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Studying Kansas City Chiefs CB Marcus Cooper (vs. Philip Rivers edition)

Kansas City must play better within it's division this year, and the secondary is a huge part of that. Here now is the study of Mr. Cooper, part two.

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Last week, we ran a detailed breakdown of how Kansas City Chiefs rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper performed against Peyton Manning and the defending Super Bowl-losing Denver Broncos. If you like what you see here, you'll probably want to read that one, too.

This time around, we take a look at Cooper dealing with Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers.

This breakdown was interesting on a few levels. The first game against San Diego came after the Chiefs suffered their first defeat versus Denver. The second contest against the Chargers was the final game of the season, with Cooper acting as the most experienced corner on the field.

All of that said, let's get down to business.

Game One, Week 12

On this day, the Chargers would rally late to defeat the Chiefs 41-38. Rivers had a monster game with the aid of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali missing the second half, throwing for 392 yards and three touchdowns on 27 of 39 passing.

In that game, Cooper was on the field for 36 pass plays. Below is how everything breaks down:

Passes defensed 2
Touchdowns allowed 0
Interceptions 0
Penalties 0
Completions/Yards Allowed 6-142

Of his 36 snaps against the pass, Cooper was in man coverage 26 times and zone the other 10 occasions. Only four times was Cooper not pressing while in man. In zone, Cooper was responsible for the deep right-third of the field six times, the short middle twice, the middle right once and the short right zone once.

On the one occasion he was targeted on a zone play, we see that Cooper has a long way to go in this capacity. Watch below as Eddie Royal not only gets open, but with ease:

All pictures can be zoomed in on by clicking them, yes I know they could look better.


Royal, circled in blue, is all the way at the top of the screen. Cooper circled in red, is playing the deep zone on his side of the field in this Cover 3. Kendrick Lewis is responsible for the deep middle, with Quintin Demps deep on the other side.


You can see Royal beginning his long trek across the field. Lewis is in good position (say what?) but Cooper is focused on Gates / Rivers. Look how shallow he is compared to the other two safeties.


Now we see Royal crossing behind Cooper who still has not turned his head around. However, he sees Rivers loading up and knows he is in big trouble. Cooper needs to get more depth on his drop and recognize route combinations. This should come in time with experience. On this play, that is of little comfort.


The ball is actually underthrown and hangs in the air. Cooper almost gets back to make the play but still can't, allowing a 51-yard completion. If he was in better position, this likely results in an interception.

Let's take a look at how each receiver did against Cooper individually on plays in man coverage:

Receiver Matchups Targets Receptions Yards
Keenan Allen 10 5 4 67
Eddie Royal 3 1 1 24
Vincent Brown 13 1 0 0

Here are the routes run against Cooper while in man coverage:

Route Frequency Yards Allowed
Corner 1 0
Cross 8 83
Fade 1 0
Button 1 0
Curl 1 0
Go 10 0
In 3 0
Out 1 8

This data is extremely stark. Cooper had all sorts of problems dealing with Allen on crossing patterns. Time and again, Cooper would completely whiff on the jam. Give Allen, one of the top rookies last year, all the credit here. The rookie receiver knew the jam was coming and used his quick feet off the line of scrimmage to get Cooper off balance. From there, Cooper would fail to make contact and Allen would zip across the field, wide open for easy gains.

Let's take a look at one of these examples:


On the bottom, Cooper is lined up against Allen in a press-man coverage. Watch in the next frame how Allen uses a stutter-step to shake Cooper, leaving him in bad position.


Allen has already left Cooper in the dust. Cooper's hips are all messed up and his balance is off after missing the jam. You will see why this is a crushing mistake in the next frame. On a related note, look at Justin Houston, rushing against the right tackle.


Houston is about to destroy Rivers. Unfortunately, Allen has absolutely torched Cooper. Look at the other matchups, and you see tight circles. Everybody else is locked down. If Cooper does a better job here, it is an easy sack.

Game Two, Week 17

With almost all of the impact starters standing on the sidelines, Cooper was given a chance to stand out. With the Chargers needing a win to make the playoffs, San Diego skirted the rule book and topped the Chiefs 27-24 in overtime. However, Rivers was ordinary, throwing for 229 yards and three touchdowns with and a pick on 22 of 33 passing.

In that game, Cooper was on the field for 36 pass plays. Below is how everything breaks down:

Passes defensed 2
Touchdowns allowed 1
Interceptions 0
Penalties 0
Completions/Yards Allowed 3-18

Of his 36 snaps against the pass, Cooper was in man coverage 27 times and zone the other nine occasions. In man, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton varied the looks, putting him in press 19 times and off-man on eight occasions. In zone, Cooper was responsible for the deep right-third of the field seven times and the short right zone twice.

Cooper was utterly sublime in this game. After being roasted by Rivers and Allen a month prior, Cooper stepped up to the plate and shut down anybody lined up against him.

Below, we see Allen running a deep in, trying to create space for a big gain against Cooper. Unlike their first meeting Cooper meets the challenge.

Prepare to deal with the Qualcomm Stadium shadows in these pictures.


Cooper is at the bottom of the picture, opposite Allen. Kansas City is in a basic Cover 2 scheme.


Cooper did not try to jam off the line, instead mirroring Allen. The maneuver allows Cooper to open his hips easily and run with Allen, staying on his right hip with the knowledge that he has help over the top.


The shadows are a pain, but look at the 45-yard line. Rivers is about to throw and Cooper is all over Allen. There is absolutely no way to fit the ball in. The throw ends up being low, with Cooper diving to the ground with Allen to knock it away. It was perfect defense.

Let's take a look at how each receiver did against Cooper individually in man coverage:

Receivers Matchups Targets Completions Yards
Keenan Allen 12 3 1 6
Eddie Royal 3 1 1 6
Vincent Brown 10 0 0 0
Lardarius Green 1 0 0 0
Ryan Mathews 1 0 0 0

Here are the routes run against Cooper while in man coverage:

Routes Frequency Yards Allowed
Bubble 2 0
Post 1 0
Cross 5 0
Curl 5 6
Hook 2 0
Go 5 0
In 4 0
Out 1 0
Slant 2 6

San Diego's offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt ran a litany of formations, motions and routes at Cooper. The rookie responded with gusto, especially against crossing patterns. After being torched by them for almost 100 yards in the first matchup, Cooper locked down the middle.

On five crossing routes, Cooper did not give up an inch. Part of the credit must go to Sutton here as well, for playing more off-man coverage. The off-man allowed Cooper to use his speed and close on the crossing route from a deeper position. In times when he was on the line and the Chargers ran a cross, Cooper did not go for Allen's quick feet nearly as much, staying with him and putting a good jam on.

While I could have chosen Cooper shutting down a cross, I'm going to show Rivers trying to beat him deep for a touchdown on a go route with Allen.


Cooper is at the bottom of the frame, pitted against Allen. This is the fourth quarter, with the Chargers trailing by 10 points. On the play, Rivers knows that he basically has a one-on-one matchup against Cooper on this go route.


Rivers wastes no time. He takes a three-step drop and throws a rainbow for the end zone. There is no safety help to speak of, Cooper has to get it done alone. He is off to a good start, using the sideline as an extra defender by opening his hips correctly and getting a solid jam.


I encourage you to click this image to clearly see Cooper in the bottom right. Cooper has perfect inside position and turns his head in concert with Allen. He finds the ball with his eyes and keeps contact with Allen using his hand. This is the definition of perfect technique.


The result is the pass being knocked away. Cooper could not have been better on this play. I think even Richard Sherman would give it a gold star.


Cooper was truly awful in the first game against the Chargers. Sometimes you simply need to own your performance, and in that game Cooper looked every bit like a seventh round rookie who needed a ton of coaching. He was beaten repeatedly on the same route by the same stutter-step move via Allen.

The silver lining in that game? He was barely ever beaten by any other route when in man coverage. He continued to show great hip movement and raw speed. Other than that, the afternoon is one to use as a major coaching tool.

When you have a rookie, you want to see him study, adapt and overcome. He did all three in spades.

On the flip side, I could not have been more impressed by Cooper in the regular season finale. The youngster from Rutgers was brilliant, shutting down Allen and Brown while adjusting to what beat him in their previous encounter. When you have a rookie, you want to see him study, adapt and overcome. He did all three in spades.

Again, Sutton must get credit. In Week 17, Sutton threw different looks at the Chargers, forcing Rivers to take another second to figure out what the formation was. Cooper took full advantage of that time, using it to get himself in the perfect position. Even on the 6-yard touchdown he allowed, it was about perfect play design, rather than bad coverage. Cooper could not have been better.

After watching him twice against Denver and two more times versus San Diego (plus the playoff game), I am very excited to see what he can do after a full offseason. Cooper now knows what it takes to be a starter in the NFL and how quarterbacks will attack him. He has a memory bank to use now, an invaluable tool.

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