Tracy Porter has been the Bears’ best cornerback the last two years. But in a move similar to what this regime has done with the likes of Matt Slauson and Robbie Gould, they decided to move on from a 30-year-old-plus veteran, who’s performed well in this league, in an effort to get younger. While some may view those decisions as somewhat mysterious (especially since salary cap space was not a factor), this team was still 6-10 in 2015 and 3-13 last season with those players. There were many others who definitely shared in the fault for those records, but the personnel department, in conjunction with John Fox’s coaching staff, felt compelled to try something new.
In the case of Porter’s release, that handwriting became clearer with the free agent signings of Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper, who very well could be your 2017 starters. Even if Deiondre Hall is moved to safety, there are still eleven cornerbacks on this roster now. Another one or two might be added in the draft from a strong, deep class of corners.
The 6’2 Cooper is a four-year veteran who has 24 NFL starts, but 13 came last year in Arizona, when a quality Cardinals defensive backfield got a little banged-up. As I filled in hosting “Bears All Access” on 670 The Score Tuesday evening alongside former Bears Tom Thayer and Jim Miller, Cooper joined us over the phone.
“I’m just grateful for this opportunity and can’t wait to be there with the guys,” he said. “Just chop at it and get to work. Hopefully we can do some great things on the field this year. You can always use those reps on the field for your growth. Arizona gave me the opportunity and I’m thankful for that, and I’m thankful to that organization because I wouldn’t be here without their help. It’s all about capitalizing on the opportunity you get and hopefully I can come in here, help some of the younger guys, get together with (Defensive Backs) Coach (Ed) Donatell and (Defensive Coordinator Vic) Fangio and work with these guys to become a better player.”
Besides having a history with those two defensive coaches as a seventh round draft pick of the 49ers in 2013, he moved on to another deep defensive backfield in Kansas City for the 2014 and `15 seasons before signing in Arizona last season. But while with the Chiefs, he shared the position room with another free agent pickup this off-season, safety Quentin Demps.
Cooper has seven career interceptions, including a pick-six last season, and hopes to be a part of the glaring need for the defense to force more turnovers following last season’s historic franchise low. And after signing with the Bears on March 14, he tweeted out his excitement in a passionate letter to Bears fans and the city of Chicago, seemingly awed by the history of the franchise he was now a part of.
“It just felt right from that standpoint, and I love what (Ryan) Pace has done for us,” Cooper explained. “We’re gonna continue to gel together and be someone to watch out for, for sure. It’s something we’re gonna have to pride ourselves on with this group in that locker room, and be `The Monsters of the Midway.’ We want to be that group that’s feared, not only with our attitude but with that pride to get the job done.”
Cooper was actually a wide receiver until his junior year at Rutgers. The positional transition to the very opposite side helped at first, before becoming a greater challenge.
“I knew what to expect when receivers made their breaks and coming in and out of routes, looking at where they line up on the field. But as I started to learn the cornerback position more, things got tough for me, not only learning the new position but also forgetting some of the (habits) I knew as a receiver. It was interesting challenge and I just strive to get better every day as a corner.”
And while taking nothing away from the opposing quarterbacks (with the exception of Russell Wilson) and receivers he faced in the NFC West last season, he’s bracing for the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford four times this fall, not to mention Sam Bradford a couple of times.
“This definitely a talented division,” Cooper told us. “I’m gonna have an opportunity to go up aganst some of the best quarterbacks, but in order to be the best, you have to beat the best. It starts now. We have to prepare for these guys now because they’re gonna come for us regardles of whether we’re ready or not.”