TEMPE, Ariz. — Not once in college. Not even once in high school.
Never before Tuesday had Arizona Cardinals lineman Earl Watford put his hand in the ground as an offensive tackle.
“I was there today,” he said. “It was fun, to say the least.”
It’s not a position switch for the second-year guard, but more of a look-see in an attempt to provide some depth and flexibility on a team that, at the moment, is carrying only eight offensive linemen on its 53-man roster.
Watford and fellow 2013 NFL Draft class member Jonathan Cooper are the two reserve guards, while Bradley Sowell, entering his third season, is listed as the lone backup at both left and right tackle.
“[I] feel a lot better than I have in the past (about the tackle position), that’s for sure,” GM Steve Keim told Doug and Wolf Tuesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “(Jared) Veldheer has been a huge upgrade for us. Bobby Massie is playing his best football.”
Yet, for some added help and protection in the event of an injury, the Cardinals are working in Watford at right tackle.
“It’s an adjustment,” he said. “It’s something I’ve never done before, but I’m excited about it. It gives me more flexibility. It gives me a purpose on this team right now. Right now, I’m not starting, but I’m still hopeful, still going to keep working, keep getting better.”
Watford, 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, briefly lined up with the first team at left guard during training camp when Cooper was sidelined, but then he fell back down the depth chart and is currently entered in as Paul Fanaika’s backup at right guard.
For Watford, the biggest adjustment sliding from inside to outside along the offensive line is “just never doing it before. It’s different.”
“You’ve got a little more space between you and the defender,” Veldheer said, “and there’s a little more patience, I think, involved than when someone is right on top of you.
“The biggest thing is just learn the technique stuff and just try to focus on one thing every day. Don’t try to put all the pieces together right away. Get the set (footwork) down and work hand timing and then start polishing up all the other stuff. Just trust the process, really.”
Though he’s played guard his entire career, Watford said he’s open to the new position, willing to do whatever it takes to get on the field.
“I’m not questioning it. They asked me to do it, so I’m going to do it,” he said. “Until my number is called, that’s all you can do is keep getting better, keep working, keep being ready and when it’s time to get thrown in the fire, (you) got to go for it.”