NFL Wire News

Cardinals’ offensive line gets reinforcements

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Bruce Arians faces a difficult decision this week, but it is one any coach would like to make.

Two starters on the Arizona Cardinals’ offensive line should be able to make their season debuts Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. However, the Cardinals’ offense is playing well so far this season, running the ball more efficiently than in Arians’ two previous seasons.

So does Arians replace right tackle Earl Watford, who started when Bobby Massie was suspended for two games?

Does he insert Mike Iupati at left guard, even though Ted Larsen did a decent job the past two weeks?

Arians isn’t saying yet, but there are indications he will make both moves.

Starting Iupati is the easier of the two decisions. He was the team’s primary target in free agency and is making an average of $8 million a year.

He is a much better player than Larsen, too.

The decision at right tackle is tougher. Massie is taller than Watford, with longer arms, and is a better pass protector.

Watford, however, is tough and athletic. He is helping the ground game.

If Massie does start, he will have a “very short leash,” Arians said, because of Watford’s availability.

While quarterback Carson Palmer hasn’t been sacked this season, he was hit too often last week in Chicago. Watford was responsible for some of that pressure.

Since Palmer’s health is paramount, Arians likely will opt to start Massie.

Overall, Arians is pleased with his offensive line. It is a deep group, made even deeper by having to play backups so early in the season.

SERIES HISTORY: 48th regular-season meeting. 49ers lead series, 29-18. The teams split their two games last year. From 2009 through 2013, the 49ers beat the Cardinals nine of 10 times. San Francisco beat Arizona 20-17 in the final regular-season game of 2015, the last game for coach Jim Harbaugh before he and the 49ers parted ways.

INJURY NOTES

–RB Andre Ellington (knee) isn’t expected to play Sunday. Chris Johnson will get his second consecutive start, and rookie David Johnson could see his number of carries increase.

–OLB LaMarr Woodley missed practice time this week because of a shoulder injury suffered last Sunday. If Woodley can’t play against the 49ers, his place would be taken by rookie Markus Golden. Josh Mauro also will play some there.


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