Scouting Xavier Cooper

The Jets added two players to their roster this week and both could see action tonight, so we've been carrying out in-depth research and reviewing the film to assess their strengths and weaknesses. We start this morning with a look at former Browns and 49ers defensive lineman Xavier Cooper.

The 25-year old Cooper is listed as 6'4" and 300 pounds and was a third round pick out of Washington State in 2015. In three NFL seasons, he's started two games and recorded 46 tackles and two sacks.


Cooper took a circuitous route to get there, but ultimately accepted a scholarship to attend Washington State and sat out his first season to ensure eligibility.

He started the last nine games of his freshman year and then started all 25 games over the next two years before opting to enter the draft early. As a redshirt sophomore, he had career highs in tackles (51), tackles for loss (14.5) and forced fumbles (3). While his production dropped off slightly in his final year, he tied a career mark with five sacks.

The Browns eventually drafted Cooper in the third round and he saw plenty of action in a rotational role as a rookie, although he struggled against the run. He didn't progress much in his second year and was a healthy scratch a few times before being released in final cuts this season.

Cooper was picked up by the 49ers and played in five games this season, recording seven tackles and 0.5 sacks. The Jets signed him this week after his release.

Let's take a closer look at what Cooper brings to the table, divided into categories.


Cooper is a terrific athlete, as you can see from his combine numbers:

This is evident on film too. However, he lacks length, which is usually something the Jets look for in their front seven defenders.


Cooper has played both outside and inside on the line with the Browns and 49ers. Due to his lack of length, he's perhaps better suited to a penetrating role rather than one where he's required to occupy blocks.


Cooper seems to give a good effort in pursuit and in the trenches, continuing to work to get his hands free all the way to the whistle. He can handle a bigger workload as he played over 50 snaps in a 2016 game against New England. However, he's probably going to have more of a rotational role with the Jets.

Run defense

Cooper's length is a concern and can lead to him getting stuck on blocks, although he does use his hands well and also seems to understand how to play with leverage.

Cooper (#96) penetrates well on this play and also recovers back to the ball to get in on the tackle:


As a rookie, Cooper really struggled against the run, as Pro Football Focus had him in their bottom 10 for interior linemen run defense grades. However, he's had a neutral grade over the past couple of years.

Here's a play where he is unable to get downhill and gets sealed off by his man:


Pass rush

Cooper hasn't necessarily been that productive as a pass rusher but he's shown some flashes of being able to get into the backfield with his athleticism. He is renowned for having a quick first step.

That first step is on display here as he bursts into the backfield untouched and completes the sack:


He also displays some quickness here on a stunt around the outside:


His production in terms of generating pressure has been poor at the NFL level, although he's had a bit more success in preseason action (including four more sacks). That probably comes from facing back-ups more though.

Here's a quarterback hit Cooper had a couple of weeks ago, getting upfield and disengaging from the block to the inside:


His lack of arm length can be an issue as a pass rusher too, but he uses his hands well and shows some power here to throw off his blocker and bust into the backfield:



Cooper's lack of length has also prevented him from being able to finish off tackle opportunities in the past, although this was more of an issue in the pocket while he was in college.

Here was one bad missed tackle he had in space:


However, he hasn't had many missed tackles in the NFL and seems to close well and wrap up his man when he gets the chance.

He showcases his athleticism here by avoiding the cut block and recovering to trip the running back in space:



Cooper has only dropped into coverage a few times at the NFL level and hasn't batted any passes down at the line. He had one pass defensed in his college career.

Special teams

Cooper didn't play special teams with the 49ers but has featured on the kick and punt rush units with the Browns in the past. He didn't make any major contributions.


Cooper apparently has a learning disability and struggled with eligibility issues at the start of his collegiate career. However, he's overcome that with hard work and dedication.

On the field, Cooper seems to have good vision, but will occasionally jump offside. He has been flagged seven times at the NFL level, all for offsides or neutral zone infractions.


Cooper has a good work ethic, gives a consistent effort on the field and shows good toughness. He seems to be a popular teammate with good character.


Cooper hasn't had many issues with injuries although he did have to deal with minor shoulder and ankle injuries during the regular season last year.

Scheme Fit

Cooper can slot straight into the rotation in place of Ed Stinson, who was injured last week and just got released. This will initially mean he sees rotational reps in the base defense on running downs and perhaps in short yardage situations.


Unlike Stinson, Cooper is a player who is capable of making splashy plays from time to time. However, he might not be as consistent in terms of his ability to hold up at the point of attack.

With a player that flashes such outstanding athleticism but hasn't necessarily produced at a high level yet, the Jets probably feel there is some untapped potential. Cooper is just 25 and can do a job as a rotational back-up, but they'll also hope he can develop into more of a contributor by next year.

UP NEXT: We'll take a look at cornerback Rashard Robinson later.