The news on Jonathan Cooper is both sobering and surprising. On one hand, losing your best offensive lineman when there is a premium on improving your offensive line seems to be a disaster; on the other hand, the news of his successful operation and possible return in 2013 was encouraging. The Cardinals think he might have a chance to play six games.
I don’t think it’s going to happen. Pure speculation on my part, but unless the Cards have a legitimate shot to make the postseason, I don’t think there’s any way they bring Jonathan Cooper back. He’s too valuable.
In a short period of time he’s made some people within the organization think he’s a franchise guard, a player that comes around once a decade. He’s a baller that has rare athleticism, holding up at the point-of-attack while pulling and running like a fullback. He’s everything they thought he was going to be and more.
I know this: I wouldn’t play him. If the injury is going to take 10-12 weeks to recover from, and I have played 10 games and have six left, and I have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs (5-5 at the worst), why not just proceed with what has gotten me to 5-5 and let my franchise guard fully recover?
I’ll move Daryn Colledge over to LG and hand the reins, for now, to Paul Fanaika at RG. In the Cardinals’ offense it’s more important to have your LG be the more athletic guard, and Colledge is the more athletic of the two.
The Cardinals use both the power-scheme and the zone-scheme to rush the football. Generally speaking, because most teams have backs that are right-handed and run to the right better than their left, on average, the LG is pulling more than the RG. In addition, Bruce Arians loves the inside zone, which is the zone scheme’s version of power football without pulling the uncovered lineman. Again, in a gross simplification of theory, knowing that teams run more to the right than they do the left, Paul Fanaika is more powerful than Colledge. Fanaika gets better movement on the Ace-Block (1-Technique) and Deuce-Block (3-Technique) than his counterpart.
Finally, LG is your help guard: more times than not, he gets more help than the RG and gives more help than the RG.
And this concerns me.
Fanaika is a great technician that is strong as an ox, but quicker 3-techniques give him problems. He’s got to hold up in protection and keep that pocket solid in the middle because Carson Palmer is not a mobile quarterback and needs a secure pocket to step up into. If Levi Brown can hold up at LT and be respectable (and this is a BIG if based on his San Diego performance), this is where the worm will turn for Big Red and how effective they are in giving Palmer a chance to be successful.
Losing Jonathan Cooper is a kick to the cradle and feels like doomsday, but there is a chance we might see him this season. But don’t hold your breath…unless Levi continues to struggle and Fanaika can’t handle the 3-Technique.