Cardinals Lean Toward Another Lineman

The Cardinals offensive line struggled last season due to injuries (Oliver Ross) and inexperience (Levi Jones). Arizona looks to bolster its offensive line depth this offseason to avoid a similarly mediocre performance. Samantha Fillerup examines an offensive tackle the Cardinals got an up-close look at during Senior Bowl week.

Ohio State offensive tackle Kirk Barton (6'6", 310 pounds) was one of the top linemen in college football. He earned second team All-Big Ten honors in 2006 and won the Jim Parker Offensive Lineman of the Week award in 2007.

Barton is a blue-collar blocker who gets by on his tenacity and intelligence. He is a powerful run blocker and can hold his own in pass protection, so long as he's not protecting his quarterback's blindside. In Arizona, that would mean competing for time at left tackle.

Barton is a great leader and had a definite impact on Ohio State's success, both on the field and in the locker room. He believes he could have a similar impact in Arizona, be it one offense or special teams.

"I feel I'll be dedicated. I'll be focused to help the team in whatever way possible. I'll be able to work at it and I'll want to do it," he said.

Barton's ambitious attitude earned him face time with countless coaches during Senior Bowl week. He enjoyed each of the meetings, but got the most enjoyment out of practicing under a professional coaching staff for the first time.

"It's definitely a great experience, something you couldn't experience before training camp," he said.

Barton is an experienced blocker who has thrived in high-pressure situations. That trend continued in Mobile, Ala., where Barton excelled in front of the hoards of coaches, scouts and general managers.

"It was a huge opportunity, a big stage," he said.

Barton could rejuvenate a Cardinals offensive line that was plagued by inconsistencies last season. Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner were both battered to the point of injury, and Edgerrin James was held under 4 yards per carry for the second consecutive season.

In Arizona, Barton could work his way into the rotation on the left side of the line, giving the team a bookend tackle to play across from 2007 top-five pick Levi Jones.

Barton realizes that playing in Arizona would mean squaring off against players like Patrick Kerney and Leonard Little twice a year. He seems unfazed by the notion.

"You want to prove you can do it against the best, that you can be consistent," he said.

With that kind of attitude, GM Rod Graves just may give him the opportunity to live up to his word...and his potential.

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