Cardinals Draft Primer: O-Line

Ken Whisenthunt's biggest impact his first year as head coach was on the offensive line. His commitment to the big guys up front was felt immediately by using the fifth overall pick in last year's draft on Levi Brown. However, the production on the ground and in the air remained lopsided. AZRedReport.com breaks down which prospects could solidify the unit.

Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm effectively transformed the Cardinals offensive line last season. The line in the top 10 in sacks allowed despite the Cardinals throwing the second most passes in the NFL (36.9 per game). For the first time in recent history, Arizona boasts impressive depth across the line.

Where the Cardinals still need help is in the run-blocking realm. Arizona produced a 1,200-yard rusher for the fifth time in franchise history, but averaged just 90 yards per game, the third-worst total in the league.

With more pressing needs elsewhere, it would take a vivid imagination to think the Cardinals will pick up an O-lineman with the 16th overall pick. Arizona is fortunate that this year's draft class has tackles and guards with first-day potential at a second-day cost.

King Dunlap out of Auburn is a good example. He brings a versatile punch, as he can run block, pass block and play either side. Left tackle is a more natural fit because he is left-handed, but can fill in wherever needed.

Dunlap (6'8", 310 pounds) would be somewhat of a project for the Cardinals, as he needs to work on his aggression off the snap. The fact that he shows the agility of a much smaller man makes him worth the consideration.


OL John Greco
Toledo Athletics

John Greco (Toledo) is also worth a long look. He plays smart and uses his 6'4", 305-pound frame to his advantage. Greco plays fast and has the know-how to make the entire offensive line better.

"I have the ability to make calls and look at a defense and try to predict what's going to happen," Greco said.

Although Greco has the leadership, athleticism and strength to start at the next level, he understands that the NFL is a whole new ball game.

"Everyone knows that the NFL's a different speed than college," Greco said. "Getting used to that, getting adjusted, getting down in a three-point stance, something that's a little bit different...the speed will be the biggest thing that would be an adjustment."

Greco has played at left and right tackle, but could switch to guard in the NFL, opposite of Branden Albert's (Virginia) situation.

Albert is likely one of only two O-line prospects the Cardinals would consider in the first round. Albert feels most comfortable at tackle but spent most of his time at guard. His versatility makes him a great candidate for Arizona. Albert is quick for his size (6'7" 315 pounds) and brings immense athleticism.

The other first-round prospect the Cardinals may consider is Gosder Cherilus out of Boston College. Cherilus has more pep in his step than a lot of the other prospects. However, spectators might describe Cherilus' play as a little dirty, which could dissuade GM Rod Graves when it comes time to choose.

Cherilus assures anyone who will listen that football is a job and doesn't reflect what kind of person he is.

"Once you step on the field, it's business," Cherilus said. "Just coming from where I come from, Boston College, for some reason I always felt people looked at us different. These guys, they're big, they're athletic, they're this, they're that. But at the end of the day, football is football."

The Cardinals need to be assured that the investment they'd make in a player like Cherilus wouldn't add to their penalty-prone group.

"I'm not dirty," Cherilus said. "I do everything within the whistle. I've never had a personal foul. But if I have a chance to really go at a guy and punish him, I will, because that's what the game is all about. That's what the fans want to see and that's what I feel like I should be doing because that's my job to do it."

Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for Scout.com. She has contributed to the official Web sites of several NFL players for Sixthman Communications. Her analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports.


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