With DeSean Jackson sidelined for the rest of the season as he heals from fractured ribs, Riley Cooper has an extended opportunity to showcase what he can do to help the offense.
From a size standpoint, Cooper brings a different element as he is the tallest receiver on the team listed at 6-3, 222 pounds. The third-year player out of Florida is finally learning how to assert that size on the football field.
In the Week 10 game against Dallas, Cooper caught a one-handed touchdown grab from quarterback Michael Vick over rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne off of a fade route. On Sunday night, once again against Dallas, Cooper plucked a perfectly thrown touchdown pass from quarterback Nick Foles with one arm despite being draped by cornerback Brandon Carr.
For the season, Cooper has 12 receptions for 141 yards and the two touchdowns. In his first full NFL offseason, Cooper plied his trade and worked behind the scenes with senior offensive assistant/wide receivers coach David Culley. Cooper looked impressive in the spring OTAs, but on the first day of hitting at Training Camp he suffered a fractured collarbone which wiped out the entire preseason and first five weeks of the regular season.
With six games now under his belt, Cooper is starting his hit his stride.
"I definitely feel extremely comfortable out there. Culley's taught me a lot. He's a great coach, a great personality. Fun to work with," Cooper said. "I've learned a lot and I'm glad it's all coming together. I feel comfortable on the field with reading defenses, the playbook stuff and being on the same page with my quarterback."
Cooper has thrived previously with expanded playing time. During a three-game stretch as a starter in 2011, Cooper caught the game-winning touchdown in a win at New York and posted a career-high 94 receiving yards against Seattle. In 2010, Cooper caught his first career touchdown in his first career start at Tennessee.
Cooper's return to action has not only provided a boost in the pass game, but also in the run game and special teams as a blocker. In Cooper's season debut, Brandon Boykin gained a season-high 122 kickoff return yards. Running back Bryce Brown's amazing two-game stretch has been helped out in part by Cooper's tenacity as a blocker on the outside.
"That's something you should do and it's something that I like to do," Cooper said. "Can I get better at it? Absolutely. Were there some plays that I wish I could take back so Bryce could get some more yards? Absolutely. All in all, I love doing it. I love blocking and Bryce, man, he always makes us right."
From a team standpoint, Cooper is in unchartered waters. Cooper won two BCS National Championship titles at the University of Florida and was a part of the Eagles' NFC East championship season as a rookie in 2010. In fact, Cooper's onside kick recovery helped key the Miracle at the New Meadowlands. Despite the team's struggles, Cooper remains focused on putting forth his best effort.
"I definitely take a lot of pride in playing extremely hard," Cooper said. "I'm still in this season. I'm all about beating Tampa Bay."
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