by RENALDO DORSETT
Alex Cooper’s NFL career began in earnest this weekend with his appearance in the first preseason contest of the year for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cooper and the Bengals fell to the Minnesota Vikings, 17-16 Friday night at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio in the preseason debut for both teams.
“Just want to say thanks to everyone that showed me support yesterday for my first NFL game. God has been very good to me #whodey #242 #NFL” Cooper posted on social media.
The Bengals offence produced 339 total yards, including 249 through the air and 90 on the ground at 5.1 yards per play.
It was the first game back for starting quarterback Andy Dalton, who last played December 13 before he was sidelined for the postseason with a broken thumb.
Cincinnati will return to the field for the second week of preseason football this Thursday when they face the Detroit Lions.
Heading into camp, the Bengals fielded 14 offensive linemen, making for a competitive finish for a final roster spot.
Cooper was signed as an undrafted free agent in May because of his versatility on the offensive line and that characteristic was on display immediately during his first appearance with the team. He participated in Bengals rookie-mini camp and immediately put that versatility on display.
Popular Bengals blog, CincyJungle.com, said Cooper’s versatility gives him an opportunity to remain in contention at several spots throughout training camp and the preseason.
“Bengals’ offensive coach Paul Alexander loves tough players, and Cooper fits that bill very well. The team also loves picking up offensive linemen who are versatile enough to play any position. Cooper might not have any experience at centre, but he has enough experience at every other position on the offensive line that you probably wouldn’t have to take too long teaching him that position. Given his lack of athleticism, they will probably want to take full advantage of his skill set as he competes for a spot on the roster or practice squad.”
Cooper was one of 15 players signed as an undrafted college free agent by the Bengals following the completion of the NFL Draft. Undrafted players made up 29 per cent of NFL rosters last season and within the Bengals organisation, six players were undrafted free agents including All-Pro linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
Following his stellar senior season with the Houston Cougars, Cooper garnered the attention of several NFL teams, including the Houston Texans and the Oakland Raiders. In his senior season he was one of the anchors on an offensive line which powered the high-scoring Cougars’ attack. Cooper was named All-AAC and Phil Steele’s AAC Second Team selections. Cooper started 25 straight games on the Cougars line at various positions, including both tackle spots and right guard.
Cooper and his line mates led a Houston team that is 14th nationally in rushing offence at 240.1 yards per game. Houston’s leader along the line with 892 snaps, Cooper did not allow a single sack last season and conceded just eight quarterback pressures.