Left guard Jonathan Cooper (middle) is progressing slower than expected from last year's broken leg
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians believes rust is holding back Jonathan Cooper. Maybe competition will help knock it off a little faster.
The Cardinals' projected starter at left guard split time on the first team with backup Earl Watford at training camp on Saturday. Cooper was the No. 7 overall pick in 2013 and is expected to be a key offensive line piece for years to come, but has progressed slower than hoped from a broken leg which caused him to miss his rookie year.
After practice, Cooper said his level of play is not where it needs to be.
"There are some times when I'm showing flashes and I feel and look like the old player I was prior to being injured," Cooper said. "There are some times when you can look and see, that's not the guy we picked up. I definitely have a lot of work to do."
Cooper said he didn't expect the recovery to take this long, but he's keeping a positive mind.
"You just have to persevere," he said. "I think this will reveal character, show me I can overcome this and prove to be the player I want to be."
Before practice, Arians said Watford could push for Cooper's job if he continued to play well.
"I'm a little disappointed in where Coop's at right now," Arians said. "We need to see that special player that we drafted, that we had last year."
Watford had been battling Paul Fanaika for the starting right guard spot, but has shuffled over to the left side the past two days. He said there have been no in-depth conversations with the coaches about the switch, but was excited about his chance to work with the starters.
"You get your feet wet, and you want to stay over there, but you let things play out," Watford said. "Control what you can control and just keep fighting."
Fanaika, meanwhile, continues to excel on the right side, putting a stronghold on the starting job amidst no fanfare.
"He flies under the radar, does his job and goes home," Arians said. "That's a good offensive lineman. Nobody ever mentions your name."
Fanailka was unemployed for all of 2012 and was battling to make the roster at this point last year. Cooper's injury opened up the starting spot, which he grabbed and has yet to relinquish.
"It's definitely been a long journey," said Fanaika, who was a seventh round pick of the Eagles in 2009 and had played in only three games before last year. "At this point, it feels good to keep fighting. It really just goes to show that when you get your chance, you have to make it count."
VELDHEER GETS AN ACTION FIGURE
Left tackle Jared Veldheer gained Twitter fame when he posted a manipulated photo last offseason of himself colored green following a workout. The inference was to the Marvel comic book character the Incredible Hulk, and it's a nickname which has followed him.
Earlier this week, Mike Banks, owner of Samurai Comics, sent Veldheer an Incredible Hulk action figure draped in his No. 68 jersey number and Cardinals colors. Veldheer loved the gift, and said he needs to find a prominent spot in his house to display it.
"Maybe right when you walk in the door," he said. "Maybe right to the right, greeting you."
LINEBACKER TREVARDO WILLIAMS ADDED ON WAIVERS
The Cardinals grabbed linebacker Trevardo Williams on waivers from the Texans on Saturday. Williams was a fourth-round pick in 2013 but missed his rookie season with a knee injury.
Williams had 24 combined sacks between his junior and senior years of college at Connecticut. The team released cornerback Todd Washington to make room on the 90-man roster.