Ryan Williams smiled. He had just met Jonathan Cooper for the first time and as he sat on his stool in front of his locker, he couldn’t help but grin.
“Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about,” Williams said.
Cooper’s introduction came Friday, the day after the Cardinals made the North Carolina guard their No. 1 pick. General Manager Steve Keim tweaked him by wearing a North Carolina State shirt, and the Cards clearly found a player who was articulate, smart and potential backbone in their community efforts.
Mostly, though, the 6-foot-2, 312-pounder looked the part of a massive blocker. No wonder Williams — a running back on a team that struggled to run the ball last season — was happy. Williams didn’t even hear the Michael Irvin-on-NFL Network comparison to Hall of Fame guard Larry Allen, a notion Cardinals coach Bruce Arians wouldn’t dismiss.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt,” Arians said. “Larry, early in his career, was an unbelievably athletic pulling guard that when he got there, good things happened for the offense. This kid has that.”
Cooper didn’t hear about that comparison until today. Nor one to another Hall of Fame guard, Randall McDaniel, who many know around these parts after he grew up in Avondale and went to Arizona State, or multi-time Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca, who played for Arians in Pittsburgh during his glory days and later finished his career as a Cardinal.
“Honestly, it makes me a little nervous,” Cooper said. “It’s high expectations and kind of a little bit of pressure, but I also put just as much pressure on myself, and it makes me want to get to work immediately. There are some guys who kind of bask in that hype, but I can’t allow myself to do that. It’s now time for me to prove to myself that I’ve earned that and I deserve that high praise.”
Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, who is the de facto offensive line coach, didn’t want to hype Cooper too much although he allowed that he could see similarities to Faneca. The difference, Goodwin said, is that Cooper hasn’t proved a thing yet. He’ll get a chance, though, Goodwin allowed. “When you are picked that high, you are picked that high for a reason,” Goodwin said. Cooper will play but “what that spot is, I couldn’t tell you right now.”
Cooper promised Darnell Dockett when the two met Friday that he was ready to go to work. Williams was long gone by the time Cooper had his press conference, but one of Cooper’s comments would have made Williams grin all over again.
“You want to be able to run that ball and show that your offensive line is good enough to impose your will on the defense,” Cooper said. “So, it would mean a lot to me to establish a running a game here in Arizona. It’s rare that you find teams that can run the ball frequently, and if we can do that, you can be a special team in the NFL.”
I’m guessing that is exactly what Williams was talking about.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Harold Goodwin, Jonathan Cooper, Ryan Williams
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