Nate Potter knows an opportunity when he sees one.
When the Cardinals’ coaches came to him earlier this week wondering if Potter could also play guard, the second-year left tackle didn’t hesitate.
“Of course I’ll do it,” Potter said.
The Cardinals are all too familiar with an offensive line falling apart because of injuries. They saw it first hand in 2012, starting seven players over the course of the season. It happened again during Week 3 of the preseason, when rookie left guard Jonathan Cooper's season ended after he broke his leg. After a reshuffling of the 53-man roster, only three guards were left standing: starters Daryn Colledge (left) and Paul Fanaika (right), and rookie Earl Watford. The Cardinals had just one backup for two interior linemen. Until this week.
Enter Potter, who started practicing at guard in addition to left tackle earlier after the Labor Day weekend. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians made the announcement during his Wednesday press conference.
“It’s a really easy transition for him,” Arians said. “He’s got the potential, and he’s smart enough to be a full-rotational guy. He plays both sides. He already knows how to play both tackles from the experience he got in the spring and now we’ll get him ready to play guard.”
Easy might be a stretch as of today, but Potter could make a career of being a swing lineman. It’s not the ideal job for anyone who had aspirations of being a starter in the NFL for years, but it could keep him employed.
Potter is young and agile enough to learn another position this early in his career, even if he hasn’t played guard since his not-that-long-ago days at Boise State.
“It’s been a while so it’s going to be an adjustment,” Potter said. “The more you can do the better. It’s going to be a learning experience and I still got a long ways to go because I just started but I’m excited to try it.”
This move is telling in more ways than just the Cardinals didn’t feel the need to add another guard. They could’ve simply done that. Instead they showed their fondness of Potter, a seventh-round pick in 2012, by trying to make him fit. Working Potter at guard was also something being thrown around early last year.
This will help the Cardinals decide who to keep active on game days. Arians has hinted toward seven active offensive linemen, but who the additional two will be is the biggest question mark. It’ll most likely be a combination of Potter, right tackle Bobby Massie and center Mike Gibson.
After earning his stripes by fire last season, Potter didn’t impress Arians enough during training camp to overtake Levi Brown at left tackle. With his snaps expected to be limited, this could get him on the field, especially if Colledge or Fanaika go down.
It won’t be easy for Potter, who will have to learn new blocking schemes and protections. Then there’s the footwork and body mechanics.
But his goal is to get “comfortable at everything.”
“Everything happens a little bit faster at guard so I got to get comfortable with that,” Potter said. “It’s going to take a little time but I started so it’s good.
“That’s how you stick around … the more you can do.”