With all the injuries and sloppy play, it is hard to take many positives out of Cardinals’ preseason game number three with the Chargers. Arizona clearly has some work to do to become a good football team. And while I’m not expecting Bruce Arians to work miracles in year one, I am expecting improvement.
But make no mistake about it, the loss of Jonathan Cooper is going to hurt bad. He was their best offensive lineman. He was the one player on that line going into training camp that you had penciled in as a starter. All the other positions were up for grabs. Now Daryn Colledge is a solid veteran and a good player, and that’s a positive. But Cooper was and is going to be great. He was well on his way to becoming a difference maker on that line both in pass protection and run blocking. There are things he can do that not many guards in the league can.
Without him, Arizona not only loses its best lineman, but now its depth is challenged. Put it this way: If you made a list of players the Cardinals could ill-afford to lose, Cooper is somewhere around five to eight. In fact, let’s do just that. These are the players Arizona can’t afford to lose.
1) Larry Fitzgerald — any hope of a decent season is gone if Fitz is gone. He demands double-teams, makes the impossible catch possible, keeps drives alive and makes the other receivers better.
2) Patrick Peterson — A shutdown corner who is expected to take away one side of the field and also excels as a return specialist and now, this year, as an offensive weapon. Kiss the season goodbye if he is out.
3) Carson Palmer — While just an average quarterback, we have found that teams with an average signal caller, good running game and great defense can win in this league. Palmer, like we keep saying, is better than what they had last year and gives them hope. That hope is gone if he is gone.
4) Rashard Mendenhall — two real good seasons and some injury plagued seasons on his résumé. We saw a pitiful rushing attack last year and how it allowed defenses to tee off on Cardinals QBs. Mendenhall, when healthy, can keep defenses honest and that’s half the battle. Plus, there is no experience behind him.
5) This is where it gets debatable. Is it Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett or Cooper? I’ll go with Cooper. As bad as that offensive line was last year, Cooper was going to be the key to changing that. Arizona used the seventh overall pick on him because he is that good. His loss will be tough to overcome, even with a veteran like Colledge taking his place.