FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Cardinals have a big void to fill, in more ways than one, with the loss of Levi Brown to an injury that almost certainly will sideline the starting left tackle for the season.
D.J. Young, a second-year pro who spent most of last season on the Arizona practice squad, will get the start Thursday night at Tennessee. Well-traveled D’Anthony Batiste will start at right tackle but will get some playing time at the left spot, as well. And the Cardinals could turn to Jeremy Bridges, who has also played left tackle.
“We know what Jeremy can do,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “This is more about finding out what the younger guys can do.”
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Meanwhile, expect the Cardinals to be watching closely for other candidates once teams begin making roster cuts.
In the NFL, one player’s misfortune is another’s opportunity, a fact not lost on Young, who initially attended Bowling Green but transferred to Michigan State, where he was a two-year starter. Not drafted out of college, he signed with Arizona as a free agent and toiled on the practice squad before being promoted to the 53-man roster at the end of last season. He never has played in a regular-season NFL game.
“All I ask for is just one shot,” Young said after the Cardinals went through their next-to-last practice of training camp on Monday. “You never may get it again so I just want to take the most of my opportunities.”
Young, whose father Duane Young played tight end for six seasons in the NFL, is trying to make it the hard way. Most young players advance through the draft, but on the Cardinals, Young doesn’t have to look far to find a shining example of what a non-drafted free agent rookie can eventually accomplish. Center Lyle Sendlein, who wasn’t drafted out of Texas, is not only a starter, he was a team captain last season.
“I was just talking to Lyle,” Young said. “He was just saying he remembers his first start. He was nervous. I’m nervous. But that comes with the territory. You’re going to be nervous until that first hit comes. Then it’s, `Ok, I can get the job done.'”
The 6-foot-6, 324-pound Brown had a very different pedigree. He came to Arizona as a first-round draft pick out of Penn State. The Cardinals released him earlier this year rather than take the $17.5 million salary cap hit his contract carried. But he was re-signed three days later to a five-year, $30 million contract, with $7 million guaranteed.
Batiste, who has played in 22 games — four as a starter — with six teams over eight NFL seasons, has supplanted Bridges as the starting right tackle. In fact, Bridges is third for now on the depth chart at right tackle behind Batiste rookie Bobby Massie. The only other player at left tackle on the depth chart is seventh-round draft pick Nate Potter out of Boise State.
Offensive line coach Russ Grimm will need all of his Hall of Fame knowledge to try to mold this group into an effective unit.
The situation is certainly not ideal for a team trying to find a quarterback. Kevin Kolb and John Skelton remain locked in the competition going into the Tennessee game. Skelton will get the start a week after Kolb started against Oakland.
Kolb said that in the NFL, players simply have to step up when someone is hurt, regardless of how critical that injured player is.
“It’s going to be tough for the whole group,” Kolb said. “Levi’s been a stronghold there for a long time for us. He’s a leader of ours. He’ll still be a leader of ours. But it’s just like if anybody went out. I mean, if Fitz (Larry Fitzgerald) goes out, the next guy’s got to come in and play. That’s just the way this league works.”
The Cardinals wrap up their time in Flagstaff, in the pines of northern Arizona where the elevation is 7,000 feet, with a morning workout on Tuesday.