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Cooper helps lead the troops on Chargers 'D'

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, Dec 26, 2008.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    Thursday, December 25, 2008
    by Kevin Acee

    Jeff Garcia had just completed a 71-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Bryant to give the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the lead in last Sunday's third quarter, completing a 14-point swing that had the Chargers on their heels.

    Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera was about to call his group together, as he will on occasion during a game.

    Then he heard Stephen Cooper screaming. Down the sideline, every defensive player was being called together.

    "I guess I don't need to say anything now," Rivera thought to himself.


    When the players had gathered at one end of the Chargers' bench, Cooper began stalking back and forth like a lion, looking his teammates in the eye, imploring them to regroup, play harder.
    "When you have a breakdown, guys might hang their heads," Cooper said later. "As a leader of the defense I'm going to make sure we don't do that. I'm going to make sure we look forward to the next play."

    The impromptu meeting didn't last long. But plenty had been said – and said by the right player.

    The Buccaneers did not score again.

    Cooper is a sort of reluctant leader, not eager to say something. But on a team that has been in desperate need of a man to step forward and scream, he has increasingly been willing to do so.

    "He's a leader," linebacker Jyles Tucker said. "A natural leader never has to try. He's got a group of guys who are going to listen and follow him because he's doing what he needs to. He's proving in his play. When he gets in there and starts yelling, that makes me want to play harder for him."

    In a season that started four games late for him because of a suspension for a failed drug test, Cooper has returned to the form that Rivera believed could have made him a Pro Bowler in 2007 when Cooper led the Chargers with 179 tackles.

    This season, even missing those four games, Cooper leads the Chargers with 129 tackles and, riding a three-game stretch in which he has at least one interception, he leads the team with four picks too.

    "This year if he doesn't have the four-game suspension and we started out stronger, I think definitely (Cooper could have been a Pro Bowler)," Rivera said.

    Cooper is Rivera's extension on the field.

    Even before Cooper became a starter last season, he was known on the team as the smartest defensive player. His ability to recognize formations and tendencies is unparalleled among his teammates.

    He is the one who makes the defensive calls, increasingly knowing what Rivera is going to call and even now with permission from Rivera to make changes if he thinks the offense merits it.

    "I think there is a connection between he and I," Rivera said. "Now I think he knows what I want, or he knows what I'm going to say."

    That's not by accident, or solely because of some uncanny connection between he him and his coach. Sure, Cooper has some innate ability to understand football and anticipate things on the field.

    But he works hard at honing that ability.

    On Fridays, Rivera does a power point presentation for the defense on what he anticipated doing based on down and distances … what personnel and what calls he will likely make that Sunday.

    "Cooper really eats that up," Rivera said. "Of all the guys, he's the guy writing it all down diligently to make sure he gets every bit of information."

    Other players see that, and they see his level of urgency on each play. Other players go hard every play, but there is a certain similarity between the all-out, to-the-death motor Cooper has and that of Shawne Merriman.

    "You might be giving your all too," Tucker said, "but you see him, and you know you have to keep going, maybe pick it up a little."

    Rivera sees a similarity between Cooper and a Pro Bowler he coached in Chicago – on the field and off.

    Rivera even last year said Cooper had potential to be a Brian Urlacher type of player – intense and hard hitting, as well as respected.

    Brian doesn't make all the speeches, and neither does Coop," Rivera said this week. "When he does, it carries a lot of weight, because he doesn't do it all the time. When he says something it means a lot to his teammates. I think that's important in terms of leadership."
  2. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

    BS. Yeah, he's played better lately, but he's not a FT starter nor is he an impact ILB. I'm hoping that Dobbins/Siler/Waters become that guy. Either that or we go looking.
  3. Aggieman

    Aggieman I bleed blue and gold

    Aug 14, 2008
    Cooper is going to get two interceptions on Jay Cutler.
  4. cranberry

    cranberry BoltTalker

    Oct 3, 2006
    He is cool and clear in the interview and I'm sure the game will
    bring the honors to the Rivera's lead defense.

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