TEMPE, Ariz. — While the Cardinals continue to try to sort out an awkward and less-than-desirable predicament at quarterback, a second major concern has emerged on the offensive side of the ball.
Left tackle Levi Brown will be lost for most, if not all, of the 2012 season after tearing suffering a torn triceps in his right arm in the second quarter of Friday night’s preseason victory over the Oakland Raiders.
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt confirmed the injury on Saturday and said Brown will require surgery after the triceps separated from the bone. Whisenhunt said the typical recovery time could allow Brown to return at about the end of the regular season.
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Brown is a six-year pro, all with the Cardinals, who returned to the team as an unrestricted free agent this off-season. Whisenhunt said D.J. Young and D’Anthony Batiste would get the first crack at replacing Brown, although the team could also move Jeremy Bridges from right tackle to left, a position he played in 2009. Rookie Nate Potter, a seventh-round draft pick, will also get more repetitions at the position.
Batiste is a seven-year veteran who has made four starts in NFL career; Young spent last season on the practice squad after going undrafted out of Michigan State.
Whisenhunt said he had confidence in the in-house options, but “it’s not going to preclude us from looking at other options.” At the same time, he expects the pickings to be sparse.
“That’s one reason we were so happy to get Levi re-signed (as a free agent),” Whisenhunt said. “There weren’t a lot of options out there.”
Whisenhunt said depending on how surgery goes, Brown could be a candidate for the new PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) designation that could allow him to return at the end of the season. Each team is allowed to use the designation for one player per season, and that player has to be on the 53-man roster for the first regular season game and miss a minimum amount of time.
“We’ll have to see how the surgery goes; we’ll have a better feel for the rehab time,” Whisenhunt said.
Meanwhile, Whisenhunt said John Skelton would get an extended look with the first team in the Cardinals’ next preseason game, at Tennessee on Thursday night, as planned all along.
“It was going to be John’s turn,” Whisenhunt said. “We’ve got to look at him.”
Kevin Kolb has struggled throughout the preseason, and Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said after Friday’s game that Kolb was “skittish. He is scared back there.”
Whisenhunt took exception to those comments. “You heare those things from certain players, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s accurate,” he said. “I’ve heard it said about Kurt (Warner) before, a couple of different times.”
Kolb got off to a strong start in Friday night’s game, leading the Cardinals downfield for a touchdown on their opening drive, but did little afterward. He finished 3 of 6 for 22 yards and was sacked three times.
“I was encouraged by the way Kevin started,” Whisenhunt said. “Can he build off that?”
Whisenhunt said that for whatever reason, the Cardinals have struggled more in pass protection with Kolb at quarterback than Skelton, and Friday night was no exception. “It’s weird to say that, and I don’t want to sit here and make excused, but it does seem that way,” he said. “We’ll see how John handles it this week.”
He also said that some of the difficult situations the quarterbacks find themselves in is by design.
“You purposely want to make it tough on your quarterbacks to see how they handle it,” he said. “It’s all part of the evaluation.”
Regarding Justin Bethel, a sixth-round draft choice out of Presbyterian, Whisenhunt had this to say: “It’s a pretty safe bet he’s made the team.”
Bethel blocked a punt and an extra point against the Raiders and returned the punt for a touchdown, and he also blocked a field goal earlier in the preseason.
Whisenhunt was also pleased with the impressive return to action by running back Ryan Williams, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. He carried five times for 25 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown run.
Running back Beanie Wells is expected to see his first game action on Thursday in Tennessee.