For Eagles' Cooper, it's like old times again

Riley Cooper and DeSean Jackson (left) after a preseason score. Cooper said teammates have been "so supportive" and that it's like "old times again."
Riley Cooper and DeSean Jackson (left) after a preseason score. Cooper said teammates have been "so supportive" and that it's like "old times again." (RON CORTES / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 20, 2013

Almost three weeks have passed since video surfaced of Riley Cooper using a racial slur at a June concert, and the reality has set in that Cooper will remain with the Eagles this season and play a major role.

Cooper appears to be the Eagles' starting left wide receiver, replacing the injured Jeremy Maclin. The coaching staff is counting on him to be a central part of the offense and the narrative has changed from whether he would even be on the team to just how valuable he can be.

"I feel comfortable," Cooper said. "I'm loving it."

Cooper started both preseason games and caught three passes. Despite starting 10 games in three seasons, he's never had a central role. He has always been behind Maclin, DeSean Jackson, and Jason Avant. That's what Cooper expected when he arrived at camp this season, too.

Now he's the one paired with Jackson. Avant is playing the slot. Cooper, who has 46 catches for 679 yards and five touchdowns in three seasons, could potentially top those totals in 2013.

"It is different, but starting the game, whether it's the first game or the last game, I feel it's the exact same," Cooper said. "I try not to put an ample amount of pressure on myself just because I'm the starting guy going into Week 1. And that could change."

Don't expect it to change. Cooper was in coach Chip Kelly's plans even before Maclin and Arrelious Benn were lost for the season and during Cooper's excused absence earlier this month. He's a skilled blocker on the edge, which is key in Kelly's offense. He's also one of the big-bodied receivers on the roster.

The way he'll be used will also be different than in past seasons. Under Andy Reid, the Eagles had an "X" receiver and a "Z" receiver on the outsides. The X was always the widest receiver away from the tight end. That was Cooper's spot. In Kelly's offense, receivers are identified by side of the field, not side of the offense. So Cooper could play the X and the Z.

In Thursday's 14-9 win over the Carolina Panthers, Cooper recorded two catches for 27 yards - one diving catch, and one on a Michael Vick rollout when he extended his route to get open.

He was also instrumental in both touchdown runs. On Nick Foles' scrambling score, Cooper blocked his man to keep an open edge. On McCoy's touchdown run, Cooper faked an end around and the motion drew his man inside.

"I want to be known as someone that's all-around," Cooper said. "Not someone who had 12 touchdowns this year, but you can't run the ball to his side of the field because he can't block. Or you can't run an end around, because he's not fast. I want to be able to do everything. And I can do everything."

That might be hyperbole, but he clearly offers value. The Eagles would likely not have stood by Cooper so firmly if he could not contribute to the team.

Kelly said he never considered getting rid of Cooper, and general manager Howie Roseman said that the team's decision to keep Cooper had nothing to do with Maclin's injury. Cooper is a player the team has invested time in developing, and they were already optimistic about how he would fit.

"I think he's had a very good camp and he's made a lot of plays out here," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "He's a big-body guy, catches the ball in the crowd. He does find a way to wiggle free, and I think he's an outstanding blocker. So he's doing what we ask."

Cooper said his teammates have been "so supportive" and that it's like "old times again." There also have not been any issues from opposing players. His actions on the video will forever be attached to his name, but he now has a season to carve his reputation as an Eagles starting wide receiver - and potentially earn a second contract from the team with a strong campaign.

"I feel like I can be a great receiver in the NFL, and hopefully, this year, it shows," Cooper said. "Because I want to be here. I want to stay in Philly. I want to start in Philly, and I want to end in Philly. I really hope that we can do that."

Click here for complete coverage of Philadelphia Eagles training camp.

Contact Zach Berman at Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

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