Skip to main content

Packers rookie LB Edgerrin Cooper was 'locked in' as offseason concluded

High expectations surround second-round pick as key defensive addition

LB Edgerrin Cooper
LB Edgerrin Cooper

GREEN BAY – While nothing is guaranteed, it's a decent bet rookie Edgerrin Cooper will work his way into the first-team defense at linebacker in training camp.

He made a good impression in that regard during minicamp to close the offseason program.

Without divulging any schematic details, Head Coach Matt LaFleur noted after the final minicamp practice that he called a play designed to fool or deceive Cooper in some way, but the second-round draft pick from Texas A&M didn't bite.

"I thought for sure we were going to get him on (it), and he did a heck of a job," LaFleur said. "I was kind of teasing the other coaches, 'Did you preview him for that play?' And they did not.

"So, that's a credit to him and just how engaged he's been and how locked in he's been throughout the course of the offseason."

Cooper has made his assimilation to the NFL look perhaps easier than it's been as he's absorbed as much of new coordinator Jeff Hafley's defense as he can.

The first off-ball linebacker taken in the entire draft, at No. 45 overall, the 6-2, 229-pound Cooper showed his impressive speed during the spring. That's his most standout physical trait, particularly when called on to blitz. Eight sacks in his final college season was an eye-popping number for his position.

But Cooper admitted it was taking some time for the mental part of his game to catch up to the physical. It's still getting there, with the goal of more progress by the time training camp rolls around.

"I feel like especially this last week, week and a half, I was able to actually relax in my head," Cooper said during minicamp. "I'm starting to pick it up. So right now it's just, you know, playing ball. It feels good to where I don't have to think as much and just do what I do."

His potential partner in the middle of the defense, third-year pro Quay Walker, has been impressed, and fired up about what he's seen. Walker's a tad bigger (6-4, 241) than Cooper with a similar athletic profile, and the leader of a linebacking corps that also will feature veterans Isaiah McDuffie, Eric Wilson and rookie third-round pick Ty'Ron Hopper.

Hafley's base defense will deploy three linebackers, but in a nickel-dominated league, most often the Packers will have two on the field. Speed and range is at a premium so those two can cover a lot of ground, attack holes and drop into coverage when needed.

"He's showing flashes, getting downhill, playing, flying around," Walker said. "I just tell him, 'Don't do no thinking, bro. Just fly around. If you mess up, it is what it is. You a rookie. Just take what you can learn … and go from there.'"

Continuing to learn is what Cooper plans to do during the team's time off this summer. Studying the playbook and quizzing himself are on the agenda as well as training for actual football as opposed to all the pre-draft testing that rookies focus on for months after their college careers end.

Regarding the playbook, one thing Cooper appreciates is Hafley and position coach Anthony Campanile explaining not just the concepts and responsibilities within the scheme, but the reasons behind the alignments and assignments. That's helped with the typical mental deluge of new material any rookie must process, particularly one who could be in the starting lineup right away.

"Oh, 100 percent," Cooper said. "That makes a big difference knowing why you're doing something on the field, because you start putting everybody's pieces together, and now you can just sit there and relax your eyes and play ball."

The comfort level with which he ended minicamp is where he's expected to begin training camp. LaFleur is sure to throw more tests his way.

"This is a critical time for (him)," LaFleur said before the players departed for their break. "He's got to keep building on the foundation that he's laid, and we expect him to come back even better and have a better knowledge base on what is required of him."