The Arizona Cardinals have had one of the best and one of the most aggressive off-season in recent memory; at least on paper.
Through free agency, by trades and from the recent NFL draft, the Redbirds have seemingly acquired depth at just about every position. It has been an aggressive approach that is very much unfamiliar territory to Cardinals fans.
Even in the very familiar past, the Redbirds would have perhaps signed or picked up a player or two through (late) free agency but they were never very aggressive in their approach. We have become accustomed to watching them sit back and perhaps late in free agency they might pick up a player or two lower end free agents. But usually it was never a big name free agent.
However this year has been very much different and it is very unfamiliar territory for all Cardinal fans. Up and down the roster there seems to be an abundance of solid talent that gives us all hope and excitement for this upcoming season.
If there was a position that has been consistently neglected in recent years, it has been the Redbirds offensive line. Although this off-season has been quite different.
Through free agency and through the recent NFL draft the Cardinals have acquired seemingly solid depth up front that is very unfamiliar to us all.
This off-season they have added solid depth up and down the offensive line, creating some very interesting competition coming into training camp. This off-season the Redbirds surprised us all when they used their first round pick (7th overall) on a guard in Jonathan Cooper; as it is extremely rare to see a guard drafted that high in the NFL draft.
The Redbirds also used another draft pick on another guard in the later rounds in Earl Watford out of James Madison. They also added another guy up front in guard Chilo Rachal in the recent free agent market.
Furthermore, last week the Cardinals surprised us all when they signed a very solid right tackle in Eric Winston. This should create some terrific competition with Robert Massie. Massie, after a very poor start early in the season, really came on the second half of the year. Signing Winston should create a very interesting battle at right tackle.
Up and down the line, there seems to be some interesting battles in training camp that will be very interesting to see. However, the left tackle position up front on the offensive line was not upgraded in the off-season. As most of us are all aware of; the left tackle is probably the most important position on the offensive line, because it is a position relied upon to protect the blind side of the quarterback.
After missing the entire 2012 season with a torn triceps; Levi Brown (former first round pick, #5 overall) has returned from the injured list and is being relied upon to be their savior at that spot. Brown’s return is the primary reason the Cardinals did not (make it a priority) look to the draft nor the free agent market to find that franchise left tackle. Although, so far he has been for the most part a major disappointment. So far at the position he has been extremely inconsistent, raising many questions (with fans) whether the Redbirds should just cut ties with him and so far justifiably so.
However, new head coach Bruce Arians earlier in the off-season called Levi Brown an elite left tackle. Surprising us all by his comments or should I say (for us that have closely watched him over the years) causing us to pause and scratch our heads with his recent statement, because we all have just not seen an elite left tackle in him as of yet, to say the least.
Having said that, I was posed a question as to whether I believe Brown should get traded or released this year.
In my opinion, coach Arians will give him more time to shake the rust off. Since he did not play last season, l Just do not think there will be a short hook with him early on this year. They will give him time to shake the rust off. After all, he did perform very well the second half of the 2011 season. We also must not forget he can play a solid right tackle as well. As he was the starting right tackle during their Super Bowl run.
Furthermore, if needed Brown could be moved in at one of the guard positions in a pinch. But most importantly, last year he was just resigned to a new contract and he was not paid like a franchise left tackle. Therefore, they can afford to keep him around a little longer because of his versatility on the line and because his salary is not too much of a cap hit.
Most importantly, let’s hope that coach Arians is correct in his opinion, calling him a franchise left tackle. Perhaps, Arians and his coaching staff have the secret to correcting his issues and will be able to get him on track and to perform at an elite level.
I believe there will be a heated battle between Brown and up and coming and last years 7th round draft pick Nate Potter. So far Potter has been a huge surprised and performed quite well last year for a rookie, while Brown was down with his injury. So far this off-season, from what I can tell, the coaching staff is very pleased with Potter’s performance.
Therefore, in my opinion, Brown better shake the rust off quickly or he will find himself looking for another position on the offensive line. This heated competition should be really good for Brown and I think we will see him operating at his best very quickly.
We will soon get to see if Levi Brown can prove us all wrong and become or should I say perform like a high first round pick. We shall see very soon.