GLENDALE, Ariz. – Cardinals coach Bruce Arians spent much of Monday’s media session talking about offensive line play, and why not? It’s been one of the team’s biggest problems the past three seasons.
“An offensive line determines how good an offense is going to be,” left tackle Levi Brown said. “The eye is always on us.”
For a welcome change, the eye liked what it saw when the Cardinals beat the Packers 17-0 on Friday in the preseason opener for both clubs. Arians continued to praise the play of his four tackles, as well as his guards, when asked on Monday, but his penchant for hyperbole gave way to deeper insight on some of the players.
Of Brown, he said this: “He played extremely well. I’d just like to see him practice on a more consistent level.”
Of rookie left guard and top pick Jonathan Cooper: “He looked like a rookie. He is big and physical. Got off balance a few times in pass protection, but he’s strong enough to recover. It was a good baptism for him.”
When asked if Cooper is expected to be better because of his draft spot, Arians added: “The price tag says so. He’d better be or we made a big mistake.”
Of the line in general: “I thought our pockets were clean. I thought we could have done a little better job in the run game finishing people, getting to the second level. Overall, for the first time out, especially in the silent-snap-count situation, I thought we protected the quarterback very well.”
Arians also noted that it was good for guard Daryn Colledge (nerve issue in leg) to return to practice on Monday: “It’s always good to be back practicing, especially when somebody at your position (backup Paul Fanaika) is doing well. It behooves you to be back on the field.”
Colledge is under contract through 2015 and is scheduled to make $3.8 million in base salary this year (he earned a $1 million roster bonus in the summer and $200,000 in workout bonuses and carries a cap hit of $7.275 million), while Fanaika will make $630,000 this season. Some have speculated that Colledge ($6,825,000 in dead money) could be cut, but it’s also important to remember Fanaika was out of football for a reason last year and hasn’t distinguished himself in his NFL career.
It would be a big risk to cut Colledge loose from a unit that desperately needs improvement and stability for Arians’ passing offense to succeed. Incidentally, Colledge was working with the first team during 11-on-11 drills Tuesday.
There’s no need to mention Patrick Peterson, who has locked up one corner spot, but Arians said the other corner, and the slots in nickel and dime packages, are still wide open.
Arians said Justin Bethel and Bryan McCann are in the mix with presumed starter Jerraud Powers and veteran Antoine Cason. With so many guys vying for time, Arians said it was good to see 2012 third-round pick Jamell Fleming return to practice on Sunday, lest he fall too far behind.
Receiver Jarrett Dillard suffered a mild concussion and won’t participate in practice until he’s been cleared. TE Jeff King (knee) is still listed as day-to-day. WR Robert Gill (hamstring) is practicing on a limited basis. CB Jamell Fleming (hamstring) is also working his way back while LB Alex Okafor (ankle) has returned to practice.
Arians is hoping NT Dan Williams and TE Kory Sperry will return next week. RB Andre Ellington (concussion) has passed all the protocols and is also working his way back into practice on a limited basis. With Rashard Mendenhall (knee tendinitis) back as well, Arians said it won’t be necessary to add another running back to get through camp.