The Cardinals have ignored their struggling offensive line for years — and it's showing.
Since drafting Levi Brown with the the fifth overall pick in 2007, Arizona has drafted just six offensive linemen. Bobby Massie — taken 112th overall in 2012 — has been the highest drafted among them.
That's exactly how you wind up with the worst offensive line in the league, and spoil your chance at having a breakout season.
The Cardinals were the surprise team of 2012 early in the season, going 4-0, due in large part to their impressive defense. In the last two weeks, the season has crumbled down around them and it looks to stay that way unless a miracle can save their pass protection issues.
Brown — who's been a major disappointment in his five-year career — went down with a season-ending torn triceps injury in the preseason. Some joked that might actually help their offensive line woes, but somehow his replacements have been even worse.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Cardinals have allowed 112 total quarterback pressures on the season. That's 29 more than the next worst team — Philadelphia — and they're on pace for the most total pressures — 299 — since PFF started tracking the stat in 2008. The 2011 Giants are the current leaders with 221 in 2011. The difference between the 2012 Cardinals and 2011 Giants? Neither John Skelton or Kevin Kolb is Eli Manning.
The Cardinals' offensive line is so bad that they've already knocked both of their quarterbacks out of action six weeks into the season. Skelton was lost in Week 1 with an ankle injury and Kolb sustained injuries we didn't even know were possible — a sprained sternoclavicular joint and ribs detached from his sternum.
So how did the Cardinals pass blocking get so bad that they've already let up 23 sacks on the season? Brown's preseason injury thrust D'Anthony Batiste into the starting role at left tackle even though he had never started a game in his journeyman seven-year career. Not only was Batiste unqualified for the position, he was woefully unprepared. That's why Batiste has let up a league worst 29 quarterback hurries and a second-to-worst nine sacks. Batiste's teammate Massie is the league leader in sacks allowed with 10.
Massie was a raw product after skipping his senior year at Ole Miss to enter the 2012 NFL draft. He was considered a project by most draft analysts, but was thrust into a starting role after veteran Jeremy Bridges struggled in the preseason. The Cardinals likely would have turned to Bridges at this point in the season, but he was lost for the season with a torn left thumb ligament.
The inexperience of the Cardinals' tackles, mixed with Kolb's indecisiveness and Skelton's lack of mobility creates a recipe for diaster — and a lot of sacks. Match all of that with great pass rushing defenses in the NFC West, and we could be looking at third-string rookie Ryan Lindley starting by the end of the season. There's more bad news, one of the biggest complaints about Lindley coming into the league was his lack of mobility.
What might make the least sense about Arizona's turnstile-esque offensive line is that they've only given three total snaps to non-starters. Batiste, Massie, Lyle Sendlein, Adam Snyder and Daryn Colledge have played every offensive snap that the 2012 Cardinals have taken according to Pro Football Focus. Left guard Daryn Colledge is the only positively rated player on PFF, with Snyder and Sendlein playing nearly as poorly as Batiste and Massie. Can reserves Senio Kelemete, Pat McQuistan, Rich Ohrnberger and Nate Potter really be so bad that they haven't even been given a shot?
It's not even just the Cardinals' pass blocking that's terrible. Arizona is second-worst in the league with just 3.4 yards per rush.
There's not much the Cardinals can do at this point about their offensive line unless a reserve can come in and outplay the starters, but Arizona has needed to use a high draft pick (or two) on a blocker since Brown was a first round bust in 2007. The Cardinals will need to use a first round pick in 2013 if the team can ever live up to the potential that their defense gives them.
This begs a good question though, how did the Patriots lose to this team?