Positional Analysis: Offensive Tackle

The Arizona Cardinals offensive tackles will carry a heavy load in 2009. Starters Mike Gandy and Levi Brown lead the pack with extra motivation. Gandy is in a contract year. And Brown will need to live up to his draft pedigree. With camp fast approaching, Andy Bishop delves further into the status of the tackles.

LT Mike Gandy is clearly the best tackle on the Cardinals' roster. The nine-year pro turned in a fine 2008 season, playing all 16 games while effectively protecting Kurt Warner's blindside. Still, Gandy's success has goes mostly unnoticed during his two years in Arizona.

He is a solid, durable veteran who has started all 16 games in each of his last four seasons. Gandy will have much to play for this season as his contract expires after 2009. Conventional wisdom says that the Cardinals will make it a priority to re-sign the proven tackle.

On the other side of the line is third-year RT Levi Brown, who has made significant strides during his two years in the league. He started all 16 games in 2008 and showed he is a capable starter. However, there is plenty of room for improvement and the Cardinals expect more from the fifth overall pick in 2007. He needs to improve both his run and pass blocking, but pass blocking is a far bigger concern. He allowed 11 of the team's 28 sacks in 2008, a number he must reduce in the years to come.

The Cardinals have solid depth at tackle. Although these backups were rarely, if ever, called upon in 2008, they may get their opportunities if injury occurs in 2009. The Cardinals re-signed Elton Brown this offseason. Brown has been a backup most of his career, but does have 14 starts under his belt during his four year career. While he is more comfortable at guard, Brown is versatile enough to play tackle. It was Brown who stepped in at tackle when Gandy was sidelined with an injury in week 9 against St. Louis. The knock on Brown is his inability to control his weight.

Arizona has a couple of projects at tackle in the form of Brandon Keith and Elliot Vallejo. Keith was a seventh-round pick in 2008 and surprised many by making the team. He still has work to do, but coaches think Keith has potential. He is best suited at tackle, and could become the team's primary backup at the position.

Vallejo possesses good size at 6'7", 315, but still has not done enough to succeed at the pro level. The third-year player was an undrafted rookie free agent in 2007 and has bounced back between the practice squad and active roster the last two seasons. Vallejo is looking to have a strong training camp and solidify his position on the roster.


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