Even on their bye week, the Dallas Cowboys still found a way to make notable news this week, signing former first-round offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper to their active roster. Cooper is signed through the postseason but will become a free agent once the Cowboys' playoff run is over.
Reading that the Cowboys have added yet another first-rounder to a unit that already employs three is jarring, but the fact that Cooper was available also made fans scratch their heads. A former seventh overall pick, Cooper is just 26 years old but has bounced around between three teams over the last calendar year.
What is it that has plagued Cooper's play? And what, if anything, can Cooper bring to the Cowboys over these next few weeks? To find out, I took a look at the most recent games of Cooper's career as the starting right guard for the Cleveland Browns.
Cooper: The Bad
Why not just get the negative out of the way, right? First things first, Cooper is relatively undersized for an interior offensive lineman. While his height isn't too much of a problem if he remains at guard, his weight is an issue as it can get him muscled around at times.
That is exactly what happens in this first play. Cooper (right guard, number 64) starts off with good feet, getting hip to hip with the right tackle on the combo block. But once the tackle gets off to the next level, Cooper gets bullied down the line of scrimmage by the defensive tackle.
Sure, a hole opens up, but the run gets called back for a hold on Cooper, who grabs on for dear life.
When watching Cooper, I often find myself wishing he was more violent at the point of attack. Too often, he displays good feet and technique up until the point of contact. Once he makes contact, however, he sometimes lacks violent hands or any real “pop.”
This is exactly the case in the play above. Jonathan Cooper's pull isn't bad, but he stops his feet on contact and fails to deliver a blow to the defender. He is also far too high, letting the defender get into his body and stop his momentum.
Lastly, Cooper has his fair share of issues with pass protection. As noted earlier, his lack of size leaves him susceptible to bull rushes, but his biggest issue I noticed was against these swim moves and head-fakes.
The defensive tackle completely shakes Cooper out of his shoes here, making him power too far inside before swimming around his outside shoulder. Luckily for Cooper, his running back gives some assistance and allows for him to recover on the block.
Jonathan Cooper: The Good
Okay, after watching those clips I know you're thinking “what in the world did they sign this guy for?” But trust me, there are a ton of positives in Cooper's game. If given the time to develop these skills (maybe in the Cowboys' off-season program), I think Cooper could develop into a solid sixth man on the interior of the Cowboys offensive line. Everywhere he has been, he's been asked to start immediately, maybe he just needs some time to work at it.
This right here was Cooper's best block of the season (in my opinion). Working against Geno Atkins, Cooper is strong with his hands and his lateral step. He drives Atkins down the line of scrimmage and right out of the play, allowing for a nice cut-back lane for the running back.
Earlier I mentioned how I wished Cooper would be more violent on many of his blocks, but physicality is not a problem whatsoever in this play.
Earlier, we see Cooper get bullied when the other offensive linemen worked upfield and off the combo block. Here, Cooper does an excellent job of taking over the block himself and securing the down lineman.
He gets good, low pad-level, and drives his hips into the block to allow himself to get movement on the defensive lineman. His footwork is nearly flawless on this play, and he opens up a nice hole for the running back.
My only complaint, I would like to see Jonathan Cooper do a better job of finishing on this block. But besides that, he does a fantastic job.
Once again working on a combo block, Cooper is able to deliver a shot to the down lineman to secure the first level before working his way up to the second level and controlling a linebacker.
When teaching inside the zone, Cooper's job here could be used as a clinic tape. He keeps himself square at all times and keeps his eyes free when working off the combo.
As you probably know, the Cowboys primarily use a zone blocking scheme in their run game. Cooper's familiarity with the scheme and its assignments certainly made him an even more attractive free agent when Dallas was looking to add some offensive line depth.
Last but not least we get a look at Cooper in pass protection. While he sometimes struggles against quick pass rush moves, he does a great job of controlling the defender's rip-move here and driving him down the line of scrimmage.
The Bills are trying to execute a stunt here, getting #57 around Cooper as #95 rips to the A-gap. Instead, Cooper overpowers the down lineman and puts him right into the lap of the stunting linebacker, and into the ground.
Being a part of three different teams in the same calendar year is not a good look for anyone. It's no secret that Jonathan Cooper has not lived up to his first-round billing thus far, but in this perfect situation for o-line development in Dallas, it might be possible that he is entering the perfect culture to foster his talents.
Overall, I think bringing Cooper in is a great idea for the Cowboys. Hopefully, they decide to keep him around during the offseason and allow him to develop around these other great linemen.