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Jonathan Cooper benched in favor of Ted Larsen

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Bruce Arians likes Cooper's future, but Larsen is playing better.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Cardinals have made a move with their starting offensive line. Jonathan Cooper, who started the first nine games of the season at right guard and missed the last two with a knee injury, will not return to the starting lineup and veteran Ted Larsen will remain the starter, head coach Bruce Arians told the media on Wednesday, as noted on AZCardinals.com.

Cooper is recovering from his knee injury and is almost healthy, but Arians was clear about Larsen staying in the lineup. "Ted's playing better," he said.

Cooper has had an up and down year at right guard, getting his first extended playing time since entering the NFL. According to a report by team radio announcer Dave Pasch in a pregame show, Cooper was in danger of being benched weeks ago when the team was in Pittsburgh.

Arians likes the experience Larsen brings to the lineup and feels he has been playing better than Cooper.

Cooper's play has been uneven all season, both in the run game and in pass protection. Seth Cox, my cohost on the site's podcast and site contributor graded Cooper's play as poor in seven of the nine games he played.

This move has shocked many fans. Cooper is athletic and is a first round pick. He undoubtedly has a higher ceiling than Larsen. However, at this point in this season, the team is not looking at development. They are trying to win a Super Bowl and will play the player who is better right now.

Fans recall the Larsen from last season who struggled in their eyes. However, when he started at left guard to start the season in place of the injured Mike Iupati, he was probably the team's best lineman in that stretch. he also played his best last season while at right guard when Paul Fanaika was out.

Perhaps it is curious after Larsen was graded so poorly by Pro Football Focus (a -6.9 for the game). But Arians has shown a lot of confidence in the veteran.

Arians, at least publicly, is not down on Cooper. He believes in his future, but the current situation of the team warrants they not focus on development, but performance.

Some might question Cooper losing his job while being hurt. But this isn't even the first time this has happened this season with the Cardinals.

When Michael Floyd injured his fingers, he was considered the No. 2 receiver. John Brown thrived in his place and remained the starter once Floyd came back.

Andre Ellington was the starting running back to start the season, but after he got hurt Chris Johnson played wel and remained the starter until he got hurt this last week.

Darren Fells was the number one tight end. When he got hurt, Jermaine Gresham played well. Now with Fells healthy, Gresham is still getting the most snaps.

Even more recently, outside Alex Okafor was the number one OLB. When he got hurt, Markus Golden took his place. Okafor has returned, but Golden, still starting because of the loss of LaMarr Woodley, now plays more than Okafor.

So the trend with Larsen would be consistent with what Arians has done all season -- play better and you stay in the lineup.