Jonathan Cooper, Kevin Minter are 'redshirt rookies' to break out

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The two are expected to be big contributors.

In an interesting article, ESPN's Todd McShay listed the top five "redshirt rookies" expected to break out in 2014. Two Arizona Cardinals made the list.

One was guard Jonathan Cooper, who missed all of 2013 with a broken leg. The other is linebacker Kevin Minter, who played only one defensive snap because he played behind Karlos Dansby.

Also featured on the list are Luke Joeckel, Tank Carradine and Travis Kelce.

Cooper has high hopes because of his college tape, although there is a little worry because he is not completely 100 percent yet.

However, if between now and the start of the season he is able to round into top form, the Cardinals will be adding a very good talent to their offensive line. He shows excellent athleticism and good technique in both pass protection and run blocking, and very good awareness and football instincts. His first-step quickness and ability to take good angles in the running game really stood out on his college tape.

Cardinals GM Steve Keim is not one for hyperbole (as head coach Bruce Arians is) and he compared Cooper to Alan Faneca, perhaps the best guard of this generation. The Cardinals drafted him expecting an elite guard.

Minter also has high expectations. The team was comfortable enough with his ability to become the starter and quarterback of the defense that they let Karlos Dansby go in free agency.

He was our third-ranked inside linebacker when he came out in the draft, behind only Alec Ogletree and Manti Te'o. He showed coverage limitations on his college tape, but displayed good take-on skills, a great motor and the ability to deliver the big hit. He was a little overzealous as a run defender, so improved diagnostic skills are important for him to succeed in the NFL.

Minter is a key player on the Cardinals defense. He will be charged with calling plays and lining up players. He will roam where Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby made numerous plays all season in 2013. If Minter doesn't break out, the defense will suffer.

There is one other player on the Cardinals that could break out who was not mentioned by McShay, and that is linebacker Alex Okafor. After a total of five defensive snaps before a torn triceps ended his 2013, he has impressed in camp and should get opportunities to play.

His breaking out will be slightly subtler, but it won't be any less important. With John Abraham aging, the team needs a young player to step up and be able to get to the quarterback from the edge.

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