TEMPE, Ariz. -- No one has drawn more criticism from Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians in the preseason than first-round draft pick D.J. Humphries.

There are signs this week that the big offensive tackle is getting the message.

Arians actually complimented Humphries after Tuesday's practice.

"He's getting better," the coach said. "The last 10 days I think he's realizing what pro football's all about."

That's a far cry from the way Arians talked about Humphries earlier.

The coach said Humphries had been given the nickname "Knee Deep" because that's how far he has had to be kicked in the rear end to get through to him.

With the anticipated suspension for up to three games for starting right tackle Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell moved into the right tackle spot ahead of Humphries.

Asked why, Arians said, "Bradley's a pro, he shows up, shows up every day. D.J.'s a rookie, he shows up once a week."

Arians regularly questioned Humphries' maturity and effort.

The 6-foot-5, 307-pound rookie, who turns 22 on Dec. 28, said he tried not to take the criticism personally.

"I think it just takes you to man up and understand that this is not about getting emotional or angry because somebody says something," Humphries said. "You've just got to take it for what it is, take it for what they're saying and get better, improve, do what you're supposed to be doing. That's all I'm trying to do."

Humphries was one of the most recruited high school players in the country but his career at Florida was unspectacular and slowed by injuries. Still, he chose to go to the NFL after his junior season. Four tackles were drafted ahead of him when the Cardinals chose him as the No. 24 overall.

The idea was to groom him as the eventual replacement for Massie, who is in his contract year.

But the suspension of Massie could have changed that timetable.

The job was there for the taking, but it went to Sowell. And when Sowell struggled in the preseason, Arians inserted Earl Watford at the position.

In Thursday night's preseason finale against Denver, Watford will start at right tackle with Sowell at left tackle as Jared Veldheer sits out the game.

That would put Watford, Sowell and, when he can play, Massie ahead of Humphries on the right side. Veldheer, of course, is the anchor on the left, with Sowell his apparent backup.

Humphries, meanwhile, was moved back to the left tackle spot he played at Florida. Arians said he wants the rookie to be able to play both positions as a reserve.

The coach said he had hoped "we would have a good full year to develop him because he was young and predominantly really a left tackle. So for him to go over to the right side there was going to be a lot of technique and strength work. But there's going to come a time when he's going to get thrown out there and he better be ready."

In preseason games, Humphries has given up quarterback sacks as pass rushers push him aside or quickly move past him.

He said the speed of the game has been the biggest adjustment.

"Getting everything down pat when all the bullets are flying," Humphries said, "knowing what's going on when everything's going full tilt coming at you."

He acknowledges he is "a little bit disappointed" in himself for not taking that right tackle position.

"The fact I couldn't earn that spot and doing what I have to do to get that," he said. "But I can't get down on myself. I've just got to keep working hard."