Shopping Cart

Cardinals’ patchwork offensive line held up against Jaguars, but Rams present bigger challenge

After the Arizona Cardinals traded for veteran Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson, re-signed right tackle Kelvin Beachum and brought in veteran Brian Winters as a free agent to compete for the starting right guard position, the Cardinals felt they turned a weakness into a real strength this past offseason.

They did, too. The offensive line, from top to bottom, seemed to be the best overall unit the franchise has had up front in decades.

But in the 24-48 hours leading up to Sunday’s game at the Jacksonville Jaguars, trouble appeared. The team had determined Beachum wouldn’t play because he needed the week off to rest his fractured ribs. Then, some type of conflict arose regarding Winters, who surprisingly was given his release on Saturday.

NFL POWER RANKINGS: Rams take over No. 1 spot after beating Buccaneers

OPINION: Tom Brady returns to New England looking better than Bill Belichick since breakup

NFL NEWSLETTER: Sign up now to get football news delivered to your inbox

Cardinals offensive guard Max Garcia warms up before playing against the Vikings on Sept. 19.

Cardinals offensive guard Max Garcia warms up before playing against the Vikings on Sept. 19.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury said it was “just one of those things that didn’t work out,” declining to elaborate.

On the same day Winters was cut, the Cardinals placed backup tackle Josh Miles on injured reserve with an ankle problem. In corresponding moves, the team elevated guard Sean Harlow and tackle Koda Martin to the active roster from the practice squad.

It turned out to be a shrewd move considering late in the first half at TIAA Bank Stadium, starting guards Justin Pugh and Justin Murray each left the game with back injuries. Harlow stepped in for Pugh on the left side and Max Garcia, the team’s backup center and swing guard, filled in for Murray.

Neither player allowed a sack and the both held their own against the Jaguars’ front seven as the Cardinals overcame a handful of obstacles before rolling to a 31-19 victory to improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2015 and just the fifth time since the 1970 merger.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with what I saw from Harlow and Max,” Kingsbury said Monday. “Both came in and competed their tails off. We really got the offense rolling in the second half and they were a big part of that. I felt they both were very good on assignment and technique and stepped right in.”

Harlow and Garcia weren’t the only unheralded stars of the day, however. Second-year pro Josh Jones, the starting right guard the first two weeks of the season, was moved to right tackle in place of Beachum. Despite practicing primarily at guard since training camp, Jones responded with a clutch performance in his own right. He also didn’t allow a sack or any real pressure on Murray.

According to the analytics website ProFootballFocus, Harlow led all Cardinals’ linemen with a 79.1 grade against the Jaguars. Jones was second at 72.1.

“It felt great, honestly,” Jones said Monday on the Wolf & Luke show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “Going from right guard to right tackle, it felt great. I was able to move with some of those fast edge rushers and be able to hold my own out there.

“I just love to play ball, man, whatever position it is. I just love to be out there playing with the fellas.”

Harlow, Garcia and Jones might have to be out there again on Sunday when the Cardinals meet the Rams in an NFC West showdown at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. In a battle between two of the five undefeated teams remaining in the NFL this season, Kingsbury said it’s too early to tell if Pugh and Murray will be available and that they might not return until Week 5 against the 49ers.

The Cardinals will be just as cautious with Beachum, Kingsbury said, saying the Cardinals won’t play him until he is completely ready.

“It was late in the week and we could tell he wouldn’t be able to go,” he said. “Once again, Josh Jones is another guy who slid in there with about a day of work at right tackle. I thought he performed well, which is a big plus to continue to give us more depth there at the tackle position.

“We’ll see where ‘Beach’ is at this week. We’d love to get him back, obviously, but we want to make sure when he comes back that he’s 100 percent healthy.”

Using a pair of backups at guard and trusting another could do so well in his first NFL experience at tackle may have worked against a Jaguars team that has lost 18 games in a row dating back to last season. But how will the Cardinals’ patched-up offensive line hold up against a Rams’ defensive front that finished with 53 sacks a year ago, the second-most in the league?

“They’re really good,” Kingsbury said. “… They’ve done a great job, (defensive coordinator) Raheem (Morris) coming in and building off what they started a year ago. It’s a real challenge.”

One player in particular stands in the Cardinals’ way the most – defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the NFL’s three-time defensive player of the year.

“Aaron Donald is as good a football player as I’ve ever seen in my life,” Kingsbury said. “He’s really been dominant in the previous games that we’ve had with him, and we’ve got to find a way to try and slow him down. You’re not going to stop him. You try to slow him down as best you can.”


♦ The Cardinals are signing veteran free-agent cornerback Quinton Dunbar, who worked out for the team on Tuesday, according to a report by NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport. Dunbar, 29, made 25 starts over his first five NFL seasons with Washington, who signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Florida in 2015. In 64 career games, Dunbar has 180 tackles, 40 passes defensed and 10 interceptions.

Dunbar, who played wide receiver in college before being converted to corner in the NFL, spent last season with the Seahawks but underwent season-ending knee surgery after playing in just six games. He signed with the Lions, but after missing much of training camp due to personal reasons, he was released on Aug. 12.

Dunbar will be signed to the practice squad.

♦ Cornerback Antonio Hamilton reverted to the practice squad on Monday after the Cardinals beat the Jaguars, but the team is signing him to the active roster, according to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, citing Hamilton’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus.

Hamilton has been active for each of the Cardinals’ first three games and the sixth-year pro from South Carolina State has six tackles, a fumble recovery and one pass breakup.

Follow the Arizona Republic‘s Bob McManaman on Twitter @azbobbymac.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona Cardinals’ patchwork O-line faces tougher task vs. LA Rams

Read more:

Prepare For Power Outages
DELTA 1300 Power Station
DELTA 1300 Power Station
Price: $1,399.00
EFDELTA can power 13 devices simultaneously: 6x AC OUTLETS: Fridge, TV, Light, Fry Pan, Blender, and Coffee Machine; 2x 60W USB-C: MacBook Pro and Nintendo Switch; 4x USB-A: Smart Phones, Speaker and Tablets; 1x 13.6V CARPORT: Car Fridge or Vacuum Cleaner.
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.