Leftist movement: Cardinals have high hopes for Veldheer, Cooper
JUN 23, 2014 1:13p ET
With training camp only one month away, the biggest concern for the Cardinals is that gaping hole at inside linebacker where departed free agent Karlos Dansby and suspended fifth-year pro Daryl Washington both played at an elite level in 2013.
Despite the best efforts of Kevin Minter, Larry Foote and whoever else may jump aboard in camp, it's obvious the Cardinals will be compensating for those losses, not negating them. But the pall that Washington left over offseason workouts when his year-long suspension was announced on May 30 is counter-balanced by the addition of another duo that will play shoulder to shoulder in 2014.
Left tackle Jared Veldheer impressed the coaching staff in offseason work and left guard Jonathan Cooper is on track for training camp and the start of the regular season, even if he still is not fully recovered from a broken leg suffered last preseason.
"I really like where Jared is; Coop's still got a ways to go," coach Bruce Arians said on the final day of offseason workouts. "He's not the athlete he was last year at this time but I wouldn't expect him to be.
"It's just a matter of getting his strength back and his confidence and his balance."
Offensive line woes have plagued this franchise for most of its Arizona tenure. The Cardinals have not had a Pro Bowl offensive lineman since tackle Lomas Brown in 1996 (Levi Brown was an alternate in 2009), they haven't had a repeat Pro Bowler since tackle Luis Sharpe from 1987-89 and they haven't had at least two linemen make the Pro Bowl in the same season since center Tom Banks, tackle Dan Dierdorf and guard Bob Young made it in 1978
In Veldheer (27) and Cooper (24), the Cardinals believe they have a pair of elite players who can anchor a line for years to come. Both were high draft picks; Veldheer in 2010's third round (69th overall), Cooper in 2013's first round (seventh overall).
Veldheer understands those expectations come with increased scrutiny.
"You can't do anything about that. You just have to know what you're doing, trust your techniques and then let everything go from there -- don't try to do too much," he said. "If you just execute what you've been taught to do, what you've been working on and studying -- and execute it to the best of your ability -- you won't be reciting woulda-shoulda-couldas."
Veldheer and Cooper have been working together on some level since late March at workouts that were not organized by the team. Although they haven't donned pads yet, Cooper said he's already gained an appreciation for his running mate's abilities.
"It's a little early but he's a mammoth of a guy and he sure looks pretty legit out here," Cooper said. "You know a player when you see one."
Without pads, Arians said the primary benefits of offseason work have been learning the playbook, learning each other's tendencies and building camaraderie. But Veldheer said there were other benefits.
"Even though we didn't have pads on we were still making calls, still seeing the defense move pre-snap at a fast speed so all of that stuff is helpful for when you get into pads," he said. "It makes all that pre-snap stuff kind of slow down so once the ball is snapped you're not thinking too much; you're just playing football."
Cooper admits the past year of rehab has been equal parts boredom and frustration.
"It definitely got monotonous going day after day with no payoff in sight," he said. "But now it's getting close and when you look at the big picture of me being able to help my team and produce, that's been the motivating factor all along.
"Hopefully I can come in and do well, but the fun aspect of it is really to perform as a whole unit. It's going to be fun finally getting a chance to play with all of these guys."