Will Cards' Brown Deliver in 2009?

After two mildly successful seasons in Arizona, offensive tackle Levi Brown must display the ability that made him the fifth overall pick in the 2007 draft. Brown has the potential to develop into a dominant tackle on the perimeter but has struggled at times during his first two campaigns. With Brown becoming increasingly important to the Cardinals' offense, he must continue to progress in 2009.

At the time of Levi Brown's arrival in the desert, left-handed QB Matt Leinart was expected to be the starting signal caller for the Arizona Cardinals. Having Leinart under center gave Brown's position at right tackle added importance. However, with Kurt Warner now calling the shots, LT Mike Gandy is the protector of the quarterback's blind side. Chances are slim Arizona will secure the services of another lefty and it's uncertain whether Brown will ever make the shift to left tackle.

Even though Brown generally lined up against the oppositions second best pass rusher, he gave up 11 sacks a year ago. That number was third most allowed by an offensive lineman in the NFL and ranked last in the league among right tackles. Although the Cardinals' offense has experienced a great deal of success in recent seasons, Brown's protection must improve dramatically in the years ahead.


Reggie Wells
(Getty)

Brown is just 25 years of age and has already benefited from two full seasons under renowned offensive line coach Russ Grimm. However, his development has been slower than anticipated up to this point in his career. Brown's third professional season will be crucial to his overall success in the league. In addition, Brown is expected to be the catalyst of a rather young offensive line. Center Lyle Sendlein along with guards Reggie Wells and Deuce Lutui all join Brown under the age of 28.

There's been a growing trend of once highly touted tackles being moved to the interior after failing outside. Cardinal fans are hopeful Brown won't end up being a high priced guard. However, if Brown doesn't progress into the player Arizona needs at left tackle, Grimm and head coach Ken Whisenhunt might be left with no other choice. Brown's play hasn't warranted a move of that nature thus far but the transition could be on the horizon if his play regresses in the future.

In addition to pass protection, Brown will need to sharpen his run-blocking skills. The Cardinals had the worst rushing attack in the NFL last season, compiling a mere 74 yards per contest. The team selected RB Chris Wells with its first-round pick in this year's draft, proving its dedication towards having a more balanced offense. This aspect is particularly important as Arizona's opponents' are likely to focus on stopping the Cardinals' extremely potent passing game.

The main knock on Brown up to this point has been his lack of aggressiveness at the point of attack. With more teams installing exotic blitz packages, Brown must be able to hold his own against opposing pass rushers. If he's able to overcome this deficiency, there' no reason he can't excel at the tackle position for years to come. If not, Brown might find himself inside playing guard or on a new team's offensive line altogether.


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