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Offensive Line Overcomes Early Jitters

Posted Dec 17, 2017

Notes: Brittan Golden breaks arm; Penny gets his chance

Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert scrambles after getting a block from right tackle John Wetzel.

LANDOVER, Md. – Newly inserted left tackle Will Holden and right guard Evan Boehm admitted to early-game jitters in Sunday’s 20-15 loss to Washington, and the Cardinals’ offensive line performance mirrored that.

Quarterback Blaine Gabbert was sacked three times in the first 11 minutes of the contest, most notably on third down of the opening drive when he lost a fumble that led to seven points.

But the line bounced back over the final three quarters. Gabbert was only sacked twice the rest of the way, and neither seemed the fault of the protection.

The fourth sack came when Gabbert ran out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage, the fifth when he ran into right tackle John Wetzel and fumbled while scrambling around in the backfield. The run-blocking looked solid throughout the contest, as the Cardinals carried the ball 34 times for 141 yards, an average of 4.1 yards per carry.

“I think we settled down,” said Boehm, who was a starter to open the season but lost his job to Watford. “I think we figured each other out starting in the beginning of the second quarter. But we’ve got to play better. We still have to protect (Gabbert) better.”

The offensive line has lost left tackle D.J. Humphries, right tackle Jared Veldheer and left guard Mike Iupati to season-ending injuries this season, and starting right guard Earl Watford missed Sunday’s contest with an ankle sprain.

The loss of Veldheer put Holden in the crosshairs. His man, Redskins defensive lineman Junior Galette, got to Gabbert once in the first quarter, and Holden said “I shouldn’t have jump-setted him” when trying to pass-block on the play.

Holden is the fourth player to man left tackle for the Cardinals this season, and he’s hoping to gain useful experience from the playing time.

“Practice can only take you so far,” Holden said. “To get actual game reps, especially as a rookie, I think that’s going to help my development. Help me in the future. I obviously have things to work on and fix, but that’s going to happen as a rookie. As long as I fix them, I’ll be alright.”


Wide receiver Brittan Golden fractured his arm on a second-half punt return, Arians said. He was one of of several players to go down during the game.

Linebacker Karlos Dansby injured his calf and didn’t return, running back Kerwynn Williams injured his quadriceps and defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche injured his wrist. Reserve linebacker Josh Bynes, who was filling in for Dansby, was also injured.

It has been par for the course this season, as the Cardinals have been regularly stung by various injuries.

“You see who is available when you get back to Wednesday, and you try to get a game-plan like we did today to give them a chance to win,” coach Bruce Arians said. “We had a chance to win. We just didn’t make that play right there at the end.”


The Cardinals were down to their fifth and sixth running backs of the season at the end of the game after Williams left.

D.J. Foster remained in his role as the pass-catching back, but it meant more work rushing the ball for second-year man Elijhaa Penny. He had an up and down day. Penny lost but managed to recover a botched handoff and also dropped a pass. He did carry the ball 10 times for 45 yards.

While Penny lamented the inconsistency, he hopes the job he did with the ball in his hands will help him moving forward.

“It’s big, just to show I can be used not just on the goal-line and short-yardage situations, but anywhere on the field,” Penny said. “I want to prove and show I can do those things.”

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