Upcoming off-weeks ‘critical’ for Packers rookie LB Edgerrin Cooper

By: Paul Bretl 6/17/24

For the Green Bay Packers and the rest of the NFL, they’ve reached summer break, with players and coaches having the next five or so weeks to themselves before reconvening for training camp.

This is one last time for everyone involved to recharge their batteries before the grueling NFL season begins, but for the Packers’ rookies, particularly linebacker Edgerrin Cooper, this is a “critical” five-week stretch, as Matt LaFleur put it.

“I think he’s another guy that he’s going to have to build on what he’s already put out there,” said LaFleur during minicamp. “I think these five weeks are going to be absolutely critical for him in terms of not only the mental, but the physical and making sure he’s taking care of his body.”

From the time the college football season ends to the time that the incoming rookies arrive at the team facility, there is little break for them. Many participate in Collegiate All-Star games, then they make their way to Indianapolis for the NFL Combine, and there are Pro Days as well, not to mention the constant travel that comes with meeting with various teams as part of the pre-draft process.

Prospects are, of course, still training during those months, but the focus is on completing drills like the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, 3-cone, and other athletic testing events. However, there’s being in shape, and then there’s being in football shape.

“I think a lot of these guys after the draft process they’re not in the best physical condition because like Coop took a visit here,” LaFleur said. “I don’t know how many visits he had, but it’s a different style of training.

“You’re getting ready for the Combine, you’re trying to go run your fastest 40, the Underwear Olympics, if you will, and it’s different when you start playing ball. So I think this is a critical time for, in particular his case 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.”

Along with the physical side of things, the other part of the equation for Cooper is the mental side–specifically the playbook. As is the case for any incoming rookie, there is an adjustment to a new scheme and the speed of the NFL game.

This jump from college to the NFL is different for every player, but the linebacker position can come with a steep learning curve, given that these players are responsible for defending both the run and the pass and need to know where their teammates are going so they’re aware of any potential spacing that will need to be filled.

As LaFleur said, Cooper has laid the foundation during OTAs and minicam. Cooper would add that the final week of OTAs and the two minicamp practices are when things started to slow down for him. But in order to build off of what he’s done and to pick up where he’s left off when training camp arrives, as the defense goes through installs a second, third, and fourth time, he’ll need to keep his nose in the playbook during the off time to maximize those reps.

“You know, just going over your rules and even drawing stuff up and writing down what each guy got, and putting the puzzles together,” said Cooper when asked what staying in the playbook looks like. “Just quizzing yourself. The thing is going from there and then going back to your notes. It’s just all putting it all in your head so it’s all second nature.”

‘Run’ and ‘hit’ have been two words often used this offseason to describe what the Packers are searching for in their new defense under Jeff Hafley.  In today’s NFL, the ability to run and shrink the field is a must at the linebacker position, along with running and hitting cultivating a specific type of play-style that the Packers want to have on the defensive side of the ball.

While we haven’t seen the hitting part take place yet with the pads not being on, Cooper’s 4.51-second speed has been on full display throughout the practices open to the media. His ability to move sideline-to-sideline with ease to limit outside runs, along with shooting gaps as a blitzer has been quite impressive.

“There was one play in particular today that I thought for sure we were going to get him on and he did a heck of a job with it,” said LaFleur. “And I was kind of teasing the 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.”

As the Packers do with most of their rookies, they’ve been easing Cooper in. When in their base 4-3 defense, it was been Quay Walker in the middle with Isaiah McDuffie to his left and Eric Wilson to his right. Cooper then eventually takes over for Wilson. When the Packers are in nickel and have only two linebackers on the field, Cooper and McDuffie are both taking reps next to Walker.

Running and hitting is what Cooper does best. In regards to what the Packers are asking of him, he says there is not a lot of difference with what his responsibilities consisted of at Texas A&M. This is a defensive scheme where he can thrive and make an immediate impact.

Cooper is going to be a factor in the Packers’ defense this season, but in what capacity is likely still being ironed out, to some degree. How Cooper attacks the next five weeks will play an important role in him hitting the ground running during training camp and seizing the opportunity in front of him.

“I’m trying to come in and perform for my team,” said Cooper, “and doing what’s best for my team. So really just staying on the pedal and doing what I got to do. Staying in shape. Getting more shape. Staying in the playbook and doing everything I need to do.”