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Thursday, June 16, 2011
Chat wrap: Worst offensive line in NFL?

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

The NFC West chat starts up front, on the line. That's where chats are won or lost. This one was no different. We started on the line and moved the chains. Transcript here, highlights below, additional thoughts to follow.
Shane from Los Angeles had a hard time disagreeing with Matt Williamson's chat comments suggesting the Arizona Cardinals could have the NFL's worst offensive line. He thinks a shaky line could make life tough for any quarterback, whether it's Kevin Kolb or Peyton Manning. And he wants to know what the Cardinals have planned to address the line.

Mike Sando: Peyton Manning has flourished without a highly talented (by NFL standards) offensive line. A top quarterback makes a so-so line look good. Kurt Warner did this in Arizona a couple years ago. I question the Cardinals' approach to building their line and think they should be investing more draft choices in that part of their team. However, if they do re-sign Deuce Lutui and Lyle Sendlein, they should not be horrible. They would be counting on Rex Hadnot to step in at guard, most likely. Brandon Keith would have to come back from that injury. This could be a shaky line, but improvement at quarterback would help the line look better.

Steve from San Jose thinks Jim Harbaugh sounds too much like recent 49ers coaches when he talks about establishing a power running game, with the offense running through Frank Gore. He asks whether I can put to rest his fears.

Mike Sando: Yes, Jim Harbaugh does want to lean heavily on a power running game. Brock Huard told me Harbaugh's running game was extraordinarily diversified. So, all run games are not the same. And then we should assume that Harbaugh, as a former quarterback, will have a better feel for the passing game and how to use it in conjunction with the run game. You are right about the overall philosophy, though. It's the execution of that philosophy that will change.

Robert from Dublin, Calif., says he's a long-time Rams fan wondering where the Rams should focus in free agency. He lists free safety, running back and outside linebacker as their top needs.

Mike Sando: Let's throw defensive tackle into the mix as well. That was a position some analysts thought the Rams would address in the first round of the draft. I think it's a position of need. We discussed on the blog Wednesday whether Albert Haynesworth might make sense for them. Brandon Cofield is a more realistic name to keep in mind. He played for Steve Spagnuolo on the Giants and does not have a contract for 2010. The Rams fared well in adding Fred Robbins from the Giants last offseason.

Brandon from Everett, Wash., asks what I make of Darrell Bevell's call to Matt Hasselbeck when the lockout was briefly lifted.

Mike Sando: That affirmed the Seahawks' interest in bringing back Matt Hasselbeck without revealing what the team would pay for him. It was a nice gesture, but not a surprising one. Bevell and Hasselbeck go back years to Green Bay. They would be a good match. Bevell is the perfect person to reach out to Hasselbeck given their background.

Following up on the Cardinals' offensive line, coach Ken Whisenhunt has said that group was not high on his list of problem areas last season. He indicated the issues were more directly related to the quarterback situation. Arizona also had issues on defense, leading to a coordinator change.

There's a danger in focusing too much blame on Arizona's quarterback troubles, which were obvious. In this case, however, I think getting competent at quarterback will do more for the Cardinals than improving any other area, including the line.