When he first arrived at the University of Florida in 2006, Riley Cooper was buried on the depth chart at wide receiver behind the likes of Percy Harvin, Louis Murphy and Andre Caldwell.
After toiling on special teams his first two seasons, Cooper started in his final two years in Gainesville and earned All-SEC honors as a senior.
"There are so many guys that are so talented that are in front of you when you get there as a freshman," Cooper said. "You just have to wait your turn and everyone's time comes. I started my junior and my senior year. I had so many guys with great talent in front of me. I just had to wait my turn."
The same thing could be said for when Cooper arrived in Philadelphia. A fifth-round pick of the Eagles in 2010, Cooper got to learn behind DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant as a rookie. Last season, Cooper got to start three games for an injured Maclin and caught 13 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown in those contests. That touchdown, in fact, was the game-winner against the New York Giants.
In his first two seasons, Cooper had 23 catches for 431 yards and two touchdowns. Cooper has made some acrobatic, highlight-reel grabs - a 58-yard gain against New England and a 47-yard haul vs. Seattle to name a few. However, Cooper's biggest impact has been made on special teams where he had six tackles and was among the team leaders with 93 production points last year.
"I've only had like (five) starts the whole time I've been here. It's just game experience. The more game experience you get, the better you get," Cooper said.
Cooper has tried to watch the other receivers on the roster and try to apply facets of their game to his. However, Cooper knows that he's not a speedy guy like Jackson. What Cooper brings to the table is size at 6-3, 222 pounds.
A former baseball star, Cooper was selected twice in the Major League Baseball Draft. As Cooper gains more experience, he is learning more about the nuances of the game of football. This is his first offseason with the Eagles coaching staff and he's taken advantage of the quality time with senior offensive assistant/wide receivers coach David Culley.
"It's been good. I haven't had an offseason, so it's helping out a lot. I get one-on-one work with Coach Culley. We're doing a lot of routes, getting a lot of work in. It's benefiting me a lot," Cooper said. "There's a bunch of things I want to get better at and that's what the offseason does."
Cooper will run the route tree in front of the team videographers and watch the tape with Culley. Cooper wants to improve his releases, his ability to attack the football when it's in the air and how to better use his body to shield defensive backs.
Or, in other words, "use what God's given me," Cooper said.
Cooper knows that he is battling a group of wide receivers who are "unbelievable" and "super talented." Jackson, Maclin and Avant are still here including offseason additions Mardy Gilyard and Marvin McNutt among others. Tuesday, Cooper gets to show what he's learned these past few weeks when Organized Team Activities get underway.
"I can't wait and all of the guys feel the same way," Cooper said. "We're ready to rock and roll."
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