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Filling The Levi Void

Posted Aug 18, 2012

With left tackle out long-term, Cards seek fill-in to protect QB

Tackle Levi Brown stands on the sideline Friday night against the Raiders, before suffering what could likely be a season-ending triceps tear.

The Cardinals still don’t know who their starting quarterback will be.

But with the news Saturday left tackle Levi Brown is most likely out for the season with a torn right tricep, now there’s a bigger question facing the Cardinals offense: Who will protect either Kevin Kolb or John Skelton?

Brown went down to one knee in the second quarter after what appeared to be an innocuous play. He left the game and after an MRI, coach Ken Whisenhunt announced the 6-foot-6, 324-pound lineman will have surgery in the next couple of weeks to repair the torn tricep.

Often considered the most important position in football, the left tackle is charged with protecting a quarterback’s blind side. But as the Cardinals saw during the offseason when they re-signed Brown, there aren’t many options at available at left tackle.

Whisenhunt said rookie D.J. Young and seven-year veteran D’Anthony Batiste will be the first two players given a chance to fill Levi’s void, with rookie Nate Potter also getting reps. None of the trio have logged extensive minutes at left tackle. Whisenhunt wants to see those three before look at Jeremy Bridges, who has played the majority of his career on the right side of the line.

“I think we know where Jeremy is as far as playing that position,” Whisenhunt said. “Where those other two are, we need to see.”

Whisenhunt added that the Cardinals will see who is available elsewhere, either via free agency or trade.

“We’re going to continue to look at it,” he said. “I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. I have confidence in my guys being able to do it.

“But that doesn’t preclude us from looking at other options and what could be available for us.”

Whoever fills the large role left by Brown will be learning about their quarterback on the fly, and vice versa.

The debate on who will lead the Cardinals against Seattle in Week 1 at University of Phoenix Stadium continues for another week.

Per Whisenhunt’s plan all preseason, the two contenders will continue to alternate starts for Thursday’s game at the Titans. Kolb started strong against Oakland on Friday, completing his first three passes and leading the Cardinals on a scoring drive. But he missed on his next three and was sacked three times, including once for a safety.

Because of how the first half played out, with turnovers and long drives, Skelton only played one series, going 3-of-3 for 23 yards and a touchdown. Whisenhunt said Skelton will play extended minutes Thursday, as Kolb did, so the coaches can get a more exhaustive look at him.

Friday night’s game also raised more issues with the offensive line. At times it appeared the protection broke down more often for Kolb than for Skelton, a fact Whisenhunt agreed with Saturday.

“I don’t know how it’s played out, I don’t know if it’s because of the way the rotations (have) gone, but it has gone that way,” the coach said.

Whisenhunt pointed out reasons for the blown protection for Kolb, such as when Batiste missed a stunt on one of his first plays. But later in the first half, with Skelton under center, Batiste picked up the block on the same type of play.  Whisenhunt also said that the Cardinals’ offensive line has been consistent with protecting later in games, and with Kolb starting two out of three preseason games, there have been more opportunities with him behind center.

Kolb’s struggles in the pocket Friday led Raiders defensive end Tommy Kelly to call Kolb “skittish” and “scared” during his postgame remarks.

Kolb responded Saturday morning.

“Scared? Scared of what?” Kolb told AZCardinals.com. “Taking a hit? I have never been afraid of anyone on the field and that will never change. That includes Number 93 (Kelly). There’s a fine line between holding in the pocket and trying to escape to make a play. Tommy Kelly is too clueless to know the difference. I don’t mind people criticizing my play. Don’t ever question my toughness.”

EXTRA POINTS

Whisenhunt said RB Beanie Wells looked good pregame and anticipates Wells playing Thursday. ...

LB Reggie Walker let his actions speak for him Friday. After lobbying Whisenhunt for more minutes against Kansas City and then not producing, Walker recorded three tackles and forced a fumble against Oakland. ...

In his first game back since tearing his right patella tendon during the 2011 preseason, Ryan Willliams impressed with five carries for 25 yards and a touchdown. Whisenhunt didn’t get a chance to check on Williams Saturday, but said Williams reacted fine Friday night.



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