Lyle Sendlein was second unit through the preseason, but was named starter for the regular season on Tuesday.
Lyle Sendlein has started 109 NFL games. Earl Watford has started zero. After a training camp of uncertainty, both of those numbers will increase by one in the regular season opener on Sunday against the Saints.
Coach Bruce Arians settled on the winners of his two offensive line battles on Tuesday, as Watford beat out Bradley Sowell to claim the right tackle position while Sendlein surpassed A.Q. Shipley for the center spot. Watford, a fourth-round draft pick in
2013, said he entered this year knowing it could be his last chance to make an impression.
"That was the big thing," Watford said. "Can I do it? Can I step up to the challenge? After two years, it hadn't happened yet. It was now or never."
Last year's starting right tackle, Bobby Massie, is suspended the first two games of the season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Even when he returns, there's no guarantee he usurps Watford. When asked if Watford could remain the starting right tackle all season, Arians said "that's the plan right now."
While Watford brings inexperience and potential, Sendlein is the grizzled veteran. He was the team's starting center since 2008 before getting released this offseason for salary cap purposes. He returned on a more team-friendly deal early in training camp with no guarantees about playing time, but did enough to tip the scale in his favor.
"You never know what your role is going to be when you come in," Sendlein said. "Obviously, they signed me to compete. Competition does nothing but make everyone better."
Arians said the battle was close, and while Shipley's run-blocking was better, Sendlein's pass protection helped him earn the nod.
Sendlein didn't work with the starters during the preseason, and said he wished he had gotten more time with quarterback Carson Palmer. However, he worked with Palmer and guards Ted Larsen and Jonathan Cooper last season, and believes the transition will be smooth. Palmer agreed.
"He and I have played 20-something games together, maybe more," Palmer said. "Same offense, same system, same calls."
MICHAEL FLOYD STILL A POSSIBILITY FOR THE OPENER
Wide receiver Michael Floyd (hand) will practice on Wednesday, Arians said, although his status for Week 1 is still
undetermined. Floyd has been catching passes on the side, although not quite at the velocity of a strong-armed NFL quarterback.
"As much as the trainers can throw," a smiling Floyd said.
Floyd said he will wear protection on the hand after dislocating three fingers early in training camp, but doesn't believe his receiving ability will be compromised.
"It's falling, having your hands on the floor," Floyd said. "Catching and all that, that's not the issue."
Tight end Jermaine Gresham (groin) practiced in a limited capacity Tuesday, although Arians said he didn't run fully. Tight end Troy Niklas (hamstring) is expected back at practice Wednesday.
VERSATILITY MAKES ARIANS COMFORTABLE AT CORNERBACK
The roster lists only three cornerbacks in Patrick Peterson, Jerraud Powers and Justin Bethel, but Arians believes a versatile secondary gives him enough depth. Safety Tyrann Mathieu plays slot cornerback much of the time, and Arians said Deone Bucannon could be used at cornerback in a pinch.
"We're more than comfortable with the packages that we have," Arians said.
Cariel Brooks, Leon McFadden and Robert Nelson are cornerbacks on the practice squad who could be elevated if needed, and Arians said the team will continue to be on the lookout to bolster the position.
ARIANS REACTS TO MASSIE SUSPENSION
Arians had refrained from commenting on Massie's suspension until it became official, but shared his thoughts on Tuesday. He said Massie, who was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in late January, "decided to drive instead of use Uber. It was a bad decision."
Massie is eligible to return for the Sept. 27 home game against the 49ers.
"You pay for those actions and that's accountability," Arians said. "We talk about it all the time."