Cardinals turn to youngster after trading Brown

Four games into the season, the Arizona Cardinals are turning to

an undrafted second-year pro to step in at the crucial left tackle

position.

Bradley Sowell, claimed off waivers from Indianapolis before the

season began, will get the start Sunday against Carolina.

The biggest opportunity of Sowell’s career comes after the

Cardinals traded starter Levi Brown to the Pittsburgh Steelers on

Wednesday for a conditional draft pick.

While Brown was the No. 5 pick overall out of Penn State in

2007, Sowell went undrafted out of Mississippi last year.

Initially, he signed with Tampa Bay but was released before the

2012 season began, then signed with Indianapolis.

With the Colts, he drew the attention of Bruce Arians, who moved

up from Indianapolis offensive coordinator to interim head coach

while Chuck Pagano battled leukemia.

”Excellent young athlete,” Arians said, ”long, athletic. (He)

got stronger and stronger as the year went on, and matured. He even

looks bigger and stronger now than when we had him last year.”

The 6-foot-7, 315-pound Sowell appeared in 10 games for the

Colts and was a backup at both tackles.

Arians and Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said they expect

no drop-off from Brown to Sowell.

”Levi was playing so inconsistent that I think Bradley can step

in and play at least to that level if not better,” Keim said.

Sowell said he ”worked really hard” for Arians in

Indianapolis.

”In this business you never know when you’re going to come back

to a coach or how that’s going to help you,” Sowell said, ”and

obviously it helped me out a lot with me giving him a lot of great

effort last year and this year he’s giving me a chance.”

Cardinals backup quarterback Drew Stanton was with the Colts

last year and said he was impressed with Sowell.

”He was brought here for a reason,” Stanton said. ”When he

became available I knew that was a guy we were going to go out and

try and get. I know Goody (Arizona offensive coordinator Harold

Goodwin) and BA (Arians) both liked him last year. He was our first

guy off the bench as tackle and played in that playoff game last

year.”

Arizona saves $3.6 million in salary this year by trading Brown,

but there are obvious risks in turning to an inexperienced player

like Sowell on an offensive line that already was struggling

through the first four games of the season.

With a less-than-mobile quarterback in Carson Palmer, the

Cardinals can’t afford to have pass rushers breaking free.

Asked before Wednesday’s practice if he felt ready for the job,

Sowell said ”as ready as I can be, I imagine.”

”I won’t know until I get out there obviously,” he said, ”but

all I can do is try my hardest and get out there and see what I’ve

got.”

Keim said there would be growing pains.

”We don’t expect him to jump in and look like Joe Thomas week

one,” Keim said, ”but what we’re banking on is a guy who’s going

to continually grow and get better and a guy we can win with in the

future.”

Brown became a lightning rod for criticism of the offensive

line’s struggles over the years after the Cardinals passed on

Adrian Peterson to select the big lineman.

As a rookie, Brown started at right tackle on Arizona’s Super

Bowl team but after he switched to the left side it became obvious

he had trouble with quick pass rushers off the edge.

But he was missed a year ago, when he sat out the entire season

with a torn triceps and Arizona stumbled to a 5-11 record,

surrendering an NFL-worst 58 sacks.

Arians, replacing the fired Ken Whisenhunt, even called Brown an

”elite” tackle.

But Arians’ opinion changed through the offseason and training

camp. The coach said the Brown he saw in person didn’t play like

the one he’d seen on tape.

Keim said that Brown ”was not living up to our expectations”

and that the team had been looking to trade him since the first

week of the season.

Nate Potter, a seventh-round draft pick a year ago out of Boise

State, will be Sowell’s backup.

Notes: The Cardinals placed LB Vic So’oto on injured reserve

with a chest injury and signed LB Marcus Benard. … Arians says

it’s still ”iffy” whether S Rashad Johnson will be able to play

Sunday against Carolina. Johnson had the tip of his left middle

finger cut off against New Orleans two games ago.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Follow Bob Baum at www.twitter.com/Thebaumerphx