Week 7 rookie report: Jonathon Cooper flashes in loss to the Browns

Oct 21, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns running back D'Ernest Johnson (30) is tackled by Denver Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II (2) and linebacker Jonathon Cooper (53) and linebacker Curtis Robinson (42) during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Losing their third straight game, Broncos fans are struggling to find any optimism around the 2021 season, and for good reason. Simply put, the team is in disarray. With players injured, uninspiring play on the field, and rumors of a rebuild coming in the near future, there just isn’t much to cheer for at the moment.

The lone bright spot of this season may come in their rookie class. While it may not equate to wins just yet, general manager George Paton’s first draft can give fans a sense of optimism around what may be to come.

Patrick Surtain II, Cornerback, Round one

Fans have heard it a million times by now but it doesn’t get any less true. Surtain is absurdly polished as a cover cornerback for a player in his first year at a professional level. Whether it be press technique, avoiding contact down the field, or turning his head around while the ball is in the air, Surtain rarely struggles with the issues frequently seen from younger players at the position. In fact, it is not a stretch to say that he has been the best cornerback on the team.

Last Sunday against the Browns he may have had his best game yet. Targeted often, many of which were down the field, Browns’ quarterback Case Keenum attempted six passes at Surtain, only completing one.

While he has been very impressive, the area Surtain continuously struggles in is his tackling. Not because of a lack of physicality but because of a lack technique. Surtain has a difficult time getting his long and 6-foot-2 frame low, which leads to arm tackle attempts. Luckily, this can be improved upon with more game action and film study. Nevertheless, this is something to monitor through his developmental process.

Where and how much Surtain improves through the years will be a fun thing for fans to watch through the upcoming years. He truly has a chance to be an elite player at a position that has become as important as it ever has been with NFL offenses becoming so pass centric.

Javonte Williams, Running back, Round two

In a quiet game, Williams had a season low four carries while fellow veteran running back Melvin Gordon had eight.

While this may not have been the best game to run the ball, as the Broncos weren’t finding much success against a tough Browns front seven, it is still discouraging. Williams wasn’t just drafted in the early second round but the Broncos did trade up to get him. For how short running backs prime years are, he should be more of a focal point early in his career, rather than play a complementary role.

Blame will most likely be put on the coaching staff but this is much more of a roster construction issue. The Broncos paid Gordon and he has to play. Some may even say he’s the better running back to this point but that does not take away from the main issue. The Broncos paid Gordon like a lead back but also used assets on Williams like he should be a lead back. With the way the roster is constructed, either both running backs or one of the running backs will be underutilized for what the Broncos invested in them.

As far as his play, Williams is the most exciting and explosive running back on the team. He’s not perfect, but with unreal contact balance and toughness, he is often able to get away with it.

As he continues to grow, he needs to become more disciplined with his eyes. Luckily for him, this is an area that can be improved upon with experience. Fans should monitor this situation closely as it is vital to how long his prime years will be.

Jonathon Cooper, Edge, Round seven

After a very slow start to the year, Cooper had by far his most successful outing against the Browns this past Sunday. Totaling a career high 40 snaps, Cooper had five total pressures and four tackles.

The Broncos second string edge players have essentially offered nothing until this last game so Coopers good play is more than well received. With injuries mounting up, it is as important as ever for Cooper to be a playable asset for the Broncos.

Going against Browns’ tackle Jedrick Wills for a good portion of these snaps, it is even more impressive. He displayed what fans were hoping to see after a dominant preseason; a high twitch pass rush and a extremely hot motor.

While exciting, this is only one game out of a total of seven played. To be fair to the player, expectations shouldn’t set to high. After all, he is a seventh-round rookie. Fans should be looking for further development rather than sustained great play.

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