Coach Ken Whisenhunt talks to the offensive line Friday night against Oakland. The Cards are searching for a replacement for injured left tackle Levi Brown.
FLAGSTAFF – Levi Brown was a rookie in 2007 but was still running second string at right tackle behind Oliver Ross – until Ross suffered a season-ending triceps tear in the preseason.
That was when Brown entered the lineup and didn't leave, save for some ankle troubles that first year, until now, when he suffered what likely could be a season-ending triceps tear in the preseason.
Brown's initial replacement at left tackle isn't a rookie, but he's a virtual rookie. D.J. Young, a 2011 undrafted rookie who spent almost all of last year on the practice squad, will start against Tennessee Thursday as the Cardinals try to sort out what they will do on their offensive line.
"It's not the easiest thing," left guard Daryn Colledge said. "I've been working with Levi since last year and we have had good chemistry and we've had a great camp together. I was expecting good things. But it's part of the game, and it's 'Next man up.' I have to play perfect football and bring that guy along."
"That guy" could be many at this point. Young gets a chance, but so too will D'Anthony Batiste, who not only will start at right tackle on the other side from Young but will later flip to the left side against the Titans to show what he can do.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt also referred a couple of times to the possibility of bringing another player in via free agency or waivers, which makes since given all the players destined to be released in the next couple of weeks.
Whoever it is "there's no better way to honor Levi then to step up and play well," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said.
Young was on the practice squad all of 2011, save for the final game of the year when the Eagles tried to sign him to their active roster. Not wanting to lose him, the Cardinals promoted him to their own roster, and he has been running as Brown's backup throughout camp.
"They've plugged me in," Young said. "I know I have a lot of work to do and I feel like a rookie again. You can play a perfect game 99 percent of the time but you are judged on that one sack. You have to be consistent."
Young, who went to Michigan State as a defensive lineman, didn't start playing left tackle until he was a senior in college in 2010. Coincidentally, the first sack he allowed in college was against Wisconsin's O'Brien Schofield, now his teammate.
He has talked with center Lyle Sendlein – like Young, undrafted – about the nerves that will inevitably come with the first start. Offensive line coach Russ Grimm likes how Young functions mentally, and praised his quick feet. Grimm likes the development Batiste has shown since arriving on the practice squad in 2010.
But in both cases, they have to prove they can make it work in the game. "We'll see how they handle it," Grimm said.
The group will grow back into a unit, Whisenhunt said. It's not that it has a choice.
"It's always tough when you have to replace somebody, but that's the nature of this business," Grimm said. "I'm not going to go and stick my head in the pillow and start crying. This is an opportunity for one of these young guys to step up. Let's see if they take advantage."