Campbell teaches Sowell a thing or two

October, 24, 2013
10/24/13
10:12
PM ET
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The conversation started on the practice field, two plays after Bradley Sowell stopped Calais Campbell on a pass rush and a play after the veteran defensive end beat the young left tackle.

Sowell wanted to know exactly how Campbell got by him. He had tried to protect quarterback Carson Palmer the exact same way as the play before. It worked then, but why didn't it work now, Sowell wondered. The two teammates -- one a destroyer of quarterbacks, the other a guardian of them -- began dissecting Sowell's play. They talked about it for the rest of practice, but that wasn't enough for Sowell, who summoned Campbell to his locker to continue the dialogue.

Alford
Campbell
Sowell
Campbell pulled up a stool in front of Sowell after practice Monday. They still held their helmets, their pads were still strapped on, sweat was still dripping off their foreheads.

"He was just telling me what he thought would help me out," Sowell said. "He compared me to certain tackles he played with. It was a good conversation. Hopefully, I can translate it over to the game. I got to change it up."

Sowell peppered Campbell with questions: Why did you make that move? What did I do wrong? What did you change?

And Campbell offered up as much advice as he could gather from his six seasons.

"I just wanted him to understand where a defensive lineman's mentality was, what we're trying to do to him," Campbell said. "Nothing crazy."

Sowell set out this week to seek out a few of the veterans on the defense for advice, and he said they were all accommodating, including John Abraham, who's in his 14th season.

Sowell walked away from those conversations with two primary areas to work on, his punching and his setting, which has cost Sowell on a few sacks this season. Sowell's starting to pick up on what works and what doesn't. In three games, he's allowed 15 quarterback hurries, six quarterback hurries and three sacks, according to Pro Football Focus. This year hasn't been one constant improvement for Sowell, who's noticed he digressed in some areas since being signed by the Cardinals on Sept. 1.

"I'm always going to try to get better," Sowell said. "But there are certain ways to punch that would help me out or certain ways to set because sometimes I get caught if I just set the same every time.

"I got to start switching it up a little bit. Just trying to figure out new sets and stuff that will help me or what will get the defense guessing a little bit better."

It's not a sprint, Campbell told Sowell.

Becoming a successful left tackle doesn't happen overnight, especially for someone with as little experience as Sowell has. He played just 135 offensive snaps last year in six games in Indianapolis, according to Pro Football Focus, and he surpassed that total in the past three games this year.

Even the top tackles taken in this year's draft are struggling at times, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has pointed out.

"He's a work in progress," Arians said of Sowell.

During their conversation, Campbell could sense Sowell's desire to improve and sees potential. But Campbell made sure to instill in the second-year undrafted free agent that football is all about technique. Rhythm comes as easily as it goes. When a defensive lineman stops Sowell from moving, Campbell knows how hard it is to get going again.

Eventually, yet not surprisingly, the discussion turned to golf.

"The biggest thing is just trying to find that consistency," Campbell said. "It's almost like a golf swing. That's what we were talking about, too. You got to get that swing right. You get your set right, you can stop anybody. Once you start getting a little kink in your set, you got to readjust it and find it again."

Sowell's hoping he finds it soon.

Josh Weinfuss

ESPN Arizona Cardinals reporter

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