Since the team let Jerraud Powers leave for the Baltimore Ravens in free agency, there has been one major question: who will be the cornerback to step up and play across from Patrick Peterson? Regardless of who it was going to be, anyone that has watched this team knows that the player taking that position would have their hands full. Teams simply don't throw Peterson's way too often, which means the guy across from him would see plenty of action.
It all started with Justin Bethel, the presumed CB2. But due to some injuries, Bethel quickly lost his starting job to rookie Brandon Williams. And after a rough week one against the New England Patriots, it appears Williams is not yet ready for the task at hand.
In steps Marcus Cooper. Cooper, a late acquisition at the end of the preseason from the Kansas City Chiefs, was merely thought to just be another special teams body when the team acquired him. But after only 2 weeks of being on the squad, Cooper was asked to step in and take the reins of the starting cornerback job.
And so far, so very, very good.
Cooper came down with two interceptions on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played solid defense throughout the game. On top of the two INTs, he had 5 tackles and 3 passes defended.
So what made Cooper so effective and what could keep him in the starting role?
First, it's his knowledge of the position and knowing where to be at the right time. If you go back and watch his first interception against Jameis Winston on Sunday, you will see that it looked like Cooper was essentially the wide receiver on the play after running step for step with Vincent Jackson and beating him to the ball. This is the kind of insight and keen ability he brings that perhaps Bethel does not have and Williams does not yet possess.
Secondly, at 6'2" and an incredibly long wingspan, Cooper possesses the kind of physical traits that general manager Steve Keim covets in his corners. His length allows him to make plays on the ball that other, smaller corners are unable to make. Combine that with good athleticism and, all of a sudden, you have a talented cornerback.
Now, we can't get ahead of ourselves and anoint Cooper the best thing since sliced bread. I'm not even willing to go as far as saying that he's an obvious upgrade over Jerraud Powers. But for now, he took advantage of a bad game from the opposing quarterback and showed that he is likely the best option on the roster to play on the outside across from the entrenched Patrick Peterson.
Going into next week against the Buffalo Bills, I would fully expect Cooper to be the starting cornerback. Until he shows that he isn't worthy of the job or if one of the other players takes it from him, that is where he will remain.
And maybe, just maybe, we have another Keim special on our hands.