Cardinals QB Coker working hard, trying to learn quickly
May 31, 2016, 8:30 PM | Updated: Jun 1, 2016, 11:32 am
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Jake Coker is with the Arizona Cardinals battling for a job.
His work began in rookie mini-camp in early May and has continued on through OTAs, of which the final week began Tuesday. Mini-camp is set for next week and from there, the goal is to keep fighting through training camp.
An undrafted rookie free agent out of Alabama, Coker is hoping to unseat Matt Barkley as the team’s third quarterback behind Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton.
“It’s been pretty good,” he told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday afternoon. “I’m just trying to pick everything up and learn as fast as I can.
“It’s been fun and been able to be in the same quarterback room as Drew and Carson and all them, and Matt, and just seeing how they work and seeing how they practice is pretty special.”
At 6-foot-5 and 232 pounds Coker looks the part of a Cardinals quarterback, and though his college numbers were not of the eye-popping variety, he showed some ability in leading the Crimson Tide to the College Football Playoff Championship last season.
In a semifinal win over Michigan State and then the championship game victory over Clemson, he completed 41-of-55 passes for 621 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Alabama may have been known for its running game and defense, but Coker certainly did his part to contribute.
Of course, what happened then has little bearing on his chances now, as all his previous stops granted him was a chance with the Cardinals.
“I just look at it as I’ve got to come here and work every day and just get better and things will take care of themselves as we get there,” he said.
Coker said he’s not sure why he was not one of the 253 players — 15 of whom were quarterbacks — chosen in the draft, and while that was disappointing, it’s not something he focuses on now. He’s in an NFL camp with a team, and while the odds are not necessarily in his favor, the opportunity is there to show he belongs.
It helps that he landed with a team that boasts solid veterans at his position as well as a coach in Bruce Arians who is known for developing quarterbacks.
“Coach Arians’ resume speaks for itself; he’s always had an impressive quarterback, whoever he’s coached and whoever he’s developed,” Coker said. “It’s really exciting for me to come in and play as a quarterback and play for him and Coach Kitchens, and Byron Leftwich is here, too — and Coach Moore — so it’s a pretty stacked coaching staff.”
Another thing Arians brings is a desire to throw the ball deep down the field, which is an area Coker excelled in. Last season for Alabama he completed 30 passes of 25-plus yards, and he is known for solid touch and accuracy when unleashing his big right arm.
“They call a play where I can throw it deep, I get pretty excited,” he said. “I have a lot of fun throwing the ball around and I just try to play as tough as possible and just play for the guy next to me and just win games.”
Before he can win any games for the Cardinals, Coker will have to first win a spot on the roster. He said the team’s other quarterbacks have been helpful in giving him advice when he makes a mistake or if his footwork is off, which is invaluable for a player in his position.
Yet while making the team is ultimately his goal, for now, he’s still learning to adjust to the speed of the NFL game.
“Once I’m smoother with the offense and I’m making all my decisions quicker, that’s when I’ll really be able to tell,” he said of the difference between college and now. “But you can definitely tell the speed out there is pretty crazy.”