Why Have the Arizona Cardinals Neglected Offensive Line Help?

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Why Have the Arizona Cardinals Neglected Offensive Line Help?
Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Through seven games this season, the Arizona Cardinals’ offensive line has allowed an astounding 35 sacks—by far the most in the NFL.

The Green Bay Packers are closest to them, at 26.

Thirty-five sacks through seven games. At five sacks per game, they are on pace to give up 80 sacks this season. The NFL record is 104, set by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1986.

While that record is likely safe, the franchise record—78, set in 1997—could go down if something is not done to improve the line play.

The line was already in question before the season started. The group allowed 52 sacks a year ago—second only to the St. Louis Rams (54).

Left tackle Levi Brown was cut and re-signed to free up cap space. They wanted to keep him, but not at the astronomical rate at which he was to be paid.

The team worked out two guards after releasing both Rex Hadnot and Deuce Lutui as well. Former San Francisco 49ers guard Adam Snyder and former Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans guard Jake Scott came in during the offseason. The former, also known as the NFL’s worst-rated offensive guard this season, was the choice.

The latter sits at home watching NFL football every Sunday.

Scott told Ross Tucker of Sports USA Media he is choosing to sit out until he gets the right deal for a player of his caliber. What caliber is that, you ask?

Scott was the seventh-highest rated guard last season, according to ProFootballFocus (paid info). That has been the case throughout his eight-year NFL career.

Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE
Jake Scott with the Tennessee Titans in 2011.

According to Scott, he has turned down several offers from teams because he is being offered a veteran’s minimum salary, which, for a player with seven to nine years of experience, is $810,000.

When Snyder was brought to Arizona, he signed a five-year, $17.5 million contract that guaranteed him $12 million. Another $5 million comes by way of a signing bonus that is to be paid in $1 million increments over the life of the contract—plus $500,000 in bonuses.

Last season, Snyder ranked No. 76 out of 78 NFL guards, according to PFF.

Why was he—not Scott—given the contract? It is possible Scott wanted more than that which Snyder received. And who can blame him? He has earned a big payday, after all.

At the time, the Cardinals were dangerously close to the salary cap limit and likely could not afford much more than what they gave Snyder.

Since then, however, many of the team’s highest-paid players have taken pay cuts for this season. They now sit roughly $20 million under the cap and have room to add talent where they need it.

With Snyder now injured (thigh bruise) and with his status for Monday Night Football against his old team uncertain, it may be in the team’s best interest to rethink their decision to go with Snyder over Scott.

As for that pesky tackle situation, things cannot possibly get worse for D’Anthony Batiste and rookie Bobby Massie.

 

That being said, things have not gotten better for the worst tackle tandem in football, either. Together, they own the top two spots on the list of sacks allowed this season, Massie with 12 and Batiste with 10.

That total of 22 is more than 30 other NFL teams this season—the lone team with more being the aforementioned Packers.

Massie was drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft with the intention of easing him into the starting right-tackle role.

Batiste was the third-string right tackle—behind Massie and starter Jeremy Bridges.

First, Brown went down with a torn tricep muscle during a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. Then, Bridges went down with a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Enter Massie and Batiste.

The problem with that, of course, is Batiste, now the starting left tackle, had not started a game in the NFL since 2007, and at guard—not tackle.

Massie, as a rookie, is clearly not ready to be a starter at right tackle.

With how much the line has struggled, the question has to be asked: Why have the Arizona Cardinals neglected offensive line help?

Here is an idea that would help the line immediately while having the potential to help long-term as well.

Call Scott and sign him to whatever contract he wants.

Doing that would solidify the right guard spot for the remainder of the season and likely for the next three to five years. Based on talent alone, he would start and improve the spot. Snyder may know the blocking scheme employed by Russ Grimm, but he cannot execute it. Cut Snyder.

Also, re-sign Brandon Keith.

Keith was not great at right tackle with Arizona last year. In 13 games, before being placed on IR with a knee injury, he allowed five sacks and 31 total pressures (via PFF). But, he knows the system and would be able to step in on the right side, allowing Massie to gather his thoughts and learn from the sideline. He is the future at right tackle, but he has a lot of work to do.

If the Arizona Cardinals keep the offensive line the way it is, do they have a shot at making the playoffs this season?

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With St. Louis signing Chris Williams Monday, Arizona lost out on improving the blind side. Williams has potential at left tackle, but he never fit in to the Chicago Bears’ scheme. He is just another in the long line of potential upgrades to the roster to make a visit to the Valley of the Sun, only to leave and never come back.

There is a possibility the line—with three new starters since last season—somehow gets it midway through the season, a la Arizona’s 2011 version of its defense. That time is fast-approaching, and if there is no improvement within the group soon, something must be done.

The season is not lost; the Cardinals sit just a game out of first place in the NFC West with the division-leading and arch-rival 49ers coming to town Monday night. A win would put the team at 5-3 and firmly in the thick of playoff talk once again.

If for nothing else but the health of their quarterback, the Arizona Cardinals need to address the offensive line situation, regardless of whether they are in the playoff hunt or not.

 

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