When it comes to football, the unsung heroes on the offensive side is the offensive line. It isn’t impossible to succeed with a bad offensive line but it makes the job of scoring points quite difficult. Today we review the performance of the 2017 Cardinals offensive line and look at what may be the plan for next season.
A.Q. Shipley – 16 G, 16 GS
Max Tuerk – 1 G, 0 GS
Josh Allen – PS
Like the rest of the position groups, the offensive line was hit hard by injuries. That projected starting lineup at the beginning of the season was Humphries and Veldheer at the tackles, Iupati and Boehm at the guards, and Shipley at center. Out of those five, Shipley was the only one to start every game in 2017. Iupati played in just one game before being placed on injured reserve. He was replaced by Boone who was signed after his release from the Vikings. Humphries joined injured reserve in week 10 while Veldheer was added five weeks later. That type of inconsistency in lineups will cause issues with any offensive line.
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Wandering in the Desert
The Arizona run game took a major hit in the first week of the season after running back David Johnson injured his wrist. Losing someone of Johnson’s caliber will hurt any offense, but his talent hid many of the holes on the offensive line last season. The Cardinals traded for Adrian Peterson but the veteran struggled to find consistency before a neck injury. Peterson rushed for over 100 yards twice but failed to reach 50 yards all other games. The running game averaged just 86.6 yards per game, good enough for 30th in the NFL.
Zone runs to the left was a popular option and one that worked the best. However, teams chose to load the box and the offense struggled to find consistent yards on the ground. There is little doubt that losing Iupati and Humphries for most of the season hindered the run game as both men are road graters who can pull and get to the second level. Boone’s strength is his run blocking but without much help on either side the unit struggled to open up holes.
The offensive line surrendered 52 sacks in 2017. That is good enough for third worst in the league. It is telling that the team used three quarterbacks on the season after Carson Palmer went down after a loss to the Rams then backup Drew Stanton was injured as well. Cardinals quarterbacks were sacked on eight percent of their dropbacks in 2017. Only six teams were worse.
The passing attack was middle of the pack in the NFL with 227.5 yards per game. When given time the quarterbacks found open receivers. Time was the issue. The only lineman with significant playing time rated by Pro Football Focus as average or higher was Humphries. The rest came in at poor or below.
What Happens Next?
The Cardinals do not have the money needed to make a splash in free agency to upgrade the offensive line. The best bet will be replacing the bottom end of the roster through free agency and drafting potential starters and backups. There is talent in the first few rounds of the upcoming draft. The Cardinals will need to use those options to ensure the unit gets better or waste another season.