Former Alabama quarterback Jake Coker was signed as an undrafted free agent to compete for the Arizona Cardinals third quarterback spot. For the Cardinals, this was a low risk, potentially-high reward contract, with Cardinals coach Bruce Arians admitting that Coker was always going to be a long-term project player. For Coker, it was the chance to follow an NFL dream, after being the consummate teammate and backup most of his collegiate career.
The odds of Coker making the Cardinals roster, already very slim, are still very much up in the air as the preseason games begin, and for a career backup now competing for a roster on one of the NFL's most complicated offenses.
Bruce Arians has been brutally honest about Coker's performance (and moreso about Matt Barkley, a veteran who should play much better than he has.)
After a year spent running other teams’ offenses in practice, Barkley is back, and the hope was that rookie free agent Jake Coker would challenge him.
Through two weeks of camp, that hasn’t happened. But Barkley doesn’t have a hold on the job, either. Arians has made that clear, and he wants to see more from both quarterbacks in the preseason, which begins Friday night against the Raiders at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Arians has described Coker and Barkley as a yo-yo. While Barkley's issues have been both mental and physical, Coker's mechanics issues have left his coaches flat the past two weeks of training camp.
During college, Coker said, there were times he tried to do too much "instead of taking what was given and having fun instead of thinking about all the other things that were going on."
In training camp, Cardinals quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens has worked with Coker on his throwing motion and his footwork. When Coker uses the proper footwork and throws on time, he’s far more accurate than when he doesn’t, Arians said.
"It’s a combination of mechanics, being on time with everybody, getting a feel for the offense," Coker said. "There are just a lot of different variables going on, but I feel better now than I did Day 1, I can tell you that."
Last night Matt Barkley was largely given the keys to the kingdom in a 31-10 loss to the Oakland Raiders. It was less than a stirring performance.
While the numbers weren’t good [ 8-of-24 for 121 yards and a pick ] what left Arians most frustrated were the pre-snap mistakes.
He said Barkley forgot to send a wide receiver in motion three times, messing up plays before they began. "He can make every throw," Arians said.
"It’s just all those little things that he’s got to clean up. … When it’s just the formations, you should learn those in high school. You read the wristband. It ain’t real hard." Barkley is aiming to make the roster as the third quarterback, but Arians has said both Barkley and undrafted free agent Jake Coker need to step up their play to secure a spot.
Coker entered in the fourth quarter, going 2-of-5 for 16 yards.
The preseason games are underway, and Coker will earn more looks as the preseason continues. He has been described as a "yo-yo," but seems to be dodging the crippling mental mistakes that coaches despise. Barkley has not nailed down the third spot, and the possibility is very real that neither he nor Coker will, and instead one may be moved to the practice squad.
Coker has struggled himself much of the offseason. But Barkley has yet to distinguish himself, with Arians calling his play "up and down. Like a yo-yo." Asked if it was about Barkley’s reads or decision making, Arians responded, "All of the above."
The Cards could very well go with Palmer and Stanton as the only quarterbacks on the roster, adding a third to the practice squad. Barkley hopes he can show otherwise.
Best of luck to the likeable Jake Coker as he battles for a spot. His arm strength, toughness,and hard work have never been in doubt; it's a question of whether he can concentrate on and improve the mechanical issues that have been the source of his inconsistent performances.