As the Cardinals offensive line went last season, so went the entire offense, and ultimately the team.
The unit suffered major casualties on a seemingly constant basis, and it clearly threw them out of whack in the early going, as they gave up 35 sacks in the first seven games alone, including nine to the Rams in Week Five.
Eventually the line did begin to gel, as the two young tackles, Bobby Massie and Nate Potter, began to grasp things and get the feel for it all.
The team gave up 58 sacks on the season, but just 23 over the final nine weeks of the season.
The Cardinals have to address the line in April’s NFL Draft, a draft most experts think is an offensive lineman heavy draft, which bodes well for the team.
Most mock drafts project the Cardinals taking tackle Eric Fisher from Central Michigan or guard Chance Warmack from Alabama with the seventh pick.
Of course, other ones have them taking a quarterback like USC’s Matt Barkley or NC State’s Mike Glennon with that same pick.
The Cardinals will have plenty of time to study the players here at the Combine, and talk to the ones that they feel would best suit them and go from there.
There’s no rush. As they say, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
If you ask the NFL experts, who are able to evaluate each of the 32 NFL franchises and tell you what each team needs come April, they all say the Cardinals need to add and solidify their offensive line if they expect to be successful this coming season, in a rapidly improving NFC West.
“I think that, overall, that offensive line must get better,” ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter said. “The offensive line really played poorly last year, and put a lot of pressure on the quarterback.”
“No running game, offensive line’s struggling, no quarterback and one thing feeds off one another,” Schefter said. “This is the time for this team to try to get those issues corrected.”
Former Colts vice-chairman and Bills general manager Bill Polian – an analyst also with ESPN – couldn’t agree more with Schefter’s assessment of the line, but he saw a silver lining with the group that Schefter didn’t: Massie and Potter.
“The offensive line needs work, but it’s not as bad as some people think,” Polian said. “They’ve got two young tackles who were okay, they’re not great, but they’re okay.”
“You can fix the offensive line, both through free agency and this draft,” Polian said.
Whether the Cardinals choose to take a lineman with their first pick, or any of the others, remains to be seen.
What can’t be seen this coming season is a return to the way things were last year on the offensive front.
The Cardinals are going to have to have a steel trap of a line before they even think about winning the division and going to the playoffs.
No front line means no offense. No offense means no success in 2013 for the Cardinals.