Cards address offensive line with Cooper

Posted by Darren Urban on April 25, 2013 – 6:10 pm

The Cardinals did indeed use their first-round pick to address the offensive line, grabbing physical and athletic guard Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina. The top three tackles were all off the board by the time the Cards picked, and Cooper — given his athletic nature — is probably a better fit to Bruce Arians’ offense than Chance Warmack (and it might not have helped that Warmack has some concerns with the health of his shoulder.)

It makes sense that Cooper will go right into the starting lineup. I’d guess that would likely be in place of right guard Adam Snyder, who could in theory be an all-everything backup to every position. Or the could move on from Snyder, who is due $4 million in salary this season. We’ll have much more on over the next hour or so, including quotes from Cooper, Arians and GM Steve Keim.


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Guarding the top 10

Posted by Darren Urban on April 23, 2013 – 1:25 pm

So, let’s say the top three offensive tackles are off the board by the time the Cardinals pick at No. 7. If the team were to go offensive line still, it would have to be a guard, someone like Chance Warmack (below) or Jonathan Cooper. Some say that can’t happen, it shouldn’t happen. A guard in the top 10? Nonsense. Guard is one of those positions you can fill later. Guard is one of those positions where you can get a Pro Bowler in the fourth round, or turn a tackle who couldn’t pan out into a top-notch guard.

Or, is it something where if you think he’s going to be a Pro Bowler for many years, you grab him when you can. That’s the philosophy of Cards GM Steve Keim, at least when he has talked about taking a guard high. Now all you have to do is figure out if that is indeed how Keim and his braintrust in the draft room see a Warmack or a Cooper.

Watching the ESPN blogger mock play out this morning, Mike Sando — with the tackles off the board, as well as pass rusher Dion Jordan — took Warmack for the Cardinals (page 89 in the blog). ESPN in-house scout Matt Williamson loved the pick, noting that he thinks the Cards need a guard more than a tackle. Williamson called Cooper and Warmack the best two players, period, in this draft, so maybe the “no-guard-early” talk shouldn’t matter as much this year. And maybe it underscores the overall talent level at the top part of the draft. There’s no question you could probably plug Warmack in right away, likely taking Adam Snyder’s spot (and letting Snyder be a backup for all five positions).

I understand both sides of the argument. I get why people would say don’t take a guard that early, especially when someone at a position of greater impact can be had. But I also understand why you would grab one if he can be a Steve Hutchinson-type. It again comes down to the draft board, the grades and who is still available. This is certainly a scenario the Cards could be faced with Thursday. Personally, I don’t see why, if you believe in a player, you’d let the position make you hesitate to take him.

(And all that said, I could see the Cards trying to trade down if possible faced with this scenario.)


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Flexibility in constructing the offensive line

Posted by Darren Urban on April 10, 2013 – 1:20 pm

The Cardinals finally added an offensive lineman in free agency Wednesday, signing veteran guard Chilo Rachal. What does that mean for the line going forward? Something. And nothing.

Adding parts that can help in some way, shape or form — starter or depth — has been one of the mantras for General Manager Steve Keim. Rachal could end up as either. So obviously, his arrival carries that significance. But it isn’t going to impact the draft. If the Cardinals decide, for instance, Chance Warmack is their guy at No. 7, they’ll take him and figure it out from there. If they want to take a tackle like Eric Fisher or Lane Johnson and move Bobby Massie to guard, they will do that too. If their top pick is a pass rusher, maybe we see a line of LT Brown, LG Colledge, C Sendlein, RT Massie and a battle between Snyder and Rachal. Or there could be an offensive lineman chosen in the second round or third round — or maybe even later — who could be part of the mix.

At this point, there are dozens of ways this can go, and the Cardinals have set it up just so they have that flexibility. I could see them letting a veteran go in a June 1 move if they felt they had enough other pieces for their puzzle. Certainly Keim has shown he isn’t afraid to make such moves. I’m not certain there couldn’t be a veteran offensive lineman added later in the offseason either.

(The Cardinals, prior to the Rachal signing I would guess, had $9.496 million in salary cap space as of Wednesday according to the NFLPA.)

One thing to keep in mind when it comes to the Cardinals and the draft. The braintrust has reiterated a few times how deep in offensive line talent this class is, beyond just the top 10. Will it shock me to see them pick a player that isn’t an offensive lineman? Absolutely not. Stop me if you’ve heard this before — Keim believes in a difference-maker at the top. That doesn’t mean a difference-maker can’t be an offensive lineman if his grades are the right ones, but I truly believe the idea of reaching there for need over a guy graded much better makes Keim’s stomach turn.


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The pieces of the offensive line

Posted by Darren Urban on February 5, 2013 – 10:31 am

The day Steve Keim was named general manager, the one-time offensive lineman spoke about his offensive line — the much-maligned line in 2012, for a variety of reasons.

“I think we have some pieces in place,” Keim said. “The level of physicality, the ability to run the ball consistently, that is a huge issue and that needs to be fixed.”

Last week before the Super Bowl, new head coach Bruce Arians said the offensive line situations is “not as dire as some might make it out to be.”

So what does that all mean? Certainly, injuries took their toll on the unit last season. Reading between the lines — and that’s all it is right now — it seems to me there is a good chance Levi Brown will be part of the unit in some way, shape or form. I don’t know if that means at guard or tackle. It would seem to be Bobby Massie has a chance to be a tackle going forward after he finished well in his rookie year after a difficult start. Where does Nate Potter fit in? And how do the current interior starters — guards Daryn Colledge and Adam Snyder, with center Lyle Sendlein — fit?

It’s still early. First, the new staff, which will have multiple coaches that will teach the offensive line, need to go through the video and analyze what players are already in place. Free agency gives the Cards some options, especially at tackle, although the cap implications of a big-dollar signing will have to be carefully considered. (Among the tackles currently slated for free agency — knowing a couple could get the franchise tag — include Denver’s Ryan Clady, Kansas City’s Branden Albert, New Orleans’ Jerrod Bushrod and the Giants’ Will Beatty.)

As for the guys already on the roster, the 2013 salary cap numbers for the four vets are as follows: Brown $7.65M, Colledge $7.3M, Snyder $4M, Sendlein $3.1M. (And before you ask, the “dead” money if those players were released would be $5.6M, $4.5M, $4M and $2.1M, respectively.) The draft seems like a more likely spot to add a piece, but whether that would be a tackle (like Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher) or guard (like Alabama’s Chance Warmack) or even after the first round, well, it’s way to early to have a good sense of that. The Cards have to have their meetings and again, the coaches need to evaluate what they have.

There has been a lot of talk about the quarterback and what the Cards will do about it, and that’s clearly the top topic. But what happens with the offensive line — and how that unit is addressed by Keim and Arians — will play into the quarterback story as well.


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