Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians didn’t hold his tongue Saturday prior to the team’s annual Fan Fest practice when discussing second-year guard Jonathan Cooper.
“I’m a little disappointed in where Coop is at right now, I hoped he would come a little faster to get back into the speed of the game,” he said.
“We just need to see it. We need to see that special player that we drafted, that we had last year.”
Cooper, the seventh overall selection in the 2013 draft, suffered a fractured left fibula in the third preseason game that scrapped the rest of his rookie season.
In playing his way back into shape, Cooper is splitting reps with second-year guard Earl Watford at the left guard spot, but general manager Steve Keim doesn’t seem all that concerned at this point.
“When you look at the big picture, you realize Coop had a pretty significant injury,” Keim told Doug and Wolf Monday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “There’s no question he’s got to knock off some of the rust.
“I really equate it to when you’re in a serious car accident, when you get behind the wheel the next several times, I think there is going to be some concern and a mental hurdle to get over. But the more you drive your car, the more comfortable you’re going to feel.”
Arians admitted Saturday that Cooper is rusty after participating in only 15 practices last year. But Keim thinks there is another factor involved.
“He’s been going against Calais Campbell every day, and Calais continues to grow and get better and he’s been dominating,” Keim said. “I think when you look at the fact that he’s going against Calais and he’s got to gain a little bit more trust in his leg, it’s going to take a little time.
“When you think about where Coop was a year ago at this time — he walked through baggage claim and he was our best offensive lineman. So our expectations are a little higher than most.”
Keim said while the temptation is there to get Cooper more playing time in Saturday’s preseason opener against Houston, the reality is there are three more exhibition games to think about.
“It’s still early in the preseason and only time will tell, but I’m pretty confident knowing Coop’s character and intangibles and the way he goes about doing his job, I feel pretty confident that he’s going to come around and sometime in the near future, be the same player we drafted.”