Heading into Week 12, the Arizona Cardinals have scored the third-fewest points in the NFL, are only averaging 16.3 points per game, are ranked 31st in total offense and average an uninspiring 82.3 yards per game on the ground.
Even though the NFL is more pass heavy now than it ever has been, teams with struggling offensive linemen and a young quarterback need to rely on their running games more than ever. Which is the exact situation the Cardinals face right now.
Arguably, Arizona has the league's worst offensive line and one of the league's worst quarterbacking groups.
However, with that being said, the biggest reason behind the Cardinals' offensive inefficiencies is the offensive line. According to Pro Football Focus, Russ Grimm's pass protection unit has surrendered 191 total quarterback pressures through the first 10 games of the season.
There's no question as to why Arizona's quarterbacks have struggled so much this year. John Skelton and Kevin Kolb haven't had a clean pocket to work with all season long. Notice I didn't mention Ryan Lindley because for the first time all season the Cardinals offensive line put together strong performances from all five linemen yesterday.
Daryn Colledge, Lyle Sendlein and Adam Snyder all pitched shutouts in terms of pass protection—not one sack, hit or hurry allowed between the three of them. Rookie left tackle Nate Potter also had a very strong game despite allowing two sacks. Fans will remember those two sacks from Abraham, but if you watch the other 56 snaps he was near perfect.
Regardless, one strong performance doesn't negate nine poor performances.
It's shocking to me how far this team has fallen off offensively in the last year. I never thought left tackle Levi Brown would be so missed after he went down with a torn triceps muscle in his right arm. His poor pass protection skills made you think it was a blessing in disguise that he went down with an injury.
Yet, everyone forgot just how good of a run blocker he was. Without a doubt, there wasn't a better run blocker on the team last year—something they could use right now in a big, big way. PFF only has only dished out three positive grades to Cardinals players in terms of run blocking.
Unfortunately, only one of the top three players is an offensive lineman. The other two players are wide receivers. If I asked you right who the top two run blockers are for Arizona, I don't think Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd would be your top two answers.
All of this offensive line talk leads me to the real concern, will Beanie Wells help the Cardinals rushing attack, or will it stay the same despite his return? Based on what we saw Wells do earlier in the season and what other backs have done in his absence, it won't make much difference.
Wells isn't a player who creates his own yards by bowling defenders over. He is solely reliant on the holes his offensive line creates. Before getting hurt earlier this season he only rushed the ball 29 times for 76 yards. He didn't have a run longer than 10 yards, he didn't have a touchdown to his name and most importantly, he didn't force a single missed tackle.
For his career, Wells' inability to make tacklers miss is well documented. He has 585 career attempts on the ground—of the 585 carries, he has only forced a missed tackle nine percent of the time. By comparison, LaRod Stephens-Howling makes a tackler miss on 13 percent of his attempts.
If you were to look at this year only, that number shoots up to 18 percent. Some people say stats are for losers, and some say stats never lie. Whichever statement best fits you is fine, but I promise, you will see the same thing when you turn on the tape.
The only cure for an improved running game is either a new staff, a new blocking scheme or new players up front. Right now the most likely scenario come years end would be a new staff, which in turn might result in a new blocking scheme and new players up front.
One mediocre running back will not solve all the Cardinals offensive woes with six games remaining.
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