Jonathan Cooper injury: Arizona Cardinals see their offensive line depth tested

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Rod Graves years rear their ugly head now that the team's top rookie is on the shelf.

Without a doubt, the worst sight of the preseason for all Arizona Cardinals fans was that of Jonathan Cooper writhing on the ground in pain in the middle of University of Phoenix Stadium on the Cardinals opening offensive drive in the third quarter of game three of the preseason.

It has caused a mini panic amongst the fans, and it has some that were high on the Cardinals coming into the 2013, backing off a little bit, and that brings me back to one unfortunate reality for the 2013 Arizona Cardinals: Despite the massive roster overhaul, the Rod Graves era still hangs over this Cardinals roster.

Kent Hodder, fellow ROTBer, did an excellent job of spelling out the failures of Graves as GM but the one that stood out to me the most was that the Cardinals only spent two early round selections (rounds 1-3) on offensive linemen, and the Jonathan Cooper injury is an eerie reminder of that.

With the ascension of Paul Fanaika into the starting roster, the idea of quality NFL depth and offensive linemen is still a thorn in the side of the Cardinals, and it stems from having to plug holes in free agency consistently.

I liked the signing of Fanaika as a depth guy; he offered good positional versatility being comfortable as a guard and a right tackle, but asking him to start at least ten games, at a new position, is quite a tall task.

Sure, Senio Kelemete was drafted in the fifth round last year, but he was an extremely raw prospect who looks like his development hasn't really gone as planned, and may only hold onto his roster spot because of the injury to Cooper.

There's also rookie Earl Watford, who is one of the Keim era draft picks, but he was taken maybe a round early, and needs time to learn the speed of the NFL game coming from small school James Madison.

What Graves failed to do more than anything was provide developmental NFL quality depth.

His offensive line drafting over his ten year career yielded nothing in terms of viable NFL talent, and that shows when the Cardinals have to rely on a guy like Chilo Rachal to likely be the primary backup guard heading into the 2013 season.

Rachal is a guy who couldn't cut it for the Chicago Bears, a team that had as many issues along the offensive line as the Arizona Cardinals, and struggled to keep the outgoing Adam Snyder on the 49ers game day roster.

Mike Gibson is a guy who's struggled to stay on rosters throughout his five years in the NFL, and if he's your primary backup, when he wasn't even good enough to be on the 2012 roster, that puts you on a high wire act health wise.

It's unfortunate to lose a guy like Cooper for any time, but his extended time out really paints a grim picture of the past, and even though things have improved, shows just how much further the Cardinals have to go.

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