Evan Boehm started at right guard in last year's season finale against the Rams.
Evan Boehm was drafted as the center of the future. A year later, he's the right guard of the present.
Coach Bruce Arians liked the way the second-year lineman performed at guard near the end of his rookie year, enough to deem him the starter heading into offseason work. Right guard is the biggest question mark on the offensive line with the other four spots manned by returning starters.
"I think Evan Boehm, those last three ballgames, showed he can play that position," Arians said from the owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore on Wednesday morning.
The Cardinals went through five different right guards in 2016 because starter Evan Mathis was lost for the season in Week 4. Earl Watford, John Wetzel, Boehm and Taylor Boggs all filled in at times. After that much uncertainty, many thought the team would strike for a veteran in free agency, but General Manager Steve Keim stood pat.
While the Cardinals were eliminated from the playoffs down the stretch of 2016, the games were important to Boehm.
"I think I kind of proved myself," he said from the Arians Family Foundation's charity golf event last week.
While the draft and free agency can still change things, the Cardinals' current starting offensive line features D.J. Humphries at left tackle, Mike Iupati at left guard, A.Q. Shipley at center, Boehm at right guard and Jared Veldheer at right tackle.
ELLINGTON NOW A WIDE RECEIVER
Arians said Andre Ellington, a running back in his first four seasons with the team, will move to wide receiver this offseason. Ellington has lined up regularly in the slot in the past, but has never completely focused on the position.
"I love it," Ellington said of the switch. "I did it toward the end of the season and I enjoyed it. Just get me in space, man. That's when I'm at my best."
With David Johnson gobbling up the majority of the touches in the backfield, it's a way for Ellington to compete for playing time. Arians said the Cardinals could always move Ellington back to running back if need be, and he likes the idea of having a player who can do both to free up an extra active roster spot on game days.
"Running back, that's like second nature," Ellington said. "I can get in there and a run a play with ease. I want to expand my knowledge to the receiving corps and get good at that."
NO USAGE DROPOFF FOR DAVID JOHNSON
Between his ability to run the ball and catch it, Johnson carried a big load for the offense in 2016. He had 1,239 rushing yards, 879 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns on an average of 23.3 touches per game.
While Arians wants to be cognizant of not wearing him down with too many carries, Johnson is too dynamic to see a workload reduction. Plus, he's only a third-year player.
"He's still too young to over-use," Arians said.
Arians has a lofty goal in mind for Johnson's number of touches, based on his rare receiving ability for a running back.
"I want to have 30 touches out of him, if possible, because that's going to be a lot of offense," Arians said. "When he has his hand on the ball, either as a wide receiver, coming out of the backfield, in the slot, and running, that's a lot of potential offense for us."
Tampa Bay's James Wilder is the only player to get more than 30 touches per game since the schedule expanded to 16 games, averaging 30.8 in 1984. Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell averaged 28 touches per game last season.
Images from the NFL Owners Meetings at the Arizona Biltmore