Monday, August 26, 2013
Palmer might have to bail out his line
By Mike Sando
One year ago, we considered the challenges Arizona Cardinals offensive tackles would face against a long list of accomplished pass-rushers.
It's hard not to think similar thoughts after watching left tackle Levi Brown struggle badly against the San Diego Chargers' Dwight Freeney during an exhibition game Saturday night. Khaled Elsayed of Pro Football Focus counted three hurries and a sack for Freeney at Brown's expense. Brown also surrendered a pressure and a holding penalty while working against Larry English.
Brown did not play last season. Freeney has been a dominant rusher for years. That combination could have explained the degree to which Brown struggled. However, those familiar with Brown's career know he has struggled in pass protection at other times.
The 2013 schedule presents challenges early.
Brown will face Robert Quinn, Greg Hardy and Aldon Smith early in the season if he remains in the starting lineup at left tackle. Those players combined for 41 sacks last season. Another veteran pass-rusher, Will Smith of New Orleans, was also on the Cardinals' schedule for 2013. However, he reportedly suffered a season-ending knee injury over the weekend.
The Cardinals have better depth at offensive tackle this season with Brown healthy and Eric Winston joining the team. Those two are the starters at present. Nate Potter (left side) and Bobby Massie (right) played extensively as rookie tackles in 2012. Both improved as the season progressed. Arizona allowed a league-high 58 sacks last season, but that included 39 in the first eight games.
New quarterback Carson Palmer ranked tied for ninth in sack rate over the past two seasons while playing for the Oakland Raiders, an indication he can help the Cardinals' tackles by getting the ball out before pressure arrives. The Cardinals allowed sacks at a league-worst 8.6 percent rate, well above the 6.0 percent average.
The line remains in some flux. Coach Bruce Arians told reporters Monday the team planned to move Daryn Colledge from right guard back to left guard, where he played last season, now that a broken leg has sidelined talented rookie left guard Jonathan Cooper. Paul Fanaika is the leading candidate to replace Colledge at right guard. There are no plans at present to play Massie at guard, Arians told reporters.