As OTAs continue, and the start of another season slowly creeps closer, we take a look at the Arizona Cardinals revamped roster. Over the next few weeks we will look at each position group heading into the 2019 season. Today we focus on the men tasked with protecting first round pick, Kyler Murray, and opening holes for the run game. To kick off roster preview season, we begin with the Offensive Line.
Left Tackle: D.J. Humphries
Left Guard: Justin Pugh
Center: A.Q. Shipley
Right Guard: Max Garcia
Right Tackle: Marcus Gilbert
Mason Cole, Tariq Cole (R), Korey Cunningham, Lamont Gaillard (R), Colby Gossett, Will Holden, Andrew Lauderdale, Joshua Miles (R), Rees Odhiambo, Coleman Shelton, William Sweet (R), J.R. Sweezy, Jeremy Vujnovich
For the second straight offseason, the Cardinals have gone with adding veteran free agents and a few rookie lineman with versatility. The estimated starting lineup is subject to change due to injuries and training camp battles. However, it is a veteran group, a point of emphasis with a rookie signal-caller.
Shipley missed the entire 2018 season after suffering a knee injury at the start of training camp. Then-rookie, Mason Cole, played admirably in his stead. Cole was often overpowered at the point of attack and had his share of struggles as the starting center. Shipley, while getting closer to the end of his career, offers the bigger body and far more experience.
Free agency brought Garcia and Sweezy to the desert, while Gilbert was had for a sixth round selection. On paper, they serve as significant upgrades over Mike Iupati and Andre Smith, the latter of whom was released midway through last season.
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Versatility reigns supreme along the offensive line. Players like Sweezy, Pugh, and Garcia can play either guard spot. Cole and the rookie Gaillard, have the ability to play each of the three interior positions. Versatile players make plugging holes that much easier. The Cardinals are hoping that 2019 results in fewer lineup changes for their big-uglies up front.
A second consecutive offseason of a new coaching staff, new playbook, and new quarterback, are signs of a struggling organization. The offensive line woes serve as the epitome of the lack of stability. By the end of the 2018 season, Cole was the only remaining offensive lineman who had started in Week 1. He was joined by two journeymen and a pair of rookies.
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Arizona chose not to re-sign the oft injured Iupati. They replaced him with Garcia, who spent nearly half of 2018, on the Injured Reserve list. The Cardinals also hope Marcus Gilbert can remain healthy, although the eight year vet has only twice played a full regular season.
The rest of the line features a center coming off a season lost to a knee injury, a left guard who played in just 15 games over the past two seasons, and a left tackle who has never played more than 13 games in a season.
The Not So Ugly
Mason Cole is entering his second season and could make a push to get the starting job at center. He has the athleticism to beat out the veteran Shipley, but can he physically make a difference? Gaillant was a smart pick late in the draft by general manager Steve Keim. He played against some of the toughest defensive linemen in college football, and won his fair share of battles. The two linemen are poised to be stalwarts of the Cardinals offensive line for years to come.
Ideally, the Cardinals can escape training camp with minimal attrition along the offensive line. An entire camp, filled with competition, likely yields a few surprises at the position group. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury and his offensive staff have their hands full with evaluating each linemen, selecting their best starting five and depth pieces. A successful season hinges on it.