Once upon a time, Nate Potter was considered a possible first-round pick.
Sure, that was almost a year before he was drafted, long before his final college season was played and long before the scouts got a hold of him and broke him down every which way. But it’s not like he came out of nowhere when the Cardinals took him in the seventh round this past April. While it’s not news he is finally getting his chance to start, nine games into the season with one Levi Brown injury and one failed D’Anthony Batiste experiment setting up the situation, he was officially placed atop the depth chart Tuesday.
Former Cardinals left tackle L.J. Shelton was a guest on the Big Red Rage last week — L.J. was another of those great guys I covered on not-so-good teams of the early 2000s — when he was asked to what Potter’s biggest challenge was.
“The biggest challenge for him,” Shelton said, chuckling, “is John Abraham.”
Abraham is, of course, the Falcons’ top pass rusher.
“Just going against experienced, Pro Bowl players like that is a challenge,” Shelton added. “He has teammates and coaches that will put him in the right position and give him help. I’d advise him, on any short pass early on, cut him to slow him down, and from there on, just play football. Once you are out there and the ball is snapped and the helmets hit, it’s football again. Trust your instincts.”
Asked what he sees when he sees Potter and fellow rookie tackle Bobby Massie, Shelton said, “I see rookies.”
“I see promise — I do see promise — but I see rookies,” he said. “The biggest thing they need is experience. There are hundreds of different looks you see every Sunday, with different coordinators. As they get experience, they’ll start to recognize different looks. Right now, it’s a learning game for them.”
How this turns out is a guessing game right now. Finding solid tackles in the fourth- and seventh-round isn’t unheard of. To say that’s what these players can become is premature at best. I’ve had questions about whether Brown, for instance, could move to guard if Potter does well. Certainly — and I have said this in the comments before — that’s not a subject that can be reasonably discussed yet. Not with Potter just getting started, and not when the earliest you need to do something would be at minicamp in May, months — and both free agency and the draft — away.
Given the defenses the Cards and Potter are slated to face in the stretch run (Falcons, Rams, Jets, Seahawks, Lions, Bears, 49ers), there should be plenty with which to judge Potter’s future going into the offseason.
Tags: Bobby Massie, D'Anthony Batiste, L.J. Shelton, Levi Brown, Nate Potter
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