Third round pick Xavier Cooper is making the most of his opportunities through the first two preseason games. Against the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night, Cooper recorded a pair of sacks bringing his preseason total to three.
Cooper sacked Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel on consecutive possessions in the third quarter. The first was a three yard loss on second and twelve in which Cooper fought through a block. The second was a seven yard sack on third and four that forced a Buffalo punt. That second sack was an open lane to the quarterback that Cooper exploited for a quick takedown.
“I saw it and I took it,” said Cooper of his second sack. “The guard had to slant down and I ran straight through. Those plays don’t come through that often, so I have to make sure that I make it.”
Clear path to the quarterback or not, Cooper looks ahead of the game already. Those aren’t his words, they came from Mike Pettine.
“He is and that’s encouraging to see,” said Pettine after the Browns loss to the Bills of Cooper’s progress. “I think both he and (DL) Danny (Shelton). I don’t know if Danny is going to fill the stat sheet necessarily because of the situations that we use him in, but from a grading out standpoint, I’d say both those guys are ahead of where a typical rookie would be. We’re very encouraged by their progress so far.”
If you ask Cooper, he’s happy to be taking advantage of the opportunities he’s been given.
“Really I’m just getting out there, and coach Jimmy (Defensive Coordinator Jim O’Neil) is putting me in position to make plays and I’m just taking advantage of it. I think all the rookies, all the young guys fighting for a spot, we’re just hoping that we get in the game and make the best of it really. I’m excited for the regular season, we got a lot of work to do but I’m ready to play.”
Cooper was encouraged to hear Pettine’s thoughts on his and Shelton’s play.
“I think Danny and I work hard. We come in with the right approach and we want to learn from the vets. I think that’s the biggest thing for the rookies—come in and try to learn from the vets, pick up the system, stay quiet and keep working. We let our film do the talking and that’s what we are doing right now.”
Cooper wasn’t the only one who got to the quarterback on Thursday. Paul Kruger and Moise Fokou also recorded sacks. Armonty Bryant harassed E.J. Manuel on one drive in the third quarter, and had a sack erased with a penalty.
Last week against the Redskins, Cooper wasn’t prepared to celebrate after his sack. He said that they weren’t allowed to do any dances in college, and that the veterans had given him a hard time for his lack of celebration. Against the Bills Cooper did break out a little dancing.
“Older guys were giving me a hard time about the sack dance I had in the previous game so I had to bring something to the table.”
Browns fans are hopeful they will see plenty more dancing from Xavier.