The Browns are searching for yet another starting offensive lineman. This time they turn to former seventh overall pick Johnathan Cooper. Can he do it?
The Cleveland Browns have had an injury-riddled season. Besides the quarterback, the position hit the hardest with injury has been the offensive line. This season witnessed both starting guards placed on IR. In addition, the starting center was lost for several games. Lack of a consistent line has led to continuity issues in the front five.
Now that John Greco has been placed on IR, the Browns will look to their bench to find yet another starter. When Joel Bitonio went down, rookie Spencer Drango stepped in. Only after three weeks in the position is he starting to play solid football.
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However, this new replacement should have an easier transition. Offensive line coach Hal Hunter stated:
Right now, we are going to take a look at (OL) Jonathan Cooper at guard. He was in there today with the first group. I am going to give (OL) Alvin (Bailey) an opportunity, but Cooper is going to get an opportunity to see what he can do. He was a good player coming out of college and I know he has had some injury issues both at Arizona and had some injury issues up at New England, and now, we have him.
Jonathan Cooper was a good player coming out of college. He was drafted seventh overall in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. Coming out of North Carolina, he was a unanimous All-American in 2012.
However, just as in college, he has dealt with many injuries in his professional career. In the third preseason game of his rookie season he broke his leg, causing him to miss the entire season. He tore his plantar fascia in his foot on the first day of training camp for the New England Patriots. The injury cost him the preseason and some regular season action. When he was fully healthy the Patriots released him.
The Browns picked up Cooper who seems to fit the mold of all the offensive linemen they have claimed off the waiver wire or practice squads. The model player is one who is athletic, has good technique but has some damaging flaw. For Cooper, his flaw is the injury bug combined with the need to grow physically into his frame.
He is a very athletic guard who has excellent footwork in the run and passing game. However, like most linemen out of a spread system, he must continue learning to play with leverage. He can be beaten by bigger and stronger athletes. He is susceptible to the bull rush by defensive lineman. These issues are correctable by getting stronger and playing with leverage.
But the Browns love to bring these guys in and bulk them up. For example, Austin Reiter is in the same mold as Jonathan Cooper – except Cooper has first-round athleticism. In Reiter’s case, he understood leverage and technique, he simply lacked the size. The Browns brought him in off the Washington Redskins’ practice squad and worked on bulking him up. He then made one start and rode off into the sunset.
One can only hope that Jonathan Cooper can avoid the one and done scenario. He has been injury prone. But his time with the Browns should have given him ample time to heal and be ready to go.