The offensive line of the Arizona Cardinals benefited from the performances of both Justin Pugh and J.R. Sweezy last season
One of the most pleasant surprises of the 2019 Arizona Cardinals was the play of the offensive line. While the unit failed to produce a Pro Bowl representative, the group did manage to perform consistently well throughout the season. After years of disappointment, the front office may have finally found a combination of blockers that can get the job done for the Cardinals.
The performance of Arizona’s starting guards was particularly impressive last fall. Justin Pugh and J.R. Sweezy held down the fort, providing both solid run blocking and pass protection for most of the campaign. The Cards have struggled to obtain continuity at the guard spots for years, but their current duo may actually succeed in putting that issue to rest.
Back in 2018, the Cardinals handed Pugh a free agent contract worth $45 million. The five-year deal failed to pay dividends right away, however. Problems with his hand and knee cost Pugh nine games in ’18, prompting many critics to label the injury-prone lineman a “bust” after just one year with Arizona.
Perhaps motivated by his detractors, Pugh returned with a vengeance in ’19. The former first-round draft selection was available for all 16 matchups, starting 14 at left guard and two at right tackle for the Cards. The last time that Pugh played in every contest on the schedule was back in 2013, when he was a rookie with the New York Giants.
A little over a year ago, the Cardinals dipped into the free agent pool once again for a starting guard. J.R. Sweezy, a veteran who has been employed by both the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was inked to a two-year contract. The former seventh-round pick out of North Carolina State University signed for $9 million, with $3 million of it guaranteed.
Sweezy provided a tenacity and aggressiveness for Arizona’s offensive line that was greatly needed. The 6’5, 310 pounder also brought with him a wealth of experience to the franchise. Sweezy has been credited with 104 appearances since he entered the NFL back in 2012, and has 94 career starts under his belt.
For quite some time, Cards general manager Steve Keim has been trying to assemble a viable blocking unit. Last season proved that the contingent may finally be headed in the right direction. The additions of Pugh and Sweezy have certainly played an instrumental role in the line’s long-awaited improvement.