Broncos Player Profile: Jonathon Cooper #53 | Outside Linebacker – Sports Illustrated

There's no doubt that the Denver Broncos need more from their pass rushers than they got last year. Jonathon Cooper was a rookie, and at times he had some brilliant flashes of potential. 
However, Cooper lacked the consistency that the Broncos' pass rush needed. As he gets ready to enter his second year, he seems safe to make the roster, but the competition is tough. 
So, what are the expectations for Cooper for the 2022 season? Let's dive in. 
Cooper turned 24 in January. He was born and raised in Ohio and stayed in-state to attend Ohio State University. 
During his college career, Cooper dealt with medical/injury issues that kept him from seeing the field. As a result, he played 1,349 snaps on defense during his collegiate career. 
Cooper played 243 snaps on defense in his first two years, picking up 12 total pressures with two sacks. He was part of a stacked Buckeyes edge unit that has consistently put out top-end pass rusher talent over the years. 
In the 2018 season, Cooper finally got out on the field and played his college-high in snaps with 627. He was a starter that season and showed good potential as a pass rusher. 
Cooper picked up four sacks with 32 pressures on 348 pass-rush snaps. Overall, it wasn't a great season, but you could see the flashes for him to build off in order to become a legit prospect for the NFL. 
However, Cooper played in four games in 2019, starting all four, due to an ankle injury that required surgery. As a result, he didn't get that chance to build upon the flashes he showed the season before. With only 121 total snaps, he picked up nine total pressures. 
Then 2020 saw Cooper deal with a shortened season due to the pandemic. It was his final season, and he again showed potential in a limited time. With 358 total snaps on defense, he picked up 33 pressures with three sacks. 
Cooper's run defense was fine but was a concern as he entered the NFL. In what was a solid edge class, he wasn't viewed as more than a day-three pick, with medicals being a concern. 
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Cooper got a chance to show more at the Senior Bowl. While his teammate Baron Browning got most of the attention for Ohio State players, Cooper had a solid week and followed with a great game. 
At his Pro Day, Cooper had a good showing. As a result, he was a riser on public boards, with some thinking he would be an early day-three pick. However, that all changed two days before the draft. 
Cooper got the news that his heart had an issue, which wasn't the first problem he had as he had multiple surgeries in high school. He would need surgery, which would scare teams away in the draft. 
Ultimately, the Broncos took a chance on Cooper in the seventh round of the draft. Then, he had his surgery, which caused him to miss most of the offseason, and he came back without missing a beat. 
Despite missing most of the offseason, Cooper saw the field on defense in 16 games, starting four. He showed his potential at times but also showed he was a rookie. 
Cooper had two great games against the Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys as a pass rusher. Against the Browns, there were some issues defending the run, but, overall, he picked up 12 pressures with two sacks, both of which came against the Cowboys. 
Outside of those two games, Cooper picked up 11 total pressures and one sack and showed more consistent issues against the run and in dealing with strength from the tackle position. He had his moments but found himself near the bottom of NFL edge rusher rankings for the 2021 season. 
Cooper was a rookie who missed most of the offseason, so still playing the way he did was good given the circumstances. There was plenty he did show to have hope for growth for the 2022 season, but he has to stay out on the field. 
As the offseason nears its end, Cooper had to miss most of the offseason programs because of surgery on a finger. However, he is expected back for training camp, which is still plenty of time to grow as a player. 
The Broncos brought in multiple edge rushers this offseason, and they will give Cooper a run for his money. Free-agent acquisition Randy Gregory and second-round draft pick Nik Bonitto will make the roster.
Browning is going through a position change, and Bradley Chubb is still on the team. So barring any trade, those are your top four at the position, most likely. 
That leaves two spots at the edge group, and Cooper is competing for one of them. Malik Reed was retained, special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes called out Aaron Patrick as a "core special teams player." Then there's undrafted rookie Christopher Allen. 
Training camp will be vital for Cooper, starting behind the other three with the new coaching staff. The finger injury that needed surgery put him behind because of the missed time. 
Cooper showed good potential in the 2021 season, but he has to show it during training camp. If he doesn't manage to make the roster, it wouldn't be surprising to see him make the practice squad if he cleared waivers. 
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Erick Trickel is the Senior Draft Analyst for Mile High Huddle. He has covered the Denver Broncos, NFL, and NFL Draft since 2013. 

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Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
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