Cardinals have depth at tackle to replace Bobby Massie

First-round rookie D.J. Humphries may get his chance to play some regular-season snaps this season. AP Photo/Matt York

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It's taken three months, but the Arizona Cardinals' decision to draft tackle D.J. Humphries is finally paying off.

Until Tuesday, Humphries was going to spend his training camp figuring out how to be a professional and competing to be Bobby Massie's backup at right tackle. But with ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reporting that Massie will miss three games for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, Humphries' opportunity to crack the starting lineup was just presented to him on a silver platter.

But the rookie won't have it easy.

The Cardinals have built depth at tackle -- likely as a result of anticipating Massie's suspension -- that allows them to not rely solely on an unproven Humphries. In terms of preparing for the future -- which was the basis for drafting Humphries in the first round, since Massie is heading into the final year of his rookie contract -- Humphries would be the ideal replacement. When he drafted Humphries, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim talked about Humphries potentially being a higher pick in 2016 had he stayed in school.

Yet Humphries, who missed the past week with a knee injury and is expected to return to practice Tuesday, is not the logical choice to start the season at right tackle. The safe pick is veteran Bradley Sowell.

Sowell is experienced and a low-risk option. He started 12 games in 2013, his first season with the Cardinals, at left tackle after Arizona traded Levi Brown. He spent last season mostly on special teams after Arizona signed Jared Veldheer during free agency.

Compared to Humphries and Earl Watford, who's taken a few reps as the second-team right tackle, Sowell is the elder statesman. Arizona also has tackles Rob Crisp and Cameron Bradfield on its roster. Both Humphries and Watford will likely get invaluable reps during the Cards' four preseason games, but unless they can make significant leaps over the next month, Sowell will be coach Bruce Arians' best option at right tackle.

Even if Sowell is the starter, Humphries can benefit from a few regular-season snaps. After drawing Arians' ire during organized team activities and minicamp for being immature and not handling life as a professional as well as he should have, Humphries's maturity has improved.

"D.J.'s making a nice move," Arians said. "Hopefully, he can get back out there and go as well as he was. He's gotten serious about this stuff. It's not college anymore."

What changed?

"Knee in his ass every day," Arians said. "Foot wasn't going to do it.

"That's why his nickname is 'knee deep.'"