out. Riley Reiff has been projected as a top 10, hopefully he slips but I doubt it. Martin may get to #13, emphasis on may, but even so didn’t anyone see the USC game? Granted, he’s a great looking prospect but I wouldn’t bank on him being a lock down LT, ala Boselli, Ogden, Thomas, etc., right from the opening snap of his rookie year. Right now, we have an effective LT on the roster without a realistic upgrade in sight. I know it’s fashionable to rip on Levi, Grimm, and the OL in general but outside of Fitz they’re not blocking for a group of HOF’s.

    Take page from last year’s draft, go with the best guy available and improve the quality of player on the roster across the board.

  40. By David on Feb 21, 2012 | Reply

    I agree with Chuck, we need a good LT & RT, Keep Deuce, he is a excellent right guard with his weight in control and seems to bring out the good out of others around him

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