The Arizona Cardinals should be willing to tweak their offensive line.
For years, the Arizona Cardinals’ offensive line has been a weak spot for an otherwise well-rounded squad. And, with the team not truly addressing the position in the 2019 off-season, that still may hold true. But, that doesn’t mean the team can’t buck the trend.
Currently, the Cardinals’ starting offensive line looks something like this:
Though the five boasts a combined total of 316 NFL regular season starts, the grouping is riddled with doubt about their skillset, age, and injury history. In 2018, the group (other than Shipley who didn’t play a game), averaged a Pro Football Focus score of 58.4, which puts them at a “below average” ranking.
But, the Cardinals appear to be set with the five as their week-one unit. It’s clear that the team is favoring experience and prior success over developing young talent. That’s not a bad thing, but it could lead to problems down the line; chiefly, a young nucleus without experience to boast.
However, there is a proposition that would take Sweezy out of the lineup in favor of Mason Cole. As a rookie in ’18, Cole showed flashes as a center and started there for the entire season. But, he may be better set as a guard.
Measuring in at 6-foot-4 and 307-pounds, Cole has ideal size to play left or right guard. His skill set should translate well to what the Cardinals need at guard too, as they are projected to run an outside running zone scheme. The Michigan product is quick on his feet, and though he’s not a mauler, he can provide blocks downfield.
But, switching Cole to guard doesn’t mean that Shipley’s job is safe. If anything, it means that rookie Lamont Gaillard will be able to contend for a starting job week one. Though the sixth-round pick product hasn’t seen the defensive line schematics that Shipley has, he’s an intriguing product.
Gaillard has good size at 6-foot-3 and 305-pounds and is as physical, and nasty as they come. At Georgia, the center was a three-year starter and captain as he proved to be the catalyst for their power running attack. Although he’s not the most athletic gifted talent, he’s cerebral and is best described as a mauler, and anchor in pass protection.
Both Cole and Gaillard have uphill battles to start week one. But, each is gifted in their own right. The lineup, according to the proposition would like this:
- LT: D.J. Humphries
- LG: Mason Cole
- C: Lamont Gaillard
- RG: Justin Pugh
- RT: Marcus Gilbert
The result of this line is one of far less NFL experience. Between the five, the group has just 200 NFL regular season starts, 116 less than the expected, veteran-laden unit. But, what they lack in experience, they make up for in athleticism, size, and age — the proposition group average age is 26, 3.4 years younger than the expected one.
Switching out two veterans for a sophomore and a rookie is bold, especially on the offensive line. Frankly, I don’t expect it to happen. But, it has its benefits, particularly pertaining to their upside and athleticism as they will have to block for a dual-threat quarterback in Kyler Murray.
But, when an offensive line allows 50+ sacks two seasons in a row, you can expect the coaching staff to try out different combinations. Though those changes may not come next season, it’s possible that we see it in the near future.