Denver Broncos outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper continues to take big strides this offseason as he looks to evolve into a game-changing pass rusher.

Broncos pass rusher hones in on being more explosive

When you watch Cooper at practice, or more recently during the team’s first preseason game, his explosive get-off stands out like a sore thumb. Throughout his career, he’s demonstrated having a high motor from rep to rep — but heading into 2023, he looks like an entirely different player.

The Broncos’ edge rusher position has struggled to find consistency for the past couple of seasons, mainly due to injury. Still, Cooper is now in a prime position where he could soon ascend into a starting role long-term.

Despite the team bringing in veteran Frank Clark who is expected to start opposite Randy Gregory, Cooper will play a lot of reps this upcoming season and is first in line to start if an injury arises.

“Just working on my explosiveness,” Cooper said regarding what areas of his game he focused on during the offseason. “I feel like being more confident as a pass rusher, really honing into what I do well. After having those first two years under my belt, I felt like I’ve finally got the experience to figure out what it is that I do well on the reps that I went on. To just improve on those things. Definitely,  want to make sure that I’m that game-changing pass rusher that I’m trying to bring to the Broncos and working out in space and getting comfortable with that.”

Cooper adapts to change inside of Denver Broncos defense

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Jonathon Cooper has had three different defensive coordinators in his first three seasons in the NFL.

Despite the change in play-caller, the Broncos’ defensive scheme has remained intact since Vic Fangio fostered the blueprint that kept Denver competitive despite having an inconsistent offense. In Cooper’s rookie season, he accumulated 2.5 total sacks.

Last year, Ejiro Evero took the same defense and added his wrinkle to it, keeping the Broncos competitive once again on that side of the ball. He had two sacks in a rotational role.

This year, Vance Joseph’s return to Denver presented many questions about whether he’d keep the defensive scheme intact. He is doing just that with some of his own added wrinkles here and there. This continuity regarding the scheme has made it easier for Cooper to continue to ascend.

“It helps a lot,” Cooper said on Tuesday. “Whenever you can take some things from an old defense and apply them to a new defense, it makes the learning process a lot easier. Coach VJ’s system is awesome. I love it. I finally feel like everybody is getting comfortable in the system and learning their roles and how to be a star in their role, honestly. Whenever you can pull a defense from an old coach to a new coach like this it always helps.”

When asked about what being a game-changing pass rusher looks like for him, Cooper acknowledged areas of his game where he strives to improve this season.

“Just being effective,” Cooper said. “Relentless effort toward the quarterback, pressures, hits, sacks, sack-fumbles, all of those things. I feel like that level of my game and that production, part of my game, is something I need to improve on for this year and something that I’m really focused on.”

Cooper and Nik Bonitto could become dynamic duo in Broncos pass rush rotation

While Jonathon Cooper continues to ascend, his counterpart Nik Bonitto has taken big strides compared to a year ago.

Throughout Broncos Training Camp, Bonitto and Cooper have received many reps with the first and second-team units. They will factor in as a potential dynamic duo in various personnel packages while Baron Browning progresses in his recovery from off-season knee surgery.

Both players have looked dominant at camp and looked strong vs. Arizona.

Cooper shared high praise for Bonitto’s growth at the position.

“It’s amazing,” Cooper said. “I feel like he’s really turned himself into a pro. He has such a natural feel for the game that makes him such a great football player. Being able to see things out there, just to react on the fly. He’s a fantastic football player and I’m sure you guys will see that this year.”

If the Broncos pass rush depth remains healthy this season, they could make some noise early on. If Denver hopes to win more games, they’ll need to get after opposing quarterbacks even more this year.