Cardinals upgrade depth on offensive line

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Cardinals' decision to sign veteran center Melvin Fowler and release backup center Donovan Raiola sent me through my notes from recent pass-rush drills in Arizona.

No doubt, the Cardinals' backup centers struggled in those drills. That's pretty typical, though. Centers are often a little more nimble than other offensive linemen, at the expense of power. My one note on Raiola from Cardinals camp included the line, "78 blew up 50" to reflect Alan Branch defeating Raiola.

Fowler started the first five games with Buffalo last season before suffering an injury against San Diego. His replacement, Duke Preston, played very well against Jamal Williams in a victory over the Chargers. Preston remained the starter. Fowler became a free agent and remained unsigned until now. His agent, Eric Metz, also represents Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt. Folwer, 30, has started 60 regular-season games. Raiola, 26, had no starts.

The Scouts Inc. report on Fowler reads this way:

Fowler is six-year veteran who has been a very steady performer in the middle of the Bills' offensive line. He has above-average size and strength, but wins with quickness, technique, intelligence and toughness. Fowler does a great job to snap and step quickly while taking proper angles to gain leverage. He has good hand use and foot agility to stay connected. He can slam and chip well to the second level or scoop offset-defenders with great quickness and technique. He doesn't have great power to get movement on the larger defensive tackles in the league and can be walked back some when one-on-one verse bull rushers. He has excellent flexibility and understands how to set and reset quickly to recover as the play unfolds. He has excellent instincts and a tremendous feel for the game, making all the line calls up front. He reacts quick to changing fronts and blitzes to keep Buffalo's offensive line in the best blocking schemes. Fowler has been very durable over the past few seasons and has become a mainstay on this improving Buffalo offensive line.

This looks like an upgrade for Arizona, at least on the surface, and something the Cardinals probably needed to do.