Saturday, July 27, 2013
Some clarity, direction up front for Arizona
By Mike Sando
The San Francisco 49ers have all five starters returning along their offensive line. There's no drama at the position unless you're into swing tackles, left guard contracts or developing young depth at center.
The situation is different for the Arizona Cardinals, but coach Bruce Arians brought welcome clarity to the position following the team's opening camp practice Friday.
Newly signed veteran Eric Winston will battle incumbent Bobby Massie at right tackle. Nate Potter, who eventually served as Levi Brown's injury replacement at left tackle last season, will battle Brown for that job this summer. There had been some thought about Massie competing at right guard. That could happen down the line in an effort to get the best five linemen on the field, but for now, the tackle competitions are clearly defined.
We know rookie first-round pick Jonathan Cooper will play left guard once he reaches agreement on a contract. We know Lyle Sendlein will be the starting center for a sixth consecutive season. Another veteran, Daryn Colledge, appears likely to start at right guard, a switch from the left side.
Winston has started 16 games in each of the past six seasons, five with Houston and one with Kansas City. Massie improved dramatically as a rookie starter last season. He seemingly would be a young player for the Cardinals to develop -- on the field.
The team has options, which is the point. There weren't enough viable ones for the Cardinals one year ago. The team had veteran career backups such as D'Anthony Batiste, Rich Ohrnberger, Pat McQuistan and Jeremy Bridges mixed with rookies such as Potter and Massie. Losing Brown to injury devastated the line. This year, the Cardinals have four tackles they could feel OK with in the lineup.
The chart shows every offensive lineman to play for the Cardinals over the past five seasons, ordered by snap counts. Shading highlights players on the 90-man roster at present. Cooper, chosen eighth overall in the 2013 draft, and Winston are two prominent newcomers.