Plugging the Holes: NFC West
Identifying biggest remaining needs for Cardinals, 49ers, Seahawks, Rams
In this post-draft edition of Plugging the Holes, Football Outsiders will look at the largest remaining personnel needs of every team, division by division.
Friday's edition examines the NFC West.
Arizona Cardinals: Right guard and right tackle
When it came to addressing obvious weaknesses, few teams did a better job this offseason than the Cardinals. In free agency, they added potential starters in cornerback Antonio Cromartie, left tackle Jared Veldheer and tight end John Carlson. In the draft, they spent a first-round pick on safety Deone Bucannon, who should be a starter from day one. Then, in the second round, they found tight end Troy Niklas, an old-school, physical blocker/short-route type. They even found a quarterback of the future in Logan Thomas. As a bonus, they'll get some key injured players back in 2014. Notably, Jonathan Cooper, last year's first-round pick who missed his entire rookie season due to a broken leg, is expected to return to the lineup. The Cardinals -- the only team that beat the Seahawks in Seattle -- won 10 games last year, and on paper, they're even better now.
The offensive line, though, still needs some work, specifically on the right side. Veldheer and Cooper should be big upgrades at left tackle and left guard, and center Lyle Sendlein has been a desert mainstay for half a decade now. But the incumbents at right guard and tackle, Paul Fanaika and Bradley Sowell, had never started an NFL game before this past season. There were 165 offensive linemen with at least 500 snaps in the NFL last year. Sowell ranked second-worst among those players in rate of blown blocks per snap, according to the Football Outsiders game charting. Fanaika was in the bottom 20 percent. Last year's starter at right tackle, NFLPA president Eric Winston, remains available. It wouldn't be a surprise if he donned a Cardinals helmet again.
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