The Arizona Cardinals are a mess right now.
At one point last season, Arizona was 4-0 and looking like a contender in the NFC West. Then the Cards finished the year 1-11 and now hold the No. 7 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. There are plenty of ways Arizona can do with their pick and the rest of their off-season as they try and plug up the holes that led to a collapse in 2012. Whether it be quarterback, running back, or a run-stuffing defensive lineman to add to the front seven, there’s lots of problems with this Arizona team that will need to be addressed.
However, the first place new head coach Bruce Arians should start patching up his new team is on the offensive line. The Cardinals had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season, hands down. Their struggles in the trenches directly influenced the rest of the offense in a very negative way and made mole-hill issues into unpassable mountains of failure. Addressing this void on the team would then solve some of the other problems Arizona can’t get over.
First, the quarterback situation has been horrendous over the last two seasons in the desert. Whether it’s Kevin Kolb, John Skelton or Ryan Lindley under center, nobody could get it done. A big part of that problem was the fact that the quarterbacks couldn’t stay healthy. Cardinals’ QBs took more abuse than just about anybody in 2012 as they ran for their lives behind a line that gave up a league-leading 58 sacks last year. That takes a toll, both physically and psychologically, and made it impossible for anyone under center to find success.
Second, Arizona has no running game. The team finished dead-last in rushing last season, averaging just 75.3 yards per game. Their running backs couldn’t stay on the field, whether it was Beanie Wells’ turf toe or Ryan Williams’ exploding knee ligaments, the rushing attack was undermined by a lack of healthy bodies. The team can help that by adding some depth in the backfield, but unless they want their new rookie to end up on the injured list like their predecessors, it might be a wise investment to bring in some guys who will slow down the defense trying to pummel them.
By adding some better offensive linemen, the Cardinals can help out the rest of their offense by keeping the quarterbacks upright and not watching for where the defense is coming from while also opening up holes for the running game, allowing for a few easier carries which might reduce the wear and tear on the ball carriers. In short, upgrading their front five will make their skill players look, play and feel a lot better.
That starts in the draft by selecting a stud left tackle, like Eric Fisher out of Central Michigan, at No. 7 to be the cornerstone of the line for years to come. By adding more capable bodies to the line, Arians will be able to open the competition for the starting job and put the five best linemen available out on the field next season.
There are plenty of issues that need to be fixed before the Arizona Cardinals can be a contender, but in order to truly fix any of them, the team must first fix their offensive line.