Will the Cardinals Tackle their O-Line Needs?

The Arizona Cardinals need to address both the defensive and offensive line in this year's draft. One of the most intriguing prospects to come out of the Senior Bowl last week was Mike Iupati out of Idaho. With both the tackle and guard position at the mercy of free agency, this versatile and impressive small-school guy is big on our list.

The Arizona Cardinals offensive line suffered some major letdowns last season and as many triumphs. Unrestricted free agent Mike Gandy spent the latter part of the season injured, which opened up a spot for Jeremy Bridges whose starting debut kept Jared Allen in check. But neither player is the long-term solution at left tackle.

Despite a first-round pick investment, Arizona needs help at right tackle as well. There is speculation that the Cardinals are juggling the idea of whether to move Levi Brown to left tackle, which would give Brandon Keith the go-ahead.

Also in the mix, is the situation at guard. Right guard Deuce Lutui is a restricted free agent this offseason. He improved greatly this past season. And as it stands, Matt Leinart is the Cardinals starting quarterback. Lutui knows how to block for his former USC teammate.

OL Mike Iupati
Getty
At left guard, Reggie Wells causes the least amount of concern.

But out all of the above-mentioned players, prospect Mike Iupati would be an upgrade in talent and plain out ability. He impressed many at the Senior Bowl, where he took snaps on both sides of guard and tackle. Lions coach Jim Schwartz said he never looked out of place.

When asked about Iupati (6'5", 325), Schwartz sang his praises. The coach is also not concerned about his small-school pedigree.

"I was in Tennessee when we drafted Michael Roos from Eastern Washington, real early in the second round," Schwartz said. "He's been a Pro-Bowl slash All-Pro type performer at left tackle since. So I think no matter where you find them- level of competition, region of the country, whatever- it doesn't diminish what their talent is."

Schwartz thought the one thing that scouts, coaches and general managers wanted to see was how Iupati stood out amongst players from bigger conferences. The NFL-types didn't want to see too much of an adjustment period.

"I think that's what we saw with Mike. He's right at home playing against these other guys who are the best players in the country. It's really going to be interesting following his development as a player, as he goes through the combine and things like that because he has some very interesting traits. He's a good athlete, and he's also very, very big. He's got some natural instincts for the position."

Coach Schwartz also had a lot to say about Iupati's skill set.

"Mike is a very pro-typical type athlete for the position. He's got really long arms; he's enormous; he's big; he's a really gifted athlete; he can recover; [and] he has really good natural instincts."

Iupati is expected to hear his name in the first round. It's not far-fetched to think Arizona will pick up Iupati to replace fellow Samoan, Lutui or to replace Mike Gandy.

Ken Whisenhunt had a lot of work to do in his first draft with the Cardinals, and he has almost just as much work to do in 2010. Well see if the first-round selection follows suit.


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