First quarter report cards: Arizona Cardinals offense - 2023

The early season has provided clarity on the strengths and weaknesses in the Arizona Cardinals offense.
Cincinnati Bengals v Arizona Cardinals
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Week 4 has always been the quarter mark for the regular season but ever since the regular season expanded to 17 games that is no longer the case. The positive outcome of this is being able to watch another game to closely examine each unit and their evolving storyline.

I am glad to be writing this in Week 5 because a lot has changed from last week. Josh Dobbs coming down to Earth and James Conner heading to IR being the two clearest examples. Each positional unit received an in-depth exploration of how they have looked so far and where they project to be in the future.

This is a different take on looking at the season in review. Looking at individual units like this makes it easier to pinpoint where the Arizona Cardinals need to improve and which units have resulted in their scrappier than expected play.

D.J. Humphries
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Arizona Cardinals first quarter grades of 2023

Offensive line

What the Arizona Cardinals have been able to assemble shouldn’t be ignored. Mostly made up of unheralded names, they have limited sacks and are the backbone of one of the strongest rushing attacks in the NFL.

The front office could look to upgrade at left guard, the position that Elijah Wilkinson presently occupies, but other than that this feels like one of the few units on the Arizona Cardinals that does not need an overhaul.

Josh Dobbs has been sacked a total of nine times this season, and not all of them were the fault of the offensive line directly. Even so, the Arizona Cardinals are yielding only 1.8 sacks per game and are tied with the Buffalo Bills for the seventh fewest in the NFL. Assuming the offensive line is spared from injuries, this rate projects to be fairly sustainable throughout the rest of the season since the Cardinals are also top half in the league in preventing pressures.

The offensive line’s ability to establish the run game is the most convincing reason as to why the Arizona Cardinals have looked competitive this season. Other than the Philadelphia Eagles, no team has created more yards before contact than the Arizona Cardinals.

This is an important stat as a proxy for the rushing lanes that an offensive line is able to create. Hjalte Froholdt and Will Hernandez have been heat seeking missiles looking for someone to maul. James Conner has been excellent this season and part of that reason is because he is able to find space and accelerate downfield without having to first make a guy miss behind the line of scrimmage. Overpowering defensive lines in the run game looks to be a foundational philosophy for the future.

The Arizona Cardinals are only committing 13% of their cap space towards the offensive line and are arguably getting top 10 production out of the unit. This type of cost efficiency is exactly the kind of thing that can shorten a rebuild by several years.

What is especially exciting is that the current offensive line can easily be carried over into 2024. Of the regular starters, only Elijah Wilkinson is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of this season. Additionally, the offensive line is young, with Humphries being the only starter on the wrong side of 30. If the Arizona Cardinals are a playoff team in 2024, expect the offensive line to be one the reasons why.  

  • Grade: A-