ARIZONA CARDINALS

Corey Peters: Cardinals’ Mason Cole ‘has physical talent’ to start at center

Aug 7, 2018, 12:03 PM | Updated: Aug 8, 2018, 12:32 pm
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) is hit by Arizona Cardinals nose tackle Corey Pete...
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) is hit by Arizona Cardinals nose tackle Corey Peters (98) and outside linebacker Chandler Jones (55) during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Rookie Mason Cole’s streak of consecutive starts looks like it will bridge his college career at Michigan into his pro career with the Arizona Cardinals.

Arizona center A.Q. Shipley suffered a torn ACL on Saturday, moving Cole into a starting role prematurely.

Cole, who the Cardinals selected 97th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, started 51 consecutive games as a Wolverine, tying a school record. Having started since the first game of his freshman season — he was the first Michigan offensive lineman to debut as a true freshman — he brings a wealth of experience for a rookie.

Cardinals defensive tackle Corey Peters, who faces off in the trenches against Cole, said Tuesday that the 6-foot-5, 292-pound rookie has the physical tools as well.

“I think he’s a big, strong kid. Seems like he has a good grasp on the offense, making the calls and knowing what’s going on,” Peters told Bickley & Marotta on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “I think he’s going to be a guy that’s going to step in and fill in nicely.

“You’re really just going to miss a guy like A.Q. Shipley really just based on his leadership, the toughness that he brings to the interior of that offensive line.”

Cole went through his first full practice as the Cardinals’ starting center on Monday. Should he start in Week 1 against Washington, his streak of consecutive starts through all levels of football will extend to 105 games dating back to his freshman year at East Lake High School in Tarpon Springs, Fla.

That reputation, experience — and his performances so far — have set the bar high.

“I look for Mason to step in and not miss a beat,” Peters said. “He definitely has the physical talent. Now it’s just about understanding everything that comes along with protections and making those calls and kind of quarterbacking that offensive line.”

D-LINE ROTATION DEEP

Arizona’s interior defensive line depth took a few losses in the offseason and didn’t add much in gains.

That means the Cardinals will depend on internal improvement.

At the heart of the defensive tackle group is Peters, the ninth-year pro who recorded 22 tackles and 1.0 sack last season from his interior spot.

Beside him, Arizona will put more responsibility on third-year pro and former first overall pick Robert Nkemdiche, who will presumably replace now-Oakland Raider tackle Frostee Rucker.

“I think the thing we know about Robert is he has a very unique skillset that’s unmatched by — I can’t really think of another player,” Peters said. “He would be the most elite of athlete in the NFL. His problem has always been putting everything together, playing within a system and doing things consistently.

“I think that the past two years has been a huge learning experience. It kind of was a situation where you had to take two steps back to take three steps forward. I think this year is going to be an excellent time to break out and I think he’s going to do some spectacular things on film that people don’t see every day.”

In addition to Rucker leaving in free agency, Arizona lost tackle Xavier Williams to the Kansas City Chiefs in the offseason. According to the Cardinals’ unofficial depth chart heading into the preseason opener Saturday against the San Diego Chargers, Peters and Nkemdiche will receive support by a depth chart that lists Rodney Gunter and Olsen Pierre as backups.

“Olsen Pierre is a very underrated interior guy, had a lot of sacks (5.5) for us last year,” Peters said. “We expect him to pick right back up and kind of be a force in that rotation. Rodney Gunter is coming along as well and he’s going to be in the rotation, too.

“I think we’re best when we roll and play full speed, and then give another guy an opportunity. Now it’s just a matter of us clicking collectively and individually.”

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