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'He's a Playmaker': GM George Paton Dishes on How Rookie OLB Jonathon Cooper Defied NFL Odds to Make Denver's Roster

Jonathon Cooper overcame some significant obstacles on his way to making the Broncos' 53-man roster out of training camp.

Broncos Country doesn’t have to look that deep to unearth feel-good stories on this year’s 53-man roster especially since rookie rush linebacker Jonathon Cooper made the squad after an outstanding preseason. Cooper endured a trio of heart procedures after falling to the seventh round in the NFL draft this past spring, but now, people are raving about what sort of impact he can make in 2021.

Credit has to be given to George Paton who took a chance on Cooper in his maiden draft class as the Broncos' general manager and the early returns are promising. After surviving the final roster cut-downs from 80 players to 53, Paton charted the upward trajectory of the 23-year-old former Ohio State Buckeye.

“You guys watch practice," Paton said on Tuesday after the cut-down deadline passed. "The Jonathon Cooper kid—he flies all over. He’s easy to evaluate in practice, and when you watch the games, he’s all over the field—110 miles per hour in everything he does, and he’s just a playmaker. We’re very fortunate to have him. He’s going to help us on special teams, and he’ll help us on defense.”

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The third phase has been a particular area of concern that Paton went to additional lengths to fix by acquiring linebacker Jonas Griffith from the San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday. Cooper will also be added to the special teams mix and he will be asked to provide additional impact as a backup edge rusher.

While focusing on what he can do to help move the needle for the Broncos, Cooper reflected on the achievement of making an NFL 53-man roster out of training camp as a seventh-round rookie fresh off multiple heart procedures. 

“To be honest, it feels amazing," Cooper said Tuesday after the cut-down deadline passed. "[I] just feel extremely blessed. But honestly, my only focus is making this team better. The real work starts now... Now I just have to keep doing what I have been doing—keep getting better every single week.”

Head coach Vic Fangio went on to explain exactly how Cooper will work alongside fellow depth rusher Malik Reed in the rotation, once the season kicks off, admitting how it'll keep star guys Von Miller and Bradley Chubb fresh.

“We play all four of those guys on defense—primarily Von and Bradley," Fangio said Tuesday. "The way the game is being played, those guys need to be spelled every now and then. We feel confident to throw them in there any time.”

Fangio’s confidence in Cooper comes directly from the rookie himself, who personally detailed how his level of self-belief has grown as a result of the strides he is made early on as a pro. 

“I just feel I have a different level of confidence in myself now, when I’m here, rather than when I was at Ohio State in order to just play hard and play fast and just believing in myself, my technique, and my coaches.” Cooper said Tuesday.

Considering the current shambolic construction of the New York Giants offensive line, chances are, Denver's powerful quartet or edge rushers might be feasting as soon as Week 1.

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