The arrival of Arizona Cardinals first-round pick Jonathan Cooper means everyone is now where they are supposed to be. Everyone is at camp, and that seemed to have an effect on Monday’s practice.
Hits were a little harder. Blocks were a little better. Even Ryan Lindley’s passes seemed more on-point.
Coincidence? Possibly, if you believe in those. I don’t. He had an effect on the entire roster, and practice ended 30 minutes ahead of schedule, so perhaps head coach Bruce Arians was so pleased he let the team go early.
Two Who Impressed
Jonathan Cooper Has Arrived, and He’s Really Good
Defensive end Calais Campbell likely will deny it ever happened, but on the first live play in 11-on-11 drills, he was blown five yards off the ball by first-round pick Jonathan Cooper as Rashard Mendenhall took a handoff up the middle.
It happened again shortly after that, in fact.
Cooper’s impact was instant, leading to massive holes up the middle more than once with both starting units on the field. One of the best defensive lines was suddenly mediocre simply because of Cooper’s presence at left guard.
Get ready, Cardinals fans. This kid is really good, and he is going to be here for a long time, God willing.
His only mishap of the day was a false start midway through practice. Play was stopped, but to the surprise of everyone within five yards of me, Arians did not loudly chew him out. That might say something about what Arians thinks of Levi Brown, who got an earful from the coach Saturday for the same offense.
D.C. Jefferson Having an Impact
Rookie seventh-round pick D.C. Jefferson has played well so far throughout camp.
He showed up again Monday, adjusting nicely to a pass thrown behind him to make the catch and also snagging a touchdown pass from Drew Stanton during live red-zone drills.
He earned this not just through Day 4’s performance, but through all four days of work. Jefferson has stood out at least once every day, and if he keeps it up, he may move up the depth chart and play more often than most thought he would—especially with Jeff King missing practice due to, according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com, a probable knee issue.
His run blocking has been superb as well, which was why he stood out to general manager Steve Keim in the first place.
Jefferson is more athletic than he looks like he should be, given his body type. He is a lanky runner, but he moves well and is a smooth route-runner.
Two Who Depressed
Andre Ellington Has an “Off Day”
Rookie running back Andre Ellington had been as advertised through three practices. He had been fast through holes, and he showed good vision when only a small crease was available through which to run.
Day 4 was not so good for him.
He was late on a blitz pickup out of the shotgun, and if it were a live game, the play would have resulted in a sack (Daryl Washington blitzed the A-gap). Shortly after that, he was given the ball on a stretch play to the right, and rather than cutting upfield through a hole no less than five feet wide, he continued to the outside and ran out of bounds for a minimal gain.
That kind of running works in the ACC, where he played his college ball (Ellington went to Clemson), but in the NFL, only a select few can succeed living on the edge.
At some point, all backs learn to make that cut behind the wall of blockers. He will, and the sooner, the better.
Calais Campbell Feeling Guarded
I have a sneaking feeling Cooper is going to make Calais Campbell a better defensive end. It is quite possible Cooper is the best left guard in the division already based on what I saw Monday.
If you were unable to make it out to University of Phoenix Stadium to see Monday’s destruction, please do yourself a favor and come see this kid in action for free while you still can.
Campbell looked beat all day, and for a rookie to come in on his first day and do that to one of the best defensive ends in the NFL, that means something. This will be another battle to watch all throughout camp.
Carson Palmer Report
Quarterback Carson Palmer has shown he can make every throw Arians needs him to make. While the weekend days were a struggle when targeting Larry Fitzgerald, he more than made up for it with nothing but spot-on passes Monday.
The pass protection was brilliant for the most part, and that certainly had something to do with it. But even when the defense was in his face, Palmer delivered strikes to everyone and rarely was rushed out of the pocket.
Cooper’s impact was immense, in case you did not gather that yet.
Deep balls were especially on-point Monday, and if that isn’t a good sign, nothing is a good sign. Deep-ball accuracy, put together with time in the pocket, is deadly, and Palmer was deadly accurate during Day 4 drills and in the live scrimmage.
Other News and Notes
—Rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu played a lot from the slot as a nickel corner Monday and looked decent in doing so. He is lightning fast when rushing the passer from the position, and he notched a would-be sack on Stanton from the front side while doing this.
—Palmer wasn’t the only quarterback on the money Monday. Drew Stanton nearly made the “Two Who Impressed” section with his two touchdown passes during scrimmage. Tight end Rob Housler caught one, and new receiver Charles Hawkins, a 5’8”, 180-pound Southern University grad, caught a go route that was perfectly thrown down the right sideline. Stanton hit Hawkins in stride, and the speedy receiver trotted into the end zone.
—The quarterbacks were good Monday, but the defensive back play was equally impressive. Other than Mathieu making plays, Justin Bethel blew up a read-option play run by Stanton, Jerraud Powers made a nice play to knock the ball out of Fitz’s hands on a dig route (from Palmer), and Javier Arenas, for the third day in a row, made a great play to break up a pass intended for Fitz.
—Defensive end/outside linebacker John Abraham looked like Aldon Smith on a play early during scrimmage. He ran a stunt around a clogged left side of the offensive line (Cooper and Brown occupied) and had a would-be sack of Stanton.
—Per Josh Weinfuss, starting right guard Daryn Colledge sat out of practice Monday nursing his injured right leg. He had a noticeable limp when walking around, but it was not wrapped that I saw, and he was walking without crutches.
—Running back Ryan Williams also sat out of Monday’s practice after undergoing an MRI on his right knee, per Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com. The MRI was clean, and Williams said he wants a second opinion just as a precaution. After his great start, it would be in his best interest to get back on the field as soon as possible to continue momentum.