|New faces add competition to beleaguered offensive line|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 14 May 2007 22:19|
Center Al Johnson and tackle Mike Gandy signed as free agents in the offseason and are determined to help erase the line's bad reputation.
``I don't feel I have any stigma on me, and neither does Al,'' Gandy said after the final minicamp practice Monday. ``Obviously we know what struggles they had on the line. That's the past. We're looking forward. We plan on building something great here and we have the talent to do it.''
Rebuilding the line is critical for the run-oriented offense coach Ken Whisenhunt plans to install. The Cardinals ranked last among the 32 NFL teams in yards rushing per attempt and 30th in yards rushing per game.
Johnson came from Dallas, where he started 31 consecutive games for the Cowboys in 2004 and 2005, but lost the job to Andre Gurode last season.
Gandy came from Buffalo, where he started all 16 games last season, nine at left guard and nine at left tackle. He was a 16-game starter at left tackle for the Bills in 2005.
Both are accustomed to fighting for playing time.
``There's a lot of guys with a lot of experience here,'' Johnson said. ``That's always a good thing when you have competition. There are a lot of guys that are able to play and have done it in the past. That's always good to have options. Now it's just the best guys win the job.''
Johnson is competing against Nick Leckey, who started 11 times for the Cardinals at center a year ago.
Reggie Wells, who played right tackle a year ago, is moving back to his more natural position at left guard. Gandy is the leading contender to replace Leonard Davis at left tackle, with Oliver Ross competing against first-round draft pick Levi Brown at right tackle.
Gandy has practiced some at right tackle, a position he acknowledges is a difficult change. Brown, too, played both sides of the line in minicamp.
Deuce Lutui, who played well after earning a starting spot as a rookie last season, is at right guard. Also fighting for playing time is Milford Brown, who made 12 starts at left guard under coach Dennis Green a year ago.
Whisenhunt, offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers before replacing the fired Green, brought along Russ Grimm as his offensive line coach and assistant head coach.
Grimm, a leading candidate for the Steelers' head coaching job that eventually went to Mike Tomlin, had immediate credibility with the Arizona players.
``He's a great coach, he was a great player,'' Johnson said. ``He demands respect just from what he's been able to accomplish over his career. I'm happy and honored to have him coaching us.''
The three-day camp was held in scorching heat at Cardinals headquarters. Voluntary workouts began Tuesday.
Rod Graves, the Cardinals' vice president for football operations, told reporters on Sunday that some players might be released to create salary room for signing free agents and extending the deals of existing contracts. Whisenhunt said that's just part of the business.
``In this league, you're always looking to get better, and you're always looking to make moves if you feel like you need to,'' the coach said. ``That's going to be something we address when the times comes. It's something that we've already had discussions about.''
Arizona begins training camp July 29.