Most NFL teams only replace offensive linemen because of injury or ineffectiveness. Those positions typically aren’t like running backs or defensive linemen, who rotate in and out.
The Arizona Cardinals do things a little different.
Last year during the final month of the year, they found reps for Mason Cole, now the team’s starting center, at multiple positions, and they appear to be doing it again this month with Justin Murray and Lamont Gaillard.
On Sunday, Gaillard came in for Cole for 16 snaps and Murray played 39 snaps, 22 at right guard and 17 at left guard.
There were no injuries announced during the game, although both Pugh and Sweezy have dealt with injuries in recent weeks.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury explained there are a couple of reasons why they rotate guys in on the line.
One reason is the effectiveness of the starters.
“If a guy can be better when he’s fresh and we have an adequate player behind him then we’ll try to look into that,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters on Wednesday.
Pugh and Sweezy are older players and have dealt with injuries this year.
Kingsbury said that finding ways to maximize players is something they want to do.
There is the other factor — the players behind the starters. “We’ve had some guys that we feel are deserving of playing and can help us play,” he said. That was Cole a season ago and this year it is Murray and Gaillard, both of whom have started games this season.
It worked for the Cardinals last year, as they ran the ball extremely well and also pass protected better.
Another factor that could come into play is that they could be grooming both Gaillard and Murray for potential starting roles next season, giving them game reps and experience.
Cole did that last year and then took over the starting center job.
Murray signed a contract extension, while Sweezy will become a free agent. Pugh has been effective but because of his contract, he potentially could be moved for salary cap relief, especially if they believe he can be effectively replaced.
For Gaillard, it could set up a competition at center with Cole.
Over the final four weeks of the regular season, it will be a trend to watch for Arizona, especially if there is an uptick in production again after a bit of a lull the last three games.