Going into summer vacation, the Arizona Cardinals are feeling good.
Head coach Bruce Arians felt so good about the work the team had put in that he canceled the third and final day of mini-camp. Part of those good vibes come from the work of the offensive line.
Right guard Jonathan Cooper talked about how much work has been put in at mini-camp with Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday.
“The tempo of these days, this is the hardest we’ve worked as an entire unit, offense and defense,” Cooper said. “I’m very impressed with what we’ve done these past two days.”
It’s difficult to judge an offensive line with no pads, but Cooper is looking beyond the physicality and instead at how the unit is communicating with each other, specifically he and right tackle Bobby Massie.
“It’s great when you’re both seeing the same things,” Cooper said. “We didn’t even have to say anything, it was like a head nod and we both knew what was going on and that was awesome.”
Cooper has set the goal of being a consistent starter this year and he is putting in the effort to achieve it.
He’s stayed in the Valley since the end of the 2014 season working with LeCharles Bentley, the offensive line performance coach. He changed his diet and has been logging hours with the Cardinals’ weightlifting coach with an individual regiment.
After a broken leg cost him his rookie season and various ailments plagued him in 2014, where he only played three games at guard — starting two — Cooper felt things weren’t going his way even though he was working hard. He calls this offseason work a “different avenue to find an answer.”
He felt confident going into the last season coming back from the injury, but things didn’t go nearly as well as he’d hoped. Still, Cooper points out an important difference between then and now.
“Mentally last year I thought I felt better, but now I’m getting confirmation from coaches and outsiders and that’s really boosted my confidence,” he said.
Though Cooper and his coaches are confident, it doesn’t mean some haven’t labeled the seventh overall pick from the 2013 draft a “bust.” He’s heard it, of course, but will not take the commentary to heart.
“The people who matter, they aren’t the ones saying that,” Cooper said. “The people who matter are saying ‘keep working.'”