In this edition of 2014 positional analysis, I’m breaking down the Cardinals’ offensive line. The unit went from terrible to not good in 2014, but made some strides that the team has since added on
Being an offensive lineman is one of the most underappreciated jobs in football. There’s very few stats that can measure how the big men contribute, and even some of the better ones have very little name recognition. However, the importance of offensive lineman to a team has not diminished, despite the evolution of pass-first offenses and mobile quarterbacks.
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The Cardinals offensive line in the years before 2014 was awful, to put in mildly. They gave up 58 sacks in 2012, and went from terrible to bad with 41 in 2013. However, 2014 was a different story. Despite being ranked as the 24th best offensive line by Pro Football Focus, the line allowed only 28 sacks, and was better in pass protection than it had been since 2009.
The run game, however, fared less well. The Cards ranked last with 3.3 yards per rush. The offensive line does deserve a portion of the blame for failing to open up interior rushing lanes. The Cardinals prioritized pass protection, evidenced by the addition of the most important lineman, maybe player, on the team.
T Jared Veldheer
Aug 9, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle Jared Veldheer (68) against the Houston Texans during a preseason game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Stats: 16 games| 1 sack allowed| 4 QB hits allowed
On behalf of the Cardinals’ fan base and the state of Arizona, I would like to thank the Oakland Raiders for making the incredibly bizarre decision to let Jared Veldheer hit free agency. Despite allowing only 18 sacks in his first four years in the NFL, the Raiders chose not to retain him, and Arizona won him with a 5 year/$35 million dollar deal.
If you want to know the results of his first year as a Cardinal, consider the fact that local Arizona football writers named him the team MVP. For an offensive lineman, drawing that much attention while playing well is a high compliment. Veldheer was everything Arizona needed, and through every quarterback, he was there.
He also managed to stave off most health issues, despite being questionable with an ankle sprain for a couple of weeks. Injury restricted him to five games in 2013, but he was steady and effective for Arizona. Among tackles, Veldheer received a PFF grade of plus 16.3, ninth best among offensive tackles.
The only challenges now are to continue to play at a high level as the team around him changes. Guard Mike Iupati will be lining up next to him in the coming season, and the two of them can be a powerful pair. It isn’t this way with most players, but it is really tough to find a complaint about Veldheer’s first season in red.