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The well-documented sack total surrendered by the Cardinals’ offensive line in 2011 was reason to worry if you’re a fan.
Conversely, what the team has done to bolster the front five since then should allow you to remove the paper bag from your face. Breathe easy; everything will be just fine.
Beginning with free-agency, Arizona went out and signed Adam Snyder—the team’s only major free-agent signee.
Snyder started all 18 games for San Francisco in 2011, helping the team finish the regular season at 13-3 and within one or two plays of making the Super Bowl.
Moving on to the draft, the Cardinals waited, and waited and waited until the fourth round to take a lineman, leaving some fans with fists full of hair. That fourth-round pick, however, is no ordinary fourth-rounder.
Bobby Massie started 29 consecutive games at right tackle at Mississippi—the only position he played while in college.
Playing in the SEC, Massie saw some outstanding defensive play from teams, and from individuals within those teams.
According to NFLDraftScout.com (h/t to Doug Farrar of the Shutdown Corner and B/R’s own Adam Odekirk), Massie led the SEC in 2011 with 102 knockdown—or pancake—blocks. He was also credited with the key block on all 12 of the team’s rushing touchdowns.
That kind of production from a right tackle is uncommon, but is more than welcome in Arizona should he be that dominant in the NFL.
Arizona also drafted guard Senio Kelemete and tackle Nate Potter in rounds five and seven, respectively. Potter may have the bigger upside in the league, but they both bring their own amount of youth and competition to the line, and that may prove to be very valuable in the future.
Potter could eventually compete for the left tackle spot should Levi Brown regress.
What Have We Learned?
Drafting the best players available on the draft board is something new to Arizona management.
In the past, the team would draft for need before anything else. You don’t have to look very far back to see that trend—Levi Brown.
What the recent trend of quality-over-a-filled-hole means is that the roster is slowly being overtaken by better talent—at all positions, not just along the offensive line.
Take, for example, the running backs.
Ryan Williams was thought by some to be a first-round talent. He slipped to the top of Round 2, and not needing another running back at the time, the Cardinals made Williams their pick.
Beanie Wells, Tim Hightower and LaRod Stephens-Howling were all on the roster and thought to be in firm control of the top three spots on the depth chart.
Enter Williams, exit Hightower and the roster has just been upgraded.
Another example is Arizona’s 2012 first-round pick, Michael Floyd. Yes, in many ways Arizona was in need of a receiver. But it wasn’t the greatest need—not in the eyes of draft experts anyway.
Everyone with a mock draft was 100 percent certain the Arizona Cardinals would take a tackle with the No. 13 overall pick in 2012. Everyone, that is, but a few realists and the Cards themselves.
Continuing down the draft path they have laid out, Arizona can only get better as the years go by.
Now, with the Cardinals taking Massie in the fourth, Arizona has its starting right tackle for presumably the next decade. He may end up as one of the best value picks in franchise history, right up there with fellow fourth-round pick Sam Acho and 1997 seventh-round pick, DT Mark Smith. Smith didn’t play long in the NFL, but he racked up 18 sacks in four seasons with Arizona—in 46 games.