Guard Alan Faneca (right), center Lyle Sendlein (left) and the offensive line did some "soul-searching" in video study this week, Sendlein said.
"Angry Gabe" was the gauge of the offensive line.
The unit had their inside run drill Wednesday, going up against nose tackle Gabe Watson, who usually does well holding up in the middle during the weekly work. This week, though, the line won the battle and – given hit and miss play in San Diego – won back some confidence.
The practice, and another good one Thursday, were needed after the line dissected its play in video work earlier in the week.
"It was definitely a hard study session," center Lyle Sendlein said. "Definitely a lot of soul searching and a gut check in that room."
The Cardinals are sorting through numerous issues in the wake of the game in San Diego, and the line – Sendlein, guards Deuce Lutui and Alan Faneca and tackles Levi Brown and Brandon Keith – hasn't been immune to criticism.
But coach Ken Whisenhunt remains confident the line will be OK.
The line is expected to remain intact. Asked specifically about moving out Keith in favor of veteran Jeremy Bridges, Whisenhunt said it wasn't considered. Keith was affected by crowd noise in San Diego and the lopsided score, Whisenhunt said, and when he was late off the ball a couple of times "unfortunately that brings the magnifying glass on him because Brandon really has not played poorly this year."
Generally, the coach added, neither has the line.
It doesn't help when the Cards have fallen way behind, as they have done in two of their four games, and the defense can pass rush without consequence. The line has not looked great in those circumstances.
"I don't accept we can't do a better job when that happens. I pray that won't happen again, that we won't have to face that again," Whisenhunt said. "But as a whole, we have made enough mistakes to discourage you to some extent, but the way the line has played, I am pleased with that. We have run the football well, much better than the past, if we get into a game where we are able to do that."
Offensive line coach Russ Grimm said "there is always room for improvement" and that the chemistry-building of the group goes on for the entire season.
"We can't let a bad play influence the whole game," Keith said. "There are times you are going to get beat, times you are going to miss an assignment, but that can't let that detour you the whole game."
As with most of the locker room this week, the message has been for every lineman to do his own job. That's something Sendlein said affected the unit. With four of the five having extensive experience in the system – only Keith has played fewer than four seasons under Grimm – "maybe you try to do too much," Sendlein said.
"You aren't where you are supposed to be because you are trying to help someone rather than staying in your spot and doing your job," Sendlein added. "There is a fine line there and sometimes I feel like we try too hard."
Whisenhunt praised defensive lineman Alan Branch for being one of the players who "definitely showed up" against the Chargers. Which left Branch with mixed feelings.
"You don't want to hear you did good when your team got smashed," Branch said. "It's a good thing but a bad thing, you know?"
But it did lead Whisenhunt to say Branch may have earned more playing time. "He was very disruptive, played his technique well," Whisenhunt said. "You have seen signs this year. I can only point to the fact he is lighter and hopefully he understands that message now. I see a player that is hungry."
Branch is keeping his weight in check consistently for the first time in his four seasons. Branch said he didn't think that was the biggest difference, but his choice as to what was may be why the weight is no longer a problem.
"I just think I came with a different attitude," Branch said. "I noticed my attitude has been getting better and better each year I have been in the league. I just think I have come into my own."
Defensive end Kenny Iwebema (knee) was able to do some limited work in practice Thursday, as did linebacker Paris Lenon (pelvis). Safety Matt Ware (ankle) remained sidelined, as were rehabbing receivers Early Doucet (sports hernia) and Steve Breaston (knee).
The Saints' injury report remained unchanged. Sitting out were running backs Reggie Bush (broken leg) and Pierre Thomas (ankle), cornerback Tracy Porter (knee) and defensive end Will Smith (groin).
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