State of the Arizona Cardinals offensive line
By Sion Fawkes
The Arizona Cardinals offensive line statistically improved from 2019. They gave up just 29 sacks as the Cardinals rushed for 139.8 yards per game on average, good for 4.7 yards per carry. Despite solid statistics, the line didn’t hold as well as the pure numbers state.
Per Pro Football Focus, only D.J. Humphries scored a top 32 grade, ranking 5th out of 83 tackles with an 88.3 grade. It shows that Humphries is the only offensive lineman worth locking into a starting spot coming into 2021. Better yet, the Cardinals have him inked through 2022.
The rest of the line didn’t grade out so well. The team had high hopes for Mason Cole. But per PFF, he earned a grade of 54.9, ranking 32nd out of 37 centers. His backup, Lamont Gaillard, fared no better, with a 48.1 grade.
Onto the guards, where Justin Murray ended up seeing playing time over J.R. Sweezy. But Murray ranked 58th out of 83 guards with a 56.7 grade. Sweezy fared even worse, with a 52.5 grade, which ranked 71st. It’s easy to say the Cardinals’ best guard per PFF was Justin Pugh, ranking 38th with a 64.8 grade.
It’s likely the Cardinals hold onto Pugh, who is also signed through 2022. He gave up only one sack. But his nine penalties cause the red flags to wave. However, it’s unlikely the Cardinals fix the offensive line in a single offseason with so many holes. And Pugh is an excellent stopgap.
They drafted Josh Jones to start at right tackle if not someday swing over to left tackle. And despite his PFF grade of 43, let’s cut him a break. He was a rookie during a season without a true offseason, training camp, or even a preseason. Jones can always make The Leap in Year Two at right tackle with Humphries anchoring left tackle.
Kelvin Beachum scored a 69.0, ranking 46th of 83 tackles. Another stopgap, he could return as a swing tackle if he inks another deal. But let’s not forget about Marcus Gilbert, who took a COVID opt out before the season. They have Gilbert locked through 2021.
Overall, the line is still a work in progress. Though they have a solid tackle in Humphries and perhaps another in Jones. 2021 will be Jones’ year to prove himself on the right side. They also have a solid swing option in Gilbert and perhaps another in Beachum.
The Cardinals have issues at guard, where the solid but unspectacular Pugh is the best in a crop of fringe starters. Look for the Cardinals to hone in at guard and center via free agency or the NFL Draft.
The interior portion of this group is a huge priority at both the starting and backup positions. Expect to see up to three new faces starting on the offensive line heading into 2021, with even more providing depth.