|With Grimm in charge, Cards expect offensive line to improve|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 06 August 2007 11:59|
Grimm was brought in to coach the oft-maligned unit. But he said the line belongs to the players.
``I'm not playing. I quit playing a long time ago,'' said Grimm, who retired in 1991 after a stellar 11-year career with the Washington Redskins. ``Like I keep telling them, it's not my offensive line. It's your offensive line.''
With wideouts Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, running back Edgerrin James and quarterback Matt Leinart, the Cardinals are loaded with talent at the skill positions. But the line has to give them room - and time - to operate.
That's where Grimm is expected to make a difference. Grimm was seen as a leading candidate to succeed Bill Cowher as Pittsburgh's head coach last winter. But when the Steelers went in a different direction, new Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt called on Grimm, with whom he worked on the Steelers staff.
Eventually, Grimm will leave his imprint on the line. But 10 days into training camp, the unit is generating more questions than answers.
``I think that they're growing together,'' Whisenhunt said after Monday morning's workout at Northern Arizona University. ``I still think that some of the blitz pick-ups, some of the stunts, as far as the communication and trust in what you see, we've still got a ways to go with that. I think they're meshing well in the run game. We're seeing some holes that are opening up.''
The unit will have at least two new starters - center Al Johnson and left tackle Mike Gandy, both signed as free agents. Right guard Deuce Lutui and left guard Reggie Wells return. The only real position battle is at right tackle, where first-round draft pick Levi Brown is trying to move ahead of Oliver Ross.
``None of the guys are where we want them right yet, but that's what camp's for and we're working to get there,'' Grimm said. ``Obviously, we still have a ways to go with assignments. It's a new offense. It's a new group that's playing together. It's going to take a little bit of time. I think we've got enough time to get it ready for the opener.''
Grimm was referring to the regular-season opener against at San Francisco on Sept. 10. The Cardinals open the preseason at Oakland Saturday night.
Offensive lines can develop personalities, but it takes time as players learn each other's tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. In Washington, Grimm was a charter member of the fabled ``Hogs'' line that cleared the way to four Super Bowl appearances.
``You look at some of the great teams, those guys have been playing with each other for a long time,'' Leinart said.
This unit faces an additional challenge: adjusting to a new run-oriented offense that will require the line to be more physical than in the past, when pass-blocking was emphasized.
A year ago, the Cardinals' run-blocking was often horrible. James rushed for 3.4 yards per carry, his lowest average in eight NFL seasons.
``We just threw last year out the window,'' said Lutui, a rookie in 2006. ``This year, we're more quick.''
The line has struggled in goal-line situations early in camp. On Saturday, James was stopped for a two-yard loss on first down, but the offense scored on a touchdown pass on second down.
It wasn't the sort of dominance Grimm expects to establish in the trenches. But he's stressing patience.
``It's just a matter of getting all five guys on the same page,'' Grimm said. ``You've got to build some chemistry there.''