“A little disappointed with where Coop’s at right now,” Arians said. “I hope he would’ve come a little faster to get back into the speed of the game and obviously going against [defensive end] Calais [Campbell] every day is different but he needs to pick it up.”
Waiting in the wings is second-year guard Earl Watford, who’s playing well enough to earn a starting job at tackle but neither Cooper nor Paul Fanaika is conceding the spot yet. That could change soon for Cooper, Arians said.
“Earl’s going to push Coop,” Arians said.
Watford, who has been competing at right guard all camp, has started practicing at left guard with the second-team offense to improve his position flexibility. The more positions Watford can play, the better chance he’ll be active on Sundays, Arians said. Watford said he practiced at left guard last year but hasn’t played there in a game since college.
The toughest part for Watford working on the left side is learning how to flip the plays. Last season he learned how to flip his techniques. This year he’s fine-tuning while preparing for a chance to play.
“I’m just in to get some extra work for myself and not be one position,” Watford said. “So, it’s just a case of if something happens I’m able to do it but I’m in there just to get the work done and do what they ask me no matter if they want me to play. I’ll do it.”
Arians said Cooper’s issues stem from being rusty, a result of being away from football for about a year.
He played in just 15 practices last season, Arians said, before breaking his left fibula in the third preseason game, against the San Diego Chargers. Cooper practiced during OTAs and minicamp but wasn’t at full speed. When he returned for training camp last week, which started almost 11 months to the date after his injury, Cooper was healthy but had to overcome some mental hurdles, Arians said.
That process began on Monday, when Arizona started practicing with pads. Arians expected Cooper to begin playing like the seventh overall pick he was a year ago, but Cooper hasn’t made that jump yet. The Cardinals know what kind of player they have, it’s just a matter of Cooper displaying it.
“We need to see it,” Arians said. “We need to see the special player that we drafted last year.”