Potter’s starting journey begins now

Posted by Darren Urban on November 13, 2012 – 4:16 pm

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.

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20 Responses to “Potter’s starting journey begins now”

  1. By georgiebird on Nov 13, 2012 | Reply

    a few points:
    1) LJ, the son of an NBA player(Lonnie), was a big disappointment as a Cardinal- but he may have been a “great guy”. I believe his problem was big, slow feet.
    2) John Abraham is a speed rusher much like our Simeon Rice of many years ago. Rice would do well against bad teams but good teams would ride him outside and run trucks thru the tackle-end hole. The Cardinals’ offense has been too slow footed, poorly coached and mixed up to this point to take advantage of a guy like Abraham. Atlanta has been a disappointing playoff team the past 4-5 years because guys like Abraham don’t show up in big games.
    3) Watch any game and OTs are getting beat by speed rushers. On good teams the OTs are getting bailed out by good QBs who know how make things happen when the OL breaks down.
    4) there are rookie OL guys playing throughout the league, especially now with injuries in full bloom. Playing OL for the Cardinals is a tough call because except for Larry there are no playmakers to bail you out; there are no playmakers who can turn a 5 yard play into a 50 yard play.

  2. By Darren Urban on Nov 14, 2012 | Reply

    Georgie —

    RE: Shelton

    Regarding the “slow feet,” it’s funny — Ron Wolfley said on the show one of Shelton’s best attributes was his footwork. Since Ron actually played a decade in the NFL, I’ll go with his assessment.

  3. By Hammy on Nov 13, 2012 | Reply

    Great post! LJ was one of the greatest guys to wear a Cards uniform. I like to see how Potter can handle the brutal schedule we have left and the defenses we are gonna face. I think he will respond well and play some good football for us. Still see us making the playoffs if we can play better Offensively….. Go Cards!

  4. By Peter in Canada on Nov 13, 2012 | Reply

    Like any undrafted or low order pick, Potter reqired an injury to get his chance. Since Brown was injured before Potter had a chance to show much he reqired a second injury or the failure of Brown’s backup to get his opportunity. He now has half a season to show his stuff and hopefully, he has progressed enough to put his seal on the tackle job. Massie on the other hand, was put into the starting line-up due to the Bridges injury, before he was ready and suffered accordingly. It will be interesting to see how they perform over the next few weeks so that decisions can be reached before free agency and the draft.

  5. By AndyStandsUp on Nov 13, 2012 | Reply

    Shelton was part of the early 2000’s teams that consisted of Leonard Davis, Pete Kendall, Chris Dishman and himself. All but Dishman (4th) were first or second rounders.
    Yet, Cards records were mostly in the 3-5 win range.
    Maybe high draft OL picks don’t always mean wins?

  6. By Credit Card on Nov 13, 2012 | Reply

    Potter has the speed to at least get in the path of a DE. It appears he does not have the strength to push that many people out of the way, but he has the speed. Hopefully Russ Grimm will learn that getting to the spot of attack is more important than size.

    Potter will do fine — he has the speed and athletism. Next season, he’ll start to learn on how to hit DE at proper angles to create a seam. Bull rushes and clever stunts will challenge him, over-all Potter will do fine. Potter has natural foot speed, and as a result will be much better than his predessors. Repeating myself, I hope Grimm will take notice.

  7. By Andreas on Nov 14, 2012 | Reply

    Hi Darren.

    Any news on who the starting QB will be @Falcons?
    You’ve have proberly heard this before, but it seems like Whisenhunt won’t admit he made mistakes with the roster selections and won’t make the swap for a younger player. Could you explain, why he hold back at starting rookies. We do see other teams starting them and having succes with it.

  8. By Darren Urban on Nov 14, 2012 | Reply

    Andreas —

    RE: QB vs Falcons

    It will be Skelton. Kolb isn’t healthy yet.

    As for rookies starting, we have covered that many, many times. It happens infrequently with him. He wants them to earn the playing time.

  9. By CORMAC on Nov 14, 2012 | Reply

    I may be on an island here, but I actually like Potter. I am sure its going to be rough for him, but I think he can develop.

    1. He needs to get stronger and gain a few pounds. He is still a boy, but he will get bigger, for sure.

    2. Kid is smart. BUT he has alot of learning to do. His natural intelect, will help him get through the learning curve quickly. I think he will put himself in the right
    spot , and at leatst HITTING his guy. That will slow down the sack rate right there.

  10. By Rich on Nov 14, 2012 | Reply

    When I suggested Levi Brown moving to guard next year, I didn’t mean to suggest that was because the current young tackles could succeed. I just feel that Brown can not be more than an average tackle. If he moves to guard he may excel. Then they can pay attention to the taqckle positions. Maybe Massie and Potter fight it out for the starting right tackle spot. Snyder becomes an “across the board” top reserve. They draft a left tackle with their first pick. Your thoughts?

  11. By Darren Urban on Nov 14, 2012 | Reply

    Rich —

    RE: Brown at guard

    First, you weren’t the only one to bring up the Brown switch, so I don’t want you to think that was just directed at you.

    As far as all the moves, there’s nothing they can do until the offseason. I want to see this season play out first.

  12. By cardsalltheway on Nov 14, 2012 | Reply

    The only way we win in Ga. Sunday is if Ken W. uses his Ga. contacts to initiate an under the table deal for the home team/player(s)/coach(es) to lay down or reach out lower to the Refs.

  13. By Dynosoar on Nov 14, 2012 | Reply

    I asked many months ago if we have a chant or song for games in the Big Red Sea. Being in Salt Lake City, I’m clueless on this. (Although…, my family and friends think I’m clueless about most things, so this really isn’t a surprise.)

    So, do we?

    I mean, something more than Heap! Heap! Heap! (which unfortunatley we haven’t heard as often as I’d like.) or DE-Fense! or something generic like that. Do we have something uniquely ours?

  14. By Dynosoar on Nov 14, 2012 | Reply

    Rookies playing vs. earning their time.

    Payton Manning played from day one. Eli Manning sat and learned behind Kurt Warner. Aaron Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre for an even longer time than Eli.

    All have Super Bowl rings (interestingly, how many do each of the Manning brothers have?)

    Phillip Rivers started from day one as did Alex Smith, due to an injury, so did Kurt Warner (however, he had several years in Arena League and NFL Europe, so I’d put him in the learned behind category.) Kevin kolb also learned and waited behind McNabb (uh oh, please don’t let anyone think I’m suggesting we get Donnavan on our team, even if he does live in the Desert.)

    For every rookie that starts playing day one and is succesful, another plays day one and is unsuccessful.

    For every player that waits and earns his playing time and finds success, another waits and earns starting time and is unssuccessful.

    Whizenhunt’s philosophy is his because he’s seen it work. Other coaches have a different philosophy because they’ve seen rookies starting work. Pro’s and con’s on both sides.

    I don’t think either aproach is right or wrong, perhaps a blending of both, but to say Whizenhunt should change his style because of the “evidence”, there’s just as much “evidence” supporting his philosophy.

    Manning vs. Newton first season. Manning vs. Newton second season. Which philosophy is right, I don’t really know. But I do know Whizenhunt is the winningest coach in Cardinals history, so he’s doing something right and now it’s Potter’s time to shine.

    Go Nate! Go Cards!

  15. By john the draft guy on Nov 14, 2012 | Reply

    First, With the rash of QB injuries, how important are tackles? That is why a line of teams were waiting to see what the cards did with Levi. Levi is a solid LT and could be an above average RT in my opinion. With young tackles not drafted in the first round, many, not all, start out as guards. With this thinking, If, and I mean if, Potter took over at LT, it just would make more sense to move Levi to RT and Massie inside.

    No we do not. I remember Woofley or someone trying to get a first down thing going. Wait, I take that back, sometimes I hear chants for the QB on the bench. Yes I do remember that one. 🙂

    Finally, re: Potter,
    I am sure Shelton would say if it was only speed, Potter could adjust. But the passrushers like Abraham are professionals at what they do. These guys go hard on speed, then set you up and bull rush you right into the QB. Spin moves, inside moves, there is so much a vet can do to Potter, not to mention zone blitzes and stunts. That is why an experienced LT isnt as excited after 3 quarters as myself or other fans. LJ knows what is coming. If Potter holds up these last games, we may have found our LT. But he will give up sacks, not doubt about it.

  16. By john the draft guy on Nov 14, 2012 | Reply


    Playing time;
    I think, for me, would depend on the position, type of Defense/Offense he was asked to play and draft status.

    A gifted passrusher like Aldon Smith was moving from DE to OLB. He knew how to get after the QB, but not the rest that goes with playing OLB. The niners used him in passing situations and he had an impact as a rookie without starting.

    Von Miller played OLB in college and also was a gifted pass rusher. The Broncos started him on day one, knowing he had a grasp on OLB and then moved him to DE to rush passer on passing downs. (Broncos moved from a 4-3 to a Hybrid 3-4 this year)

    Both made impacts while one started and one didnt.

    Some Olines are complicated, like Washington, some are easy to pick up like San Fran, who is thinking we aren’t tricking you, we are just better. Some run the ball and let OLineman do what they have always known to do, run block. While others ask them to pass block in complicated schemes.

    A good example is Orlando Franklin, RT on Denver. He was a rookie last year. He started and played well largely in part that it was a run first Tim Tebow offense. This year, with a year under his belt, he is asked to protect Manning more. But because he was eased in, he is ready now. Sure there are excetions, just a general rule I am looking at.

    So, what I’m saying is, it depends on scheme, where the player played in college and experience coming in, and what that player is going to be asked to do that all goes into the decision of when he gets to start. As a fan, I want those draft picks in now. My head tells me something else.

  17. By Dynosoar on Nov 14, 2012 | Reply

    john the draft guy,

    “chants for the QB on the bench.” That was really good.

    But I think most teams have that one.

    I’m going to be smiling all day thinking of that chant.

  18. By Andreas on Nov 14, 2012 | Reply

    johnthedraftguy –

    I agree with the waiting on rookies to develop, but without seeing significant playing time you just don’t develop. Thats just my point of view :).

    As the position Cardinals are in now, I would make changes. Thats why I’m asking why Whiz is waiting for his team to perform instead of making the changes – Letting them know that you’re replacing them should give them more will and power to perform. The rookies is standing in line with aggression, motivation and will.

    I’m not from the States, trying to explain as good as i can – Since english is not my main language.

  19. By Eazy E on Nov 14, 2012 | Reply

    Cardinal Fans, let’s be optimistic but not too optimistic, he was drafted in the 7th round for goodness sakes. Let’s not say he’s the next Jake Long or Joe Thomas or Jason Peters. No matter how well he does, unless he’s an all-pro, this offseason, we better go QB and O-Line heavy.

  20. By Dynosoar on Nov 14, 2012 | Reply


    sometimes even those of us from the States have a hard time explaining our thoughts correctly.

    And you’re right, perhaps sometimes rookies earn starting spots not on the practice field, but by the poor performance or injuries of those ahead of them on the depth charts.

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