With the Arizona Cardinals' loss in the playoffs still fresh in their memories, it’s time to review the 2014 season, while previewing 2015. Over the next 11 installments, I’ll look back, and then ahead, at every position for the Cardinals.
2014 Review: It was a year of success, promise and disappointment for the Cardinals’ offensive line. Arizona allowed its fewest sacks -- 28 -- since 2009 with a line that at times looked like a patchwork quilt in places. The addition of Jared Veldheer paid off throughout the season. He was the anchor the Cardinals have been looking for at left tackle. On the other side of the line, Bobby Massie returned to the starting lineup on a regular basis for the first time since his rookie year of 2012. He allowed seven sacks, according to Pro Football Focus, but was solid for much of the season. However, the biggest disappointment on the line was left guard Jonathan Cooper. Expected to start and be the dominant guard Arizona thought he’d be when it drafted him with the seventh pick in 2013, Cooper had trouble overcoming the mental hurdle of returning from a broken leg. Then he was impacted by turf toe and later in the season a wrist injury, limiting him to two starts. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was consistent with his message that he wouldn’t shuffle the starting lineup simply to get Cooper reps. Veteran Ted Larsen took over for Cooper at left guard and performed admirably under the circumstances, allowing just three sacks. But he’s not the Cardinals’ left guard of the future. Center Lyle Sendlein and right guard Paul Fanaika, who was dealing with an ankle injury late in the year, had average seasons.
2015 Preview: Fanaika is the only offensive linemen not under contract for next season. The Cardinals could find a better option in the same price range -- Fanaika made $780,000 last season -- in either free agency or the draft considering he allowed 29 quarterback hurries. Arizona is set for the future at left tackle with Veldheer, but will take a hard look at Massie. He showed quite a bit of improvement from 2012 and 2013 to 2014 and with offseason fine tuning, he could be an anchor at the other side. Cooper will have to show coaches he’s not injury prone and can win the starting job during the offseason to save his future with the team. Sendlein will be in the picture again next season, especially with Carson Palmer coming back, but he’ll have to have a better season to keep his job in 2016.
Coming Monday: Defensive line