Josh Weinfuss, ESPN Staff Writer 295d

Cardinals' offensive line can't explain woes after giving up six sacks

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There wasn't much for the Arizona Cardinals' offensive line to say after it gave up six sacks Monday night.

The players offered few explanations and even fewer rationales for how and why the men charged with protecting quarterback Carson Palmer struggled to keep him upright, causing a ripple effect throughout the rest of the offense.

"Just wasn't good enough," right tackle Jared Veldheer said.

"Just not getting the job done," center A.Q. Shipley said.

It was simple math Monday night: The less Palmer got hit, the better he and the offense were. If the Cardinals, who lost 28-17 to the Cowboys to fall to 1-2, can right their season, the key will be for them to keep their quarterback upright and in the pocket for as long as he wants.

But there's a reason, or at least an explanation, for why Palmer has been sacked 10 times in the past two games: Starting left guard Mike Iupati and left tackle D.J. Humphries have missed both games with injuries. They have been replaced by tackle John Wetzel and guard Alex Boone, who have had mixed performances over the past two weeks.

"Having to play next to a new guy week in, week out is difficult up front," Palmer said. "We will continue to work and get better."

That message was a common theme after Monday night's game.

"We got to use our protection better," Shipley said. "I don't know. Just got to be better. It's as simple as getting the job done. Your guy hits the quarterback, you didn't get the job done."

As Palmer kept getting hit -- 11 times Monday night -- the slower and less efficient the offense became. He was pressured on 23 of his 55 dropbacks (the most he's been under duress in a game since 2009, according to ESPN Stats & Information), which was more than the 22 pressures he faced in Arizona's first two games combined.

When Palmer had time to throw, he was, naturally, more efficient.

When Palmer attempted a pass in less than 2.5 seconds, his passer rating was 73.1, according to Pro Football Focus. When he had more than 2.6 seconds to throw, it was 124.6.

Palmer tried to take some of the blame off his line.

"A couple of times I didn't get the ball out early or get the ball out fast," Palmer said. "That is a front you want to get the ball out fast on. You don't want to be in a situation where you are just holding it and holding it. There were a number of times where I got to the third and fourth read and they did a great job. There were also times that I just held on to it too long.

"I will look at it and see what I need to fix and see what I need to do with my reads. I can do a better job of moving inside the pocket because we do a really good job of creating a pocket. Sometimes I just need to find a better spot in the pocket, in the soft spot of the pocket."

Palmer was 15-for-18 passing in the first half before he was sacked for the first time with 3:08 left in the second quarter. He was sacked on his final three drop-backs of the half, but one didn't count because of a penalty on Dallas linebacker Sean Lee. However, Palmer was 14-for-30 passing in the second half, when he was sacked four times and hit six times.

"We have to protect him better," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "We had guys open at times and just didn't get them because we couldn't throw the ball."

Arians didn't want to judge any individual performances until he had a chance to watch the game film because there could have been other factors involved in why a lineman gave up a sack.

One factor in the Cowboys' constant pressure on Palmer was the Cardinals' lackluster running game. Arizona ran for 49 yards on 21 carries -- the 11th time it has been held under 50 yards in the Arians era, which began in 2013. The Cardinals are 3-8 in those games.

The Cardinals not being able to establish a consistent ground attack Monday night allowed the Cowboys to play the pass more freely, knowing Arizona wasn't going to turn to the run as often -- or if it did, knowing it wasn't finding success.

"The running game was dependent on me," Arians said. "I loved what we had passing the ball. We just had to protect better."

With Arizona all but one-dimensional, more pressure was put on the offensive line to protect. The Cowboys' standard pass rush of four pass-rushers sacked Palmer five times, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Both tackles -- Veldheer and left tackle Wetzel -- allowed one sack each and were responsible for eight total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.

Left guard Boone was the only starter on the offensive line to not allow a pressure, according to PFF. However, Boone apparently suffered an injury that was disclosed by Palmer during his postgame news conference.

"We lost Alex tonight, unfortunately, but we are hoping to get him back," Palmer said.

Boone's apparent injury was not disclosed by the team.

Palmer has been sacked 11 times in the first three games, tied for third most in the NFL this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That's also tied for the third most in Palmer's career over a three-game stretch.

So where does the offensive line go from here? To the film.

"I think just really being critical of what you see on tape and going out and working on it and doing it with all the intent in the world to fix it and get better at it," Veldheer said.

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