Cardinals have their guard(s) up

Posted by Darren Urban on October 20, 2016 – 9:43 am

It was not good when both Evan Mathis and Mike Iupati got hurt in the same game, something that could have crippled the Cardinals’ offensive line. But perhaps it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened.

Earl Watford slid in to Mathis’ spot — the spot that, in theory, Watford was drafted to play back in 2013, bookending with hopeful future left guard Jonathan Cooper. John Wetzel, a tackle by trade, filled in nicely for a game-and-a-half for the hobbled Iupati. All the Cardinals did in those two games was dominate in the running game.

Bruce Arians gave the entire offensive line (and running back David Johnson) game balls for the 171 rushing yards against the Jets.

Iupati should be back this week, sending Wetzel back to the bench. But if there is another injury at some point, the Cardinals have to be much more comfortable if Wetzel has to come in and play guard. Thinking long-term, however, the Cards may have some options beyond 2016. Iupati will still be around, but Mathis’ career is likely over, his one season in Arizona never really getting going because of multiple injuries. Watford is going to be an unrestricted free agent. Maybe he is brought back, the man to replace Mathis in 2017. If not, perhaps Wetzel is a candidate to fill in on the line, another big lineman who has really come out of nowhere to be a viable possibility.


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12 Responses to “Cardinals have their guard(s) up”

  1. By Joe C. on Oct 20, 2016 | Reply

    I love offensive line talk. Humphries, Watford, Toner, and Boehm would make a nice foundation to build around while Iupati and Veldheer age. Darren, jumping to replay, can you run this by Goodell et al? How about you give each coach three challenges per half and he can use them anyway he wants. Unlimited. But he has to be specific. Like Sherman’s PI, he can only challenge the PI at the end of the play. Refs can still say mutual combat so we didn’t call it. But they could throw for a blatant holind on a long pass but they have to call the offensive and defensive player (at least their rusher they say was held). Maybe give them two per half and let them keep one unused one from the first half to carry ino the second so they have three. Whether failed count as timeouts and scores and turnovers are automatic is up for debate. But this would allow any blatant miss by the refs to be challenged and would really limit it to one in the first half so the game would slow down.

  2. By TLT on Oct 20, 2016 | Reply

    Cards have luxury of having very big, strong OL with very quick feet.Those quick feet why no one talking oobut our C, moves his feet, getting job done.
    Mathis was huge plus even if 1/4 season, his presence made this jelling of OL happen.
    Warren Moon this a.m. keen observes:
    Seattle has short, but strong G C G interior line, allowing pocket to not collapse from middle & allowing Wilson to throw over their heads/see the field (they get back rookie RG this week he says is a beast). Thought Seattle would try to establish run, early and often on SNF. Said limited tape, but thought C. Palmer was not setting up, throwing off back heel on some 2nd and third checkdown options, and was missing some throws bc of those physical breakdowns.
    Me: feeling like Cards continue to run downhill on Seahags, + Upati back and Wetzle now ready,known option.

  3. By D on Oct 20, 2016 | Reply

    This game should be a good old fashion “snot knocker” of a defensive game.
    The AZ Dline should be able to whip that Oline, especially Mr. Sowell, who is a nice guy, but probably a better golfer than Off Tackle.

    R. Sherman didn’t give DJ any respect in his press conference this week, not that we would expect it. I do believe DJ won’t be able to run free in the SeaChicken secondary due to the fact they have speed, but I would love to see DJ run over Chancellor. I may have to go to the game because I hate how often the TV networks have to show Carroll prancing and making faces on the sidelines which we can do without…

    With No M. Lynch this time around and the fact Seattle is throwing more, I expect to see D. Bucannon glued to J. Graham. What I don’t want to see is our Rushers running up field while Russell runs past them…can’t wait for this one..

  4. By texascard on Oct 20, 2016 | Reply

    It’s funny. When I said all offseason “run the ball” it was a thumbs down on deck. When I said we have the olinemen to push forward in was thumb down city. When I said d Johnson would be offensive MVP the clown turned their thumbs down. When I said 44 would be d MVP the thumbs were pulled out of their spot only to be turned down. Haha. Now they are the toast of the town. I guess it’s time for more thumbs down. (Maybe dj nickname can be thumb down Johnson)

  5. By Big Ken on Oct 20, 2016 | Reply

    The ‘Big W’s’.

  6. By rznbrand on Oct 20, 2016 | Reply

    When we begun the pre-season, I (along with thousands of fans) had no idea that Wetzel was this good. He made me look stupid, I said last week that our offense would be weak this last week. I think if Wetzel can prove himself, we won’t have to draft an offensive lineman next year. I think the Cardinals let Watford and Mathis walk this offseason. It would still be consistent to believe the Cardinals might keep AQ Shipley on for how well he’s played.

    LT – Jared Veldheer
    LG – Mike Iupati
    C – AQ Shipley
    RG – Wetzel
    RT – Humphries

  7. By mitchaz on Oct 20, 2016 | Reply

    The Seahawks do a masterful job of covering up their weaknesses with superb coaching. It all starts with their offensive line, which is makeshift, talent-wise, at best. Yet, Tom Cable has them playing at a very productive level. Who would have ever thought, for example, that Bradley Sowell could be a good, solid LT? Yet, last week he dominated Brooks Reed in the run game and fended off Dwight Freeney very pass pro (0 sacks). The coaches didn’t even have to give him chip help.

    On defense, they have speed, they are physical up front in a 4 man line and they try to intimidate opponents.

    They are very good on special teams. Their kicking game has been excellent for years.

    Russell Wilson, aka “The Closer”, is one of the top 3 QBs in the league at pulling out wins in close contests, and when healthy he is like trying to tackle a squirrel..

    They are not especially deep…but their guys play hurt, like Wilson, Bennett and Chancellor (if at all ready) will do this week. In today’s NFL it sure is a bonus if your QB is mobile—that puts enormous pressure on defenses and it changes coverages.

    Their personnel philosophy, imo, is right up there with the Patriots’. They set trends, such as making long, tough CBs the rage and such as drafting speed LBers who never have to come off the field because they can tackle and cover.

    Better yet, they play the best zone defense in the NFL because of the quickness of their LBers and the cagy, tough play at CB and S. And because they play zones, they don’t have to worry as much about defensing scrambling QBs, because they do not vacate areas of the field.

    Some are saying they are under-rated…but, they have Pro Bowl quality players in QB Wilson, TE Graham, WR Baldwin, DE Bennett, DE Avril, LB Wagner, LB Wright, CB Sherman, SS Chancellor, FS Thomas, P Ryan and K Hauschka.

    The Cardinals have to win the battles up front—on offense they have to get blocks on Wagner, Chancellor and Wright, which they failed to do in Weeks 17 and in the NFC Championship Game versus SEA and CAR (Keuchly, Davis and Thompson) respectively. What makes that task more difficult is the lack of a FB who can iso on Wagner. You have to block straight at Wagner, he’s too quick to try to block him from an outside angle.

    Versus their zone coverage, the Cardinals need to stretch the zones, as ATL did in the second half, by running WRs into the seams and TEs and RBs out to the boundaries. If they can suck Earl Thomas up, that’s when they can pass over the top…which Floyd has done very successfully versus them.

    On defense, the Cardinals have to spy on Wilson and stay completely disciplined in their rush lanes (which they did last week versus the NYJ—perhaps in preparation?). Not sure if Wilson (left knee) will run the read option that he has consistently exploited the Cardinals with…but they have to be prepared for it. If the DE bites inside like they did versus BUF, they will give up big chunk yards and big momentum swings.

    Defending Graham and Baldwin on crossing routes and rub/pick plays will be a significant challenge…hopefully the pass rushers will keep their hands up and ready to make deflections, which is what can get Wilson in trouble because of his lack of height.

    If the discipline and patience from the 28-3 win carried over, the Cardinals have a very good chance to turn the tables on SEA at home, which would feel extra sweet in light of ht last three home drubbings.

  8. By shannon robinson on Oct 21, 2016 | Reply

    I flew up to Seattle this last weekend to see the Seasox play Atlanta. I gained a lot of respect for Matt Ryan and his willingness to go deep and across the middle. The Seasox defense is for real and the strength of their team in the clutch. Their secondary can be fooled and there’s arrogance bumping heads in that group. The pass interference on the last pass from Ryan looked like AJ dropped the ball but it was ‘funny looking’ – then on replay you see Sherman pinned his arm and he had to catch it one handed. I’ll tell you this : Seattle can’t run the ball effectively, they don’t throw deep, Wilson is still limited as a runner and maybe his follow through as well throwing the ball. Yes, sad to say, Mr. Sowell is vulnerable. We better protect Palmer because they can rush the passer. Side note, saw two gentlemen with “Alcohol Investigators” on their jackets remove a man who was harassing a couple of Falcon fans. They showed up with two other stadium seating personnel and a sheriff. He was gone fast and held a season ticket. Really good seats and we stood up most of the time. That stadium is built like a giant speaker. What a great NFL game!

  9. By John The Draft Guy on Oct 21, 2016 | Reply

    Here is my take on the OLine;

    Watford, Wetzel come in as replacements and we begin to run the ball a whole lot more. Why? I have two theories.

    1. Lineman since the first time they step on the field are taught to drive block. At younger ages, heck, and many HS and Colleges, you will see much more running. They get to attack the defense. This is second nature to them.

    You need experience vets to handle the blitzes and twist in the passing game. Plus, the big money goes to those who get the sacks, so the players on defense work on this craft more. A rookie, a young guy or even a 4 year vet who struggles with pass protection can easily adapt to drive block the 3rd guy on the line. They understand combo blocks or pulling or sealing the edge. Running the ball gives them success by doing something that is physical, easy to understand, and something in there DNA.

    2. Palmer has taken a beating this year and very subtly, it has been explained that the plays have options in them that Palmer changes at the line. I think it was Palmer, who took the option to throw the ball deep. Now, with young guards, he and I am sure Arians, have thought it would be best to use the run option much more. He threw quick hitters to WRs for 5-6 yards on signals he gives. But, he has stuck with the run plays much more probably to save his life.

    I think it will be interesting to see what Palmer does when Kam comes up into the box. Will he run it into an 8 man front or check out and take a shot. Does he have the confidence to stand in there and hit a chunk play if the seahawks challenge the run?

    The seahawks are going to sit on those shorter routes and play the box to stop the run. Frankly, the deep ball has always been there against seattle, it is just a matter of getting the time to throw it. Monday, it will be interesting how card fans feel about the line, whether they were awesome or not.

  10. By John The Draft Guy on Oct 21, 2016 | Reply

    More related to your article;

    Can you honestly say Iupati is one of the best lineman in the year anymore?
    I am just asking because Iupati goes from a cap number of 4.25 million this year to 9.7 million next year. At 30 years old, which isn’t the same as a RB, but he isn’t the same Pro bowler he was in SF.

    To give you idea,if you combine what Iupati and Mathis cap hit this year, it is close to what Iupati will make next year. So, a lower price guard must step up next year at RG. If Watford finishes out this year playing well, what is his worth? Isn’t it great that Watford starts playing better in a contract year?

    So the question is, do you play it cheap with Wetzel, Do you sign Watford to a contract, even though he has just started to play well in 2016 (his 4th year), or do you invest in a proven, younger stud guard, like Kevin Zietler, and release Iupati in 2018 when he has a lower dead money hit, Or do you just draft another guard?

    When thinking about this, remember, Both Floyd and Jaron Brown are FAs. Chandler Jones, Tony Jefferson, Marcus Cooper and Calais Campbell are as well. Minter, Rucker, Ellington, Swearinger, Okafor, Gresham,Shipley and Chris Johnson are too. That is a lot of starters.

    I think you will have to go Wetzel in 2017 and draft a guard and replace Iupati in 2018.

  11. By mitchaz on Oct 21, 2016 | Reply

    John TDG—

    Good post.

    What was impressive about Wetzel, Shipley and Watford is that Todd Bowles, who is a master of run blitzes, was testing the interior of the Cardinals’ line by having Sheldon Richardson in a 2 point stance (as an ILB) storm the A and B gaps—which was bound to cause confusion—which initially it did—but the coaches and Shipley made adjustments and by the 3rd quarter, they were able to get excellent drive and seal blocks on both the first and second levels (depending on the alignment).

    You make a great point about what to do when Chancellor loads up in the box—clearly, Carson Palmer needs to take advantage of that by passing to his TEs or the RB out of the backfield—

    But, the other bread and butter Pete Carroll scheme they have to be ready for is the weak-side blitz by the OLB or slot CB. They figure that teams will check out of a run to a passing play when they load the box—so that’s when they like to come fast from the weak side unabated to the QB.

    The counter play BA ran for Johnson’s long TD is made to order against their loaded box (strong side) and weak side edge blitz. So is a slip screen where the RB lines up to the strong side and slips across the formation to the weak side.

  12. By CARDS62 on Oct 24, 2016 | Reply


    Iupati was my favorite addition to our team the season we picked him up in free agency and I applaud the front office for getting him as our o lines had and have been so poor for many years, but I have never been impressed with him since he has worn Cardinal Red. Sometimes there is just not enough money to sign all of the guys you want to sign, but I think this time the 49ers knew they had a declining player. I would definitely cut him after this season. Just not worth the money.

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