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Offensive Line Deals With Loss

Posted Nov 28, 2012

With Sendlein sidelined, Ohrnberger takes over; Colledge, Snyder last men standing

Guards Adam Snyder and Daryn Colledge are the last two offensive linemen left starting of the five-man unit that began training camp for the Cardinals.

Rich Ohrnberger is always willing to provide a joke or two, so talking about his new stint as starting center for the Cardinals was no different Wednesday.

“Mostly, (playing offensive line) is just quick points before the snaps and a lot of grunting,” Ohrnberger said.

In some ways, the gallows humor is necessary. The news earlier this week that center and captain Lyle Sendlein was out for the season with a torn MCL in his knee was just the latest problem to hit an offensive line that has dealt with many of them this season. Of the five starters to open training camp, two – Sendlein and left tackle Levi Brown – suffered season-ending injuries, and one –right tackle Jeremy Bridges – was first demoted, then got hurt, then got released.

Only guards Daryn Colledge and Adam Snyder remain.

“That’s the business. You are one snap away,” said offensive line coach Russ Grimm, himself allowing a wistful grin. After all, if the Cardinals can’t laugh a little at the situation, they might cry.

OK, maybe it wouldn’t go that far. But there is a readjustment necessary. The unit long has dealt with Brown’s absence, a spot where rookie Nate Potter now works. Rookie Bobby Massie came in for Bridges in camp and, while he has had a rough season, improvement can be seen.

Even if the mantra “Next man up” seems to fit the offensive line more than any other position, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a mental hurdle to climb each time a curveball is thrown. Some of the time this season, that's simply been a need for improved play on the field as the line has had its well-publicized struggles. Long-term injuries, though, can cut on a personal level.

“Offensive line, we have a unique relationship where we spend a lot of time off the field together,” Colledge said. “Losing Lyle isn’t just losing a good player, it’s losing one of your good friends. Seeing a guy like that, seeing Levi go like that, seeing them lose their season, that hurts. It’s personal and it hurts the structure of the team.”

Some of Sendlein’s benefit is tangible. In charge of making the line calls and for identifying the key parts to a defense – middle linebacker, the position of the safeties – the center has to be a top communicator.

“Losing Lyle,” Colledge said, “that’s a huge piece.”

Ohrnberger has the intelligence to pick up the slack and at least some experience playing the position in both preseason and practice, for both the Cardinals and the Patriots.

Rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley could use a veteran center like Sendlein against the aggressive Jets defense this weekend, but he declared his faith in Ohrnberger and said it will help having veterans like Colledge and Snyder on either side of him.

“We’ll basically have four guts calling (out) the mike (linebacker) the whole time,” Lindley said, “and it will be all four of us working together.”

Continuity and chemistry, however, are two factors that are oft cited a crucial to a good offensive line. That runs contradictory to what the unit faces now.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt acknowledged, “you are going to have mistakes” with a new lineup. “You are going to have miscommunication,” he added. “Plus, when you play young guys, they don’t have the experience, so they don’t see things and their reaction times aren’t as good.”

Snyder said he and Ohrnberger were spending time after practice Wednesday discussing some of the ways Snyder and Sendlein had worked together and some of the communication techniques, verbal and otherwise. There is no time to feel snakebit, Snyder said.

“Part of you thinks like that, but part of you knows it is part of the business,” Snyder said. “You have to adapt.”

It’s no laughing matter.

“Even in meetings and in practice, you have to make sure those (backup) guys are getting reps,” Grimm said. “There’s a chance something could happen.”


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