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Cardinals looking to upgrade offensive line

The Sports Xchange
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No matter who the Cardinals quarterback is this season, he likely will be playing behind a retooled offensive line.

It appears the organization is ready to address the position group.

That qualifies as news in Arizona, because the Cardinals haven't drafted an offensive lineman since 2009. In the last five drafts, they have taken only one, Levi Brown, higher than the fifth round.

The last offensive lineman drafted, guard/tackle Herman Johnson (fifth round, 2009) lasted only one season.

The Cardinals' coaching staff obviously prefers going with veteran linemen who have seen a lot of what defenses will throw at them.

They've counted heavily upon assistant head coach/offensive line Russ Grimm to develop low-round picks, rookie free agents and journeymen veterans into a cohesive, functioning unit.

The results have not been impressive.

Let's take a look at the line, from left to right:

Brown, the fifth-overall pick in 2007, has not played up to expectations. He played well at left tackle in the second half of the 2011 season, but that's the first time he reached that level in 41/2 years.

At left guard, the Cardinals have gone from Reggie Wells to Alan Faneca to Daryn Colledge. The staff inherited Wells, and Faneca and Colledge were signed in free agency. Colledge spent five seasons in Green Bay and seems to be the answer the Cardinals were seeking at the position.

Center Lyle Sendlein is the only home-grown success story on the offensive line. A rookie free agent in 2007, Sendlein became a starter in his second year and developed into a steady player. He's smart, solid fundamentally and has room to improve.

Right guard has been a trouble spot, thanks to Deuce Lutui's weight problems. Rex Hadnot took over in 2011 and the Cardinals will look to upgrade that spot via free agency and the draft.

Right tackle Brandon Keith could have changed the perception of the line, and the quality of Grimm's work, had he played better in 2011. Instead, he struggled with a knee problem. Even when he was healthy, he appeared slow off the ball and had trouble handling rushers off his outside edge.

So how do the Cardinals improve?

They finally need to use a draft pick on an offensive lineman.

That could come in the first round or in the third. (They don't have a second-round pick). If the Cardinals have some success in free agency, they will have flexibility in the draft.

While Brown is not a Pro Bowler, the Cardinals view him as a serviceable player. If he can be re-signed at a reasonable salary with a restructured contract, he will give them some flexibility because he can also play the right side.

They could also use a draft pick on a guard. This class supposedly is deep with them, starting with Stanford's David DeCastro, who should be available to them with the 13th overall pick.

It's important, too, to not underestimate how much the play of the quarterback could help this line.

The Cardinals have had a parade of starting quarterbacks the past two years. Matt Leinart. Derek Anderson. Max Hall. Kevin Kolb. John Skelton.

All of them had issues at times with throwing the ball on time.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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