FLAGSTAFF – Brandon Keith was the seventh-round pick with the big upside a year ago.
This year, the offensive lineman is a little more under the radar even as he is closer to securing his place on the roster.
"Now all the pressure isn't on you, and it's about gelling and going with the flow," Keith said. "Last year it was more like trying to do what I need to do, and this year it's more about doing what I can to help the team."
Keith was kept on the active roster last season because his potential wouldn't have allowed him to clear waivers and reach the practice squad. A natural (and better) tackle, Keith is working mostly at guard.
"It has been difficult for him playing the position of guard, but that is something we have to find out about him," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "If he is going to be our swing lineman, our potentially sixth or seventh lineman active on game day, he's got to be able to play that guard position."
Keith understands. He acknowledges he was "kind of against" playing guard but he knows the versatility can only help his playing time chances. He also knows rookie Herman Johnson, who is at right tackle, is in the same position as
Keith was last year – eventually, Johnson will likely try and learn guard as well, but the coaching staff wants him to settle in one position in his first year.
Whisenhunt said Keith has progressed in camp. It's not like, given that the five line starters return intact, Keith has to step in and start right now. But he will if needed.
"I'll tell you right now, you watch the film, you see me pointing and making calls, whereas last year, you see me asking the guy next to me, 'Where are you going and tell me where I am going,' " Keith said.
"You still have those (tough) days, but last year, every meeting was, 'Brandon, where you going, where are you stepping, who are you looking at?' "
After tweaking his ankle sprain Tuesday night, running back Beanie Wells returned to practice Wednesday and Whisenhunt said Wells' situation was normal for anyone trying to return from such an injury.
"That is part of the process," Whisenhunt said. "What really determines where it goes from there is how quickly he recovers. He seemed to be fine with it."
Nevertheless, Wells only did individual drills Wednesday afternoon before peeling off to work with the rehabbing players on a lower field.
Whisenhunt said whether Wells plays against the Chargers Saturday will be determined with how well he holds up in practice the rest of the week.
Whisenhunt said quarterback Kurt Warner will play a little more against the Chargers than in the first game, perhaps into the second quarter depending on how the offense plays. After that, Brian St. Pierre will play, and then Matt Leinart.
It's a fine line playing veterans, Whisenhunt said.
"What you are worried about is a game where you are not playing well and you are worried about the continuity of your offense or defense and you have the tendency to want to play them longer," Whisenhunt said. "Then when the game is over and you have played them 25 or 30 snaps and you want to smack yourself upside the head, because you do want to look at other players and you don't want to wear (the starters) out."
Warner admitted that all things equal, he'd rather sit out in the preseason, although he knows he needs to play to get into a rhythm.
"When you know you're going to play 10 or 12 plays," Warner said, "it's hard to get real excited about it."
Aside from Wells, receiver Early Doucet (shoulder) was limited, as was cornerback Bryant McFadden (ankle). Still out were linebacker Ali Highsmith (ankle), tackle Elliot Vallejo (dislocated kneecap), defensive end Keilen Dykes (quad) and linebacker Will Davis (left ankle sprain).
Linebacker Gerald Hayes remained gone because of a family issue, while defensive end Darnell Dockett was absent to attend a family funeral.
CHARGERS GAME A SELLOUT
The Chargers game was officially named a sellout for Saturday, meaning the game will air live on local television, on ABC 15.
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