Cooper Faces ‘Absolutely Critical’ Month

Green Bay Packers second-round pick Edgerrin Cooper is on a trajectory to win a spot in the starting lineup. Earning a starting job in training camp will depend on the work he puts in now.
Green Bay Packers linebacker Edgerrin Cooper (56) is shown during organized team activities on May 29 in Green Bay.
Green Bay Packers linebacker Edgerrin Cooper (56) is shown during organized team activities on May 29 in Green Bay. / Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – For the Green Bay Packers, the offseason work is done. For rookie linebacker Edgerrin Cooper, the work must continue.

“He’s going to have to build on what he’s already put out there,” coach Matt LaFleur said at the end of Packers minicamp on Wednesday. “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.

“I think a lot of these guys after the draft process, they’re not in the best physical condition. Coop took a visit here. 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.”

That’s Cooper’s intention.

“Staying on the gas,” Cooper said after the final practice. “I’m trying to come in and perform for my team 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 in shape. Staying in the playbook and doing everything I need to do.”

A second-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, the expectation is Cooper will be a Week 1 starter. With the move to a 4-3 base defense under new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley and the release of veteran De’Vondre Campbell, the opportunity couldn’t be bigger or more obvious than the sight of the Lambeau Field scoreboard from the Highway 172 bridge crossing the Fox River.

For most of the offseason, the No. 1 linebackers were Quay Walker in the middle, flanked by veterans Isaiah McDuffie and Eric Wilson. Cooper got some first-team reps, too. Presumably, he will supplant Wilson in the base defense early in training camp and perhaps move past McDuffie to be the linebacker alongside Walker in the nickel package.

Success in August will be set up by hard work in June and July.

“We expect him to come back even better and have a better knowledge base on what is required of him,” LaFleur said.

The early returns have been promising. He probably led the defense in tackles for losses during the three weeks of OTAs and the two-day minicamp. When he sees the ball, his athleticism takes over – no different than when at Texas A&M, where he led the powerful SEC in TFLs in 2023.

“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,” LaFleur continued. “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.”

Through reps, Cooper has felt a difference.

“I feel like especially this last week, week-and-a-half, I was able to actually relax in my head,” he said. “I’m starting to pick it up. So, right now it’s just playing ball. It feels good to where I don’t have to think as much and just do what I do.”

After a promising start, Cooper knows he’s got to attack the next month before rookies report for training camp on July 17. The Packers no doubt want him to start, and he’s on track to do so, but he’s going to have to earn his role.

“Just knowing the playbook more than I already do and being in physical shape,” Cooper said. “I know the athleticism’s there, so it’s just as far as just pursuing my techniques and knowing the playbook and staying in shape.”

As LaFleur said, the four weeks of offseason practices merely laid the foundation for Cooper, in particular, but the rookies and even the rest of the team. On July 22, the full squad will hit the field for the first time during training camp. By the end of July, the pads will be on and the march to the regular season will truly be under way.

Cooper said he’s “very excited” to put the pads on and really compete.  

“I love hitting,” he said. “And, you know, just going out there playing ball and doing something I love. Being able to put the pads on, you’re able to get more realistic looks, getting off blocks, getting some punches a little bit more and just work on that technique.”

More Green Bay Packers News

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Bill Huber

BILL HUBER

Bill Huber, who has covered the Green Bay Packers since 2008, is the publisher of Packer Central, a Sports Illustrated channel. E-mail: packwriter2002@yahoo.com History: Huber took over Packer Central in August 2019. Twitter: https://twitter.com/BillHuberNFL Background: Huber graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he played on the football team, in 1995. He worked in newspapers in Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells and Shawano before working at The Green Bay News-Chronicle and Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1998 through 2008. With The News-Chronicle, he won several awards for his commentaries and page design. In 2008, he took over as editor of Packer Report Magazine, which was founded by Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke, and PackerReport.com. In 2019, he took over the new Sports Illustrated site Packer Central, which he has grown into one of the largest sites in the Sports Illustrated Media Group.