It is no secret that last year the Cardinals offensive line struggled. In fact, many would say that the Cardinals had the worst offensive line in the entire NFL last season. Steve Keim and the rest of the organization hope they have solved that problem this offseason.
Offensive line woes are not new to the Cardinals. The line has been a problem really since the Cardinals came to Arizona, meaning it has been a problem that has plagued them for years. A lot of that seemingly had to do with former general manager Rod Graves’ unwillingness to put stock into the offensive line. However, the Cardinals went out this season, and really for the first time in years, seriously addressed their hole. The Cardinals signed Chilo Rachal in free agency, as well as drafting Jonathan Cooper and Earl Watford to sure up the interior of the offensive line. Add that to Levi Brown and Lyle Sendlein returning from injury, and there is all of a sudden some solid depth on the offensive line.
With the depth on the line that I just mentioned, it begs the question “who should start on the line for Bruce Arians?” Arians and Keim have come out multiple times and said that the five best players will play. So, who are those five best players? Here is a breakdown of the possible starters at every position along the offensive line.
Brown was re-signed last offseason to be the starter at left tackle. After suffering a season-ending injury in the preseason, D’Anthony Batiste was inserted at left tackle. After struggling mightily, Batiste was benched in Week 9 and replaced by Nate Potter. Potter came in and played very well for a seventh-round rookie. In my opinion, he played well enough to at least make Bruce Arians keep him there as the starter and move Levi Brown inside. If he doesn’t, Potter does still supply great depth at the left tackle position if Brown were to suffer another major injury. That is one of many questions to be answered at training camp.
Projected Starter: Brown
Daryn Colledge started at left guard for most of the year last year for the Cards, and was the best player on a terrible unit. However, after drafting Jonathan Cooper in the 1st round in April’s NFL draft, Colledge may be asked to move to either right guard, or maybe even center. Cooper has been playing left guard for most of the OTA’s, and with Bruce Arians’ policy that rookies will play, Cooper should have that spot locked up.
Projected Starter: Cooper
Lyle Sendlein has been the Cardinals starting center since 2007. Sendlein has been solid in that time as a starter. However, Sendlein suffered from a season-ending injury last year and was forced to miss the last six games of the year. Depending on what happens at the other spots, Sendlein could end up losing his starting job if Colledge or Watford are moved inside to center. For now though, I project Sendlein will remain the starting center.
Projected Starter: Sendlein
Last year’s starter Adam Snyder was released after the draft and eventually was signed by the San Francisco 49ers. With Jonathan Cooper playing at left guard, Colledge may be slid over from left to right guard. Watford and last year’s fifth-round pick Senio Kelemete will also be considered, but I think Arians will stick to his best five philosophy, and the starter will be Colledge.
Projected Starter: Colledge
This is the only position on the line that I feel very confident about who will start. Last years 4th round pick Bobby Massie got off to a horrible start in his rookie year. However, over the last eight games, Massie gave up a total of one sack. In fact, Pro Football Focus said that if Massie had played as well as he had over the last eight games of the season, Massie would have graded out to be the third-best tackle overall in the NFL, right or left. That should be enough to keep Massie at right tackle.
Projected starter: Massie
So, therefore my projected starting offensive line for the Cardinals is:
LT: Levi Brown
LG: Jonathon Cooper
C: Lyle Sendlein
RG: Daryn Colledge
RT: Bobbie Massie