Since Leonard Davis arrived in Arizona, there has been an ongoing debate about where he is best suited to play. His first Cardinals coach, Dave McGinnis, always insisted Davis was destined to be a guard, a Larry Allen-style mauler.
When Dennis Green arrived, he became convinced the 6-foot-6, 366-pound Davis should return to left tackle, where Davis played in college.
But based on Davis’ first five years in the NFL — a period of highs and lows — the question remains: Tackle or guard?
It’s been a bumpy season for Davis. He’s shown flashes of the player the Cards expected when they took him at No. 2 in the 2001 draft, but he’s also committed 14 penalties in 11 games, including a stunning 12 false starts.
Playing guard may make more sense for Davis, given the number of speed rushers who try and race past him at tackle, sometimes negating whatever advantage his size would give.
If Davis has a preference, he refuses to say, a smart decision knowing Green’s history of looking down on players who disagree with him.
"I mean, if they feel (guard) will be the best place for me, I’ll play the position and play it with pride," Davis said.
Green certainly does not hesitate on the subject, saying Wednesday he couldn’t envision a scenario where Davis would move back to guard.
"I don’t know why a guy who should be one of the best tackles in the game should play guard," Green said. "He should just keep working until he is one of the best playing tackle, but that’s just my thought process."
While Green has always maintained money does not factor into who and where he puts a player on the depth chart, Davis would be an expensive guard.
He goes into the final year of his rookie contract in 2006 scheduled to make $7.17 million in salary, with a salary cap cost of $8.08 million, a cost much more in line with the left tackle position.
There are clearly reasons why Davis would like to play guard. At tackle, it’s easier for quicker defensive ends to avoid him.
"Inside, the defensive tackles, they gotta take me on," Davis said.
Davis did dismiss the idea that playing tackle has been a reason he has had so many false starts. He declined to get into specifics, although he said "things are different" offensively. He also believes the false starts aren’t all created equal.
Davis committed two in Dallas, a game in which he admitted he wasn’t "doing certain things" to make sure he could hear the snap count, and "I guess you can say that’s a lack of concentration or focus."
But regarding the two he committed Sunday against Jacksonville, Davis said one came "right on the ball" after seeing it on film. Davis intimated the other also had extenuating circumstances, but that he couldn’t elaborate.
Still, "I don’t like getting false starts because most are in bad situations," Davis said.
His coach doesn’t like Davis’ penalties either.
"Leonard has potential to be one of the best, I have made no bones about that," Green said. "(Seattle’s) Walter Jones and (St. Louis’) Orlando Pace, they have gone to the Pro Bowls, they have shown it, they have done it for a long period of time.
"I think Leonard has every bit as much ability as those guys. I don’t think very many people would say he has played as well as those guys."
Green — who originally said Davis was going to be his left guard, in the weeks after he was first hired — is apparently going to wait Davis out at tackle.
Meanwhile, Davis doesn’t plan on making an issue of it.
"I would be comfortable at either (position)," Davis said, pointing out he sometimes takes reps at guard for the scout team in practice. "It’s just like riding a bike. You don’t forget it."