16 Days to Camp: Marcus Cooper

Photos: Brad Mills & Jim Brown USA Today Sports

A year ago at this time not a single Chiefs fan knew the name Marcus Cooper. Heading into 2014 the second year man from Rutgers is geared up for a starting role at the cornerback position. Still it begs the question which Mr.Cooper will we see this year?

Last September it took Kansas City Chiefs General Manager, John Dorsey, about two seconds to trim his initial 53-man roster and add seven players that would each have an impact on his 2013 team.

Of those magnificent seven he added to the Chiefs roster the day after their previews NFL teams told the seven, they were either washed up, not good enough or would never amount to an NFL caliber player, Marcus Cooper, might have been Dorsey's best out of nowhere roster move last September.

After all Cooper, a former 2013 seventh round pick of the San Francisco 49ers, came into the NFL with little fan fair or hype. In fact, it's rare any team cuts one of their late round picks until year two. But Cooper was deemed not good enough and ultimately found his way onto the Chiefs roster.

When now departed cornerback, Brandon Flowers, was battling knee injuries in the midst of the Chiefs 9-0 start last season, Cooper did his best to come out of the shadows to do anything he could to help his new team.

He proved superhuman in a road contest against the Tennessee Titans, where he scored a special teams touchdown on a blocked punt and contributed defensively by grabbing a fourth quarter interception that set the table for a comeback victory for the Chiefs.

As the winning streak continued, Cooper took over for Flowers on the outside while the veteran moved into a slot position. For over a month, both moves worked like magic. Cooper came up with big plays in games versus the Texans, Browns and Bills that thwarted potential touchdowns.

However when the quarterback level saw the likes of Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers and Andrew Luck, the young Chief faltered under the pressure.

Still one can't fault Cooper too much for hitting the rookie wall. Further, he was hardly the only player in KC's defensive secondary to fall victim to that trio of quarterbacks. After all, Cooper was hardly to blame for the fact KC's defense went 0-6 against that bunch after their brilliant 9-0 start.

That was then and this is now.

Flowers now plays for the San Diego Chargers and Cooper has the pre-camp honors of being penciled in as a starter. What he does with this chance could define in part the Chiefs defensive success in 2014.

Cooper has all the tools to be a solid NFL cornerback. Where he faltered a year ago had more to do with his lack of NFL experience. When he struggled Cooper lost confidence and so did his coaching staff that realized perhaps he wasn't quite ready for primetime.

However he bounced back late in the year against the Washington Redskins and played better the rest of the season including the Colts playoff loss. In regaining some of that form, that made Chiefs fan wonder if he could become an elite cornerback, he rides a measure of confidence heading into training camp.

With Flowers gone and Sean Smith (unless he's suspended), set to start the other corner position, the future is now for Cooper.

So what can we expect from him this season? Something tells me Cooper learned from his bad stretch a year ago and I doubt, should he have a bad game or two, he'll go into another mid-season funk.

Should he rise to the occasion this season the Chiefs defense could get a big boost from a player that came out of nowhere a year ago who defined the word ‘underdog' more so than any other Chiefs player on the roster.

Next Up: Bob Sutton

Can Marcus Cooper make faster adjustments in 2014?

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