Batiste, rookie Massie move in at OT for Arizona
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)
Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt is shifting D'Anthony Batiste to left tackle and moving in rookie Bobby Massie at right tackle as he works to stabilize what has been a shaky offensive line since the loss of Levi Brown to a season-ending injury.
Whisenhunt liked the combination in last Thursday's loss at Tennessee and plans to play them only a small amount of time in Thursday night's preseason finale at home against Denver.
''I think we know where we are,'' Whisenhunt said after Tuesday's practice. ''What stabilized for us in the game after we put D'Anthony over at the left and Bobby over at the right was where we were going to go going forward. Our expectation going into this game is to let them play just a little bit and see how that goes.''
Batiste gets his chance after knocking around the NFL for six years, appearing in 22 games, four of them last season with the Cardinals (tied for No. 23 in the AP Pro32). His only starts were four games in 2007 with the Atlanta Falcons.
''We felt very strongly about D'Anthony coming into this season,'' Whisenhunt said. ''because of his work in the offseason and what he did for us last year. In spot play for us against Minnesota he did a very nice job when (guard) Daryn (Colledge) went out. Then he's done a good job throughout the spring. Our hopes were he would take the right tackle position and we knew that he was a backup at left tackle. He did a nice job in the game (against Tennessee) so I just want to see him do it again this week and I expect him to do that.''
Massie is a massive (6-foot-6, 316-pound) fourth-round draft pick out of Mississippi.
''The first game against New Orleans he struggled in pass protection,'' Whisenhunt said. ''You knew that was going to be the case with a young guy. Probably for him, the fifth game is a big benefit. He played well last week. He's played better, he's practiced well this week, so we're expecting this to translate into the game.''
The wild card in the offensive line shuffle is Jeremy Bridges, who has played in 110 games over eight NFL seasons - 55 as a starter, but has been limited to playing with the backups, sometimes as a third-stringer, throughout the preseason.
Colledge, the starter at left guard, practiced some at left tackle this week ''more for contingency-type plans,'' Whisenhunt said.
Finding a semblance of stability on the offensive line is crucial to improvement at quarterback, where Whisenhunt still hasn't announced a winner in the competition between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. Neither candidate will play Thursday night, but expect Whisenhunt to crown a winner by Friday, a scenario that would match what he did in 2008, when he finally gave the job to Kurt Warner over Matt Leinart. That team made it to the Super Bowl.
Both quarterbacks have been leveled by a furious pass rush in the preseason, but it did subside when Batiste moved over to replace the struggling D.J. Young against the Titans.
The 30-year-old Batiste, who stands 6-4 and weighs 314 pounds, has taken a rough road through the NFL's backwaters.
He was not drafted in 2004 out of Louisiana-Lafayette but was persistent and signed with Dallas' practice squad two years later. He spent time with the practice squads of Dallas and Carolina before signing with Atlanta in 2007 and getting his first chance to play. He appeared in eight games with Washington in 2008 before being waived. He spent a year on the Dallas practice squad before being signed by the Cardinals in November 2010.
He played in one game that season and four for Arizona last year.
''I just think every day you've just got to go out there and get better,'' Batiste said. ''Whether it's first-team, second-team, your objective every day is to go out there and get better. As long as you're doing that, you'll make yourself a better player and have a better team.''
Batiste was asked what he can do to help the youngster Massie.
''I can help out because a lot of the mistakes he might make I've already made,'' he said with a smile.
Massie said that he's been working since he arrived in Arizona to improve his blocking technique to meet the rigors of the NFL, where tackles usually get noticed only when they don't do their job.
''It's more mental than anything,'' he said. ''Everybody's big and fast here so you've got to beat them mentally. You've got to know your playbook and understand what you're doing out on the field. Without that, you ain't going to be out there long.''
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