Positional Analysis: Offensive Center

Lyle Sendlein suffered a shoulder injury early in 2008 that plagued him throughout the year. He's looking to rebound and progress in his second year as a starter. The Cardinals signed well-traveled centers Donovan Raiola and Ben Claxton this offseason to compete for the backup role. Will Raiola and Claxton have what it takes to throw off Sendlein? Andy Bishop evaluates the vital center position.

Lyle Sendlein will shoulder the burden of leading the Cardinals offensive line unit. A center not only has to groom paths for running backs and protect his quarterback, he must also communicate and keep the O-Line intact. Sendlein did a respectable job of accomplishing this task during the 2008 season.

Sendlein is clearly not the most physically gifted center in the league. He fails to dominate at the point of attack too often, and possesses less than ideal mechanics and quickness. With that said, Sendlein is a tough and gritty competitor. He impressed coaches by starting all 16 games in 2008 despite suffering a torn labrum in week 4.

While Sendlein struggled at times in 2008, Arizona feels some of his shortcomings resulted from his injury. Sendlein had offseason surgery on his shoulder and should be more than ready for training camp. The Cardinals are optimistic the third-year center will continue to improve and become a mainstay along the O-Line.

While Sendlein is expected to maintain starting duties, the Cardinals signed free agent Donovan Raiola to push Sendlein this offseason. Raiola has never played a game in his three-year career, finding a home as a training camp and practice squad junkie during his short stays in St. Louis, Pittsburg and Seattle.

It is hard to see a man with Raiola's credentials legitimately challenging Sendlein for a starting spot. In fact, Raiola with have to improve his performance from past seasons to ensure a roster spot.

Another option to backup Sendlein is Ben Claxton, who was drafted in 2003 but has only played in two games in his career. Similarly to Raiola, Claxton has bounced around from team to team unable to find a niche. Claxton has a good chance of making Arizona's roster, however, because he can play guard in addition to center.


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