All five Cardinals offensive linemen that started Sunday’s game against the Vikings played all 78 snaps. However, there is no escaping the reality that three were not the expected starters when the season began and two weren’t with the team at the beginning of training camp.

The right side has been intact since Day 1 with tackle Kelvin Beachum and Will Hernandez. That’s the good news. The flip side is left guard where there have been four starters: Justin Pugh Sean Harlow, Max Garcia and Cody Ford; center with three: Rodney Hudson, Harlow and Billy Price; and left tackle with two: D.J. Humphries and Josh Jones.

Ten different players have started games on the line and Sunday was the fifth different starting combination in eight games. Since the start of last season, the Cardinals are 11-5 in regular-season games when Hudson plays and 3-6 when he doesn’t. This season it’s 2-2 and 1-3.

The overriding question is when Hudson will return after missing the last four games. Coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday, “At least this week, he’ll be out. Not sure moving forward where that will be, but at some point in the future I expect him back.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

The snap counts for the season are eye-opening where there have been 595 snaps. At the top of the list, Beachum has played 98.7 percent, Hernandez 95.6 and Humphries 86.6. The eight snaps Beachum missed came in Week 1 when he and two other starters exited the game late in the blowout loss to the Chiefs.

The numbers drop precipitously after those three players. Hudson has played 50.9 percent. Pugh, now on reserve/injured for the remainder of the season, is at 44.2 percent, Harlow 37.5, Price and Garcia 24.2, Ford 22.0, Jones 15.5 and rookie Lecitus Smith 1.3. Smith played eight snaps in the game against Kansas City.

Run blocking and pass protection have suffered thanks to the changing personnel. Cardinals running backs Eno Benjamin (9-22) and Darrel Williams (3-8) combined for 30 yards on 12 attempts Sunday. For the season, the average per attempt for Benjamin (4.3) and Williams (4.9) is skewed by one long run they each have. Without a 45-yard gain, Benjamin’s average on his other 65 carries is 3.7, while Williams has averaged 3.6 yards on 20 runs, not including a 30-yarder. James Conner has averaged 3.7 yards on 54 attempts.

Blockers had no answer Sunday for Minnesota’s Za’Darius Smith, who had seven solo tackles with four for loss, three sacks for 22 lost yards, three quarterback hits and one pass defensed.

Snap shots

Wide receiver A.J. Green started and played 47 percent of the snaps after not playing against New Orleans, but had only one target early in the game on a pass that was deflected by cornerback Patrick Peterson. Receiver Robbie Anderson played seven snaps (nine percent) and had no catches on three targets. Receiver Rondale Moore missed only one snap.

On defense, with nose tackle Rashard Lawrence on reserve/injured, Leki Fotu played 45 percent of the snaps and Antwaun Woods, elevated from the practice squad, played 13 snaps (18 percent). Linebacker Zaven Collins had another game playing every snap. He had five tackles (three solo) plus a pass defensed. Cornerback Trayvon Mullen Jr. was active for the first time since Week 4, but did not play any defensive snaps. He played 11 (37 percent) on special teams.

Charting the snaps (snaps/percentage; starters in bold)

*Indicates player that did not play from scrimmage, but participated on special teams

OFFENSE (78 snaps, 16 players)

Quarterbacks: Kyler Murray (78/100)

Did not play: Colt McCoy. Inactive: Trace McSorley

Running backs: Eno Benjamin (58/74), Darrel Williams (21/27)

Did not play: RB *Keaontay Ingram. Inactive: James Conner (injured). Reserve/injured: Jonathan Ward (eligible to return)

Wide receivers: DeAndre Hopkins (78/100), Rondale Moore (77/99), A.J. Green (37/47), Greg Dortch (20/26), Robbie Anderson (7/9)

Reserve/injured: Marquise Brown (eligible to return), Antoine Wesley

Tight ends: Zach Ertz (69/88), Trey McBride (20/26), Stephen Anderson (3/4)

Offensive linemen: LT Josh Jones (78/100), LG Cody Ford (78/100), C Billy Price (78/100), RG Will Hernandez (78/100), RT Kelvin Beachum (78/100)

Did not play: C *Sean Harlow, T *Badara Traore, C Lecitus Smith. Inactive: LT D.J. Humphries (injured), C Rodney Hudson (injured), G Max Garcia (injured). Reserve/injured: LG Justin Pugh (eligible to return), T Josh Miles, G Marquis Hayes

DEFENSE (71 snaps, 22 players)

Defensive linemen: DE Zach Allen (55/77), DE J.J. Watt (55/77), DT Leki Fotu (32/45), DE Jonathan Ledbetter (19/27), NT Antwaun Woods (13/18), DE Michael Dogbe (3/4)

Reserve/injured: NT Rashard Lawrence (eligible to return)

Linebackers: ILB Zaven Collins (71/100), OLB Markus Golden (59/83), ILB Isaiah Simmons (57/80), ILB Ben Niemann (41/58), OLB Victor Dimukeje (33/46), ILB Tanner Vallejo (14/20), OLB Cameron Thomas (13/18), OLB Myjai Sanders (11/15), OLB Jesse Luketa (3/4), ILB Ezekiel Turner (3/4)

Inactive: OLB Dennis Gardeck (injured). Reserve/injured ILB Nick Vigil (eligible to return)

Defensive backs: CB Byron Murphy Jr. (71/100), S Budda Baker (71/100), S Jalen Thompson (71/100), CB Marco Wilson (69/97), CB Antonio Hamilton (16/23), S Chris Banjo (1/1)

Did not play: CB *Trayvon Mullen Jr. Inactive: CB Christian Matthew (injured)

Reserve/injured: S Charles Washington (eligible to return)

SPECIAL TEAMS (30 snaps, 31 players)

LB Tanner Vallejo (26/87), S Chris Banjo (26/87), LB Ezekiel Turner (26/87), LB Jesse Luketa (23/77), LB Victor Dimukeje (20/67), CB Antonio Hamilton (20/67), TE Trey McBride (19/63), TE Stephen Anderson (15/50), WR/RS Greg Dortch (14/47), RB Keaontay Ingram (12/40), CB Marco Wilson (11/37), CB Trayvon Mullen Jr. (11/37), DT Leki Fotu (10/33), LB Ben Niemann (9/30), P Andy Lee (7/23), LS Aaron Brewer (7/23), K Rodrigo Blankenship (6/20), DE Zach Allen (6/20), DE Jonathan Ledbetter (6/20), LB Cameron Thomas (6/20), LB Zaven Collins (6/20), S Budda Baker (6/20), LB Myjai Sanders (5/17), S Jalen Thompson (5/17), K Matt Prater (4/13), T Kelvin Beachum (4/13), G Cody Ford (4/13), G Will Hernandez (4/13), T Josh Jones (4/13), C Sean Harlow (4/13), T Badara Traore (4/13)

Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions on Twitter @hbalzer721 or email me:


Howard Balzer is in his 47th year covering professional football as a writer, editor and broadcaster and has covered 41 Super Bowls. His connection with pro football began in 1976 with College and Pro Football Newsweekly, and since then he has been a featured columnist for The Sporting News, Pro Football Weekly, USA Today Sports Weekly and The Sports Xchange. Balzer moved to St. Louis in 1978 to work for The Sporting News, where he became Pro Football Editor in 1979. He was an analyst on ESPN's initial broadcast of the NFL Draft in 1980 and continued in that role through 1988. He has won seven writing awards in the Professional Football Writers of America competition, won an Emmy for commentaries on KPLR-TV in St. Louis in 1986 and was nominated for an Emmy in 1988 and 1990. He was named the 2016 winner of the Bob Broeg Media Award presented by the St. Louis/Tom Lombardo Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. The award is for enthusiasm, integrity, professionalism and devotion to the game of football and is reserved for individuals whose contributions to football in the St. Louis area have made a significant difference. Balzer was an officer (secretary and secretary/treasurer) for the Professional Football Writers of America for 33 years and was inducted into the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. Balzer relocated to the Phoenix area in 2020 as the publisher of the FanNation AllCardinals site and is now the Cardinals reporter for PHNX. He is entering his 19th year as one of 49 voting members on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is also on the Hall's Seniors Committee. He is the co-host of the weekly Pro Football Hall of Fame radio show on SiriusXM NFL Radio and is a part-time host at ArizonaSports 98.7 FM.