On Cooper And the DeSean Theory

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

One common theory regarding Riley Cooper is that much of his success in 2013 was made possible because of the attention DeSean Jackson received on the other side. Some are skeptical whether Cooper will be able to post similar numbers this season now that Jackson resides in D.C.

Jeremy Maclin, for one, isn’t buying it.

“I think his production came because he went out there and made plays,” said Maclin, who maintains that the only receiver in this league that draws double teams is Calvin Johnson — and that’s only on the goal line. “Obviously you have a guy on the other side who is pretty good as well but teams aren’t going to get beat by focusing on one person the whole game. That’s not how it works in this league. When people say that it baffles me.”

What can’t be denied is that Cooper — who ended with 47 catches for 835 yards and eight touchdowns last year — found himself in a whole bunch of one-on-one situations, which certainly helped his cause. According to second-year tight end Zach Ertz, that’s unlikely to change this year even without Jackson on the team. That’s because the man truly responsible for the single coverage is still on the roster.

“I think the culprit, why a lot of guys see single coverage on this team, is LeSean [McCoy],” said Ertz. “He’s the key cog in this offense… Defenses have to stop LeSean first to try and stop this offense.”

Chip Kelly backed this notion up when speaking on the subject Monday.

“I think most people played us in single high coverage and they played man across the board on anybody and no one was getting any help,” said Kelly. “Riley was getting man on his side. DeSean was getting man on his side.  Jason Avant was getting man in the slot. Zach Ertz, whoever our tight end was getting manned. Running back was getting manned.

“No one is going to play us in two‑deep because if you play us in two‑deep, we can run the heck out of the ball. We had everybody as close to the line of scrimmage as possible and nobody was helping anybody. They were trying to stop the run game.”

This is the type of look Kelly is referring to:

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 12.26.47 PM

This a 3rd-and-5 situation against Oakland. The Raiders have a single-high safety and are playing man against the Eagles receivers. Both Jackson and Cooper are being single-covered while the safety plays center field.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 12.27.56 PM

With the safety sucked into the action over the middle, Foles takes advantage of the one-on-one matchup on the outside. Cooper beats his man and pulls in a well-placed ball for six.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 12.29.33 PM

“Those guys last year definitely complemented each other,” said Foles. “DeSean is  a great receiver. He has been a great receiver since he started playing football. But Riley was the one going out and making those catches, making those plays and running after the football. I think you need to give him the credit because he made a lot of plays and he made me look good last year. He’s my receiver, I have to back him.”

When Foles talks about Cooper making him “look good,” he probably has the memorable play from the Green Bay game in mind, where Cooper used those baseball tracking skills to haul in a long bomb that originally looked off the mark.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 12.40.21 PM

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 12.40.36 PM

To paint Cooper simply as the beneficiary of other people’s work is not an accurate portrayal. He obviously deserves credit for getting open and making plays on the ball.

Still, it’s fair to say that he got his share of favorable matchups. And it would be disingenuous to suggest that Jackson had nothing to do with that.

Let’s pick another play from the Green Bay game up after the snap.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 12.49.47 PM

This is one that Sheil broke down in his double posts piece.

On this play (2nd-and-9 from the Green bay 32), the Packers are in quarter-quarter-half coverage. That means three deep defenders – two split the bottom half of the field (where there are two wide receivers), while the third is responsible for the top half.

Because of Jackson’s ability, the underneath defender travels with him, while the safety essentially provides a double team.

Cooper, meanwhile, is one-on-one against a safety, Morgan Burnett – a matchup starting wide receivers should win. And to Cooper’s credit, he does.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 12.50.15 PM

Even though it’s zone coverage, when routes get downfield, everything turns into man – especially in the red zone. And it’s fair to say that a threat like Jackson will draw attention and therefore create favorable situation for his teammates.

“I think that when you have a guy like DeSean, they definitely do key in on him. He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s a player you have to game plan,” said Foles. “… DeSean definitely does that, he definitely draws defense’s attention. I’d be lying if I said no he doesn’t do that. He does.

“But it was the guys around him making plays that allowed for him also to get balls because they couldn’t take him out because if you do this dude over here is going to make a play.”

Added Malcolm Jenkins via NJ.com: “We didn’t double-team [Jackson], but we always had an eye on him. We knew that he can stretch the field at any given time, so our deep defenders always needed to know where he was at. Was he in the backfield, in the slot or out wide?

“He demands your attention, [and] we might cheat a safety over to his side but never truly double-team him.”

As Kelly suggested, the Eagles saw a lot of man coverage last year. That has a lot to do with the up-tempo style of attack. As a defense, there is less chance for confusion in a hurried pre-snap scene if you just have to identify your guy and stick with him. And they often saw single-high safety looks because of the potency of their running attack. As long as the pace and the production continue, that should remain, making life easier for Cooper and his fellow receivers.

It’s also true that all these parts are interconnected, and a dropoff at one position can have a negative effect on another. How Maclin, Darren Sproles and company fill the void left by Jackson, then, will influence the degree of difficulty for Cooper as he heads into his second year as a starter.

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  • Broadcasting Wisdom

    That Raiders image is fascinating because after only 8 yards, the “explosive” Jackson is 2 yards behind where Cooper is, both running down the field, and Cooper has already beaten the press man, while Jackson’s man is still two yards in front of him. I know it’s just one play, and we don’t know if Desean was just taking this play off, but I just thought that was interesting how much better position Cooper has less than one second into that play.

    • John E. Zang

      It’s no secret Desean is generally bad against physical, technically sound corners playing press man. It’s why he lays an egg as the season goes on and the stakes and competition heats up. He gets his stats for the most part but he’s not winning you too many important games. If you notice he gets his stats in chunks, usually in blow out wins or losses. He’s anything but steady in his production.

      • UncleCarm

        He also loafs alot of routes when he’s is a pissy mood. I won’t miss him.

      • Andy Six Score and Four

        I think that’s true of most receivers. Just sayin.

      • anon

        you mean like pulling a wes welker in the playoffs like coop did? jackson has broken a bunch of games for us that’s why when people think eagles they think #25 and #10.

        • John E. Zang

          Cooper dropped the ball because he had a ton of real estate he wanted to run on althought I hated seeing that play as much as you did. Sometimes they drop balls. They all do and that was at a crucial moment but I’ll give him another chance because he hasn’t made it a habit. Jackson has that deep threat, yes but that goes away when the competition gets better. He makes a fool of bad teams but he has yet to dominate by himself against a worthy opponent. A lot of his yards come from play design to get the ball in his hands by giving him cushion and getting him in space. I’ll take the consistent receiver that moves the chains and scores in the red zone anyday over the homerun hitter that strikes out more times than not.

          • anon

            Hah that’s true for every receiver (getting the ball in space). Keenan Allen is a stud, when he went out Djax made plays. Djax has made game winning and game breaking plays before (the biggest play in eagles history according to ESPN was his).

        • Kev_H

          I think Cooper was the leading receiver in that game.

    • PhillySean

      I won’t disagree with anything you just said, but if you look at highlights from that game Oakland’s d-backs were completely lost. I don’t think I’ve seen a secondary look so unorganized and disoriented. They did such a bad job that I would be reluctant to draw conclusions about how a typical team would handle or execute coverage.

      • Average__Joseph

        Sure you did, the 2012 Eagle’s secondary was that bad.

        Just An Average Joseph

      • usmcnole

        Also I think DBs were inclined to give jackson a ton of cushion cuz they feared him getting behind them.

    • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

      Could make the argument that the CB on Cooper tried to jam him and the DB on Jackson immediately back-pedaled.

      • Broadcasting Wisdom

        That may indeed be what happened, which is even more fascinating – Cooper is further up the filed having beaten press coverage than Jackson is running straight with his man back pedaling.

        • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

          Well, really Jackson is one yard behind, and we don’t know if he’s setting up the DB. Doesn’t look like he’s entirely full stride there.

          • dnabrice

            Jackson had an unbelievable 2nd gear burst that Cooper just doesn’t have.

  • Rick H

    Excellent article Tim! Jackson was a threat no question however I believe that Kelly made the decision to reconfigure the receiving core for the reason that he knows in BIG GAMES & Playoffs that height and route running becomes more critical.
    As talented as Jackson was he did not offer either one of those attributes. Sometimes a QB has to throw it up there and let a big receiver make a play. Jackson gets his but the league is evolving towards this offensive philosophy. Then the league will change again when the defenses catch up or adjust to eliminate it.

    • John E. Zang

      Having your top receivers able to beat tight coverage is paramount to winning and it’s partly why Chip wanted to part ways. That comes with fundamentally sound route running as well as physically winning against your defender both of which Desean fails at consistently. There’s too much creativity and game planning involved in getting him the ball and you end up losing in the end anyways while fattening his head into thinking he deserves another contract.

      • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

        Look man, I’m as big of a defender as there is of the move to part ways with Jackson, but I’ll never question the dude’s route-running ability. He’s not physical, he quits on plays and, when $ is on the mind, an entire season, but he’s a pretty damn good route runner.

        • Soybot

          He’s pretty damn good at one route: Running really fast in a straight line. Any other route? Good.

          • sprawl

            Agreed, that’s how he ensured he would get the ball in the Andy Reid offense and with a guy like Vick throwing to him since 2010. He could run precise routes and be exactly where he was supposed to but before Foles would that result in him getting the ball at that location?

            Kind of worried how well that fits with what RG3 seems to be all about…

  • BleedGreenJames

    "No way Tim, you've got this all wrong. Everyone on the Eagles offense is trash, DeSean opened everything up, even for LeSean McCoy. I don't care how much evidence you present to me that suggests otherwise." – Everyone in the national media

    • Javi Echie

      Not just the national media but half the people that still post on here believe that b.s.

    • nice font

      • Johnny Domino

        Very Smith-Corona.

        • Jerry Pomroy

          Is that a new apple brew?

          • Johnny Domino

            “Well, I pawned my Smith-Corona
            And I went to meet my man
            He hangs out down on Alvarado Street
            By the Pioneer chicken stand”

          • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

            “Carmelita, hold me tighter
            I think I’m sinking down
            And I’m all strung out on heroin
            On the outskirts of town”

            Excellent song.

  • Token

    “”I think the culprit, why a lot of guys see single coverage on this team, is LeSean [McCoy],” said Ertz. “He’s the key cog in this offense… Defenses have to stop LeSean first to try and stop this offense.”

    ding ding ding

    • John E. Zang

      WRONG! It’s Jordan Mathews. My prediction is Foles goes down by the fourth game and J Mat takes over distributing the ball to mostly himself ending in the first ever 3,000 yard receiver to also throw for four.

  • JofreyRice

    It’s funny, this goes back to an argument some of us were having last week. Makes me wonder if we’re being poached for topics! This is all about degree of truth, like pretty much everything. Jackson got doubled some, but not all the time. Defenses “keyed” on him by cheating safeties, or rolling help to his side, without committing extra defenders on 100% of the passing downs. We’ve always known stacking the box and stopping Shady was job #1.

    We’re going to see how it all works out with Jackson gone. Kelly is as smart as they come, and I get his passion is the run game, and other receivers give you better matchups (in theory), but it’s very hard for me to understand getting rid of a productive big play guy you know defensive coordinators have as at least the second target to stop in your offense, for that reason alone.

    • JosephR2225

      If next week we see an All-22 comparing Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, I think you’ll have your answer.

      • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

        If that all-22 shows anything other than Fletcher being noticeably better than CW I have a lot of words to eat.

        • Jerry Pomroy

          I don’t think you have anything to worry about there Nick.

        • DmanPhilly

          CW bring the under appreciated attitude.
          Cant wait to see him get his hands on Desean this year!

          • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

            Attitude is a luxury. Performance is a necessity.

          • John E. Zang

            I agree. I think Fletch is the better player but Williams didn’t really get to play to his strength last season because of the new installed defense. I think he plays more press coverage this year.

      • OverreacSean Jackson, #culture

        Been begging for one.

    • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

      T&S are men of and for the people. They see what’s going on down in the comments section.

  • Bullwinkle

    The key to the offense never got on the field. His name is Kelly. He is the reason the Eagles set records as a whole offense and as individuals. Kelly understands his player’s capabilities and makes the most of their talent. He has made his players better through excellent coaching. Jackson was a great talent in terms of speed, but the Eagles have the assets to do very well (and perhaps better) without him.

  • MediaMike

    “Still, it’s fair to say that he got his share of favorable matchups. And it would be disingenuous to suggest that Jackson had nothing to do with that.”

    “Because of Jackson’s ability, the underneath defender travels with him, while the safety essentially provides a double team.”

    Cooper deserves credit for making big catches without a doubt. His height and improved ability to go up and get the football has been great.

    The issue I have is that Maclin, in and of himself, isn’t going to set matchups and establish de-facto double teams (basically what Jenkins was saying) in the way that Jackson did.

    Do the improvement from Ertz along with the additions of Matthews and Sproles help out; absolutely.

    But for people to suggest that Maclin is as close to as good, as good, or even better than Jackson is foolishness.

    • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

      Twisting Jenkins’ statement to fit your anti-Maclin narrative. You’re better than that man.

  • tbwhite

    I still don’t see what the big deal is, the D can’t double all of our WR. Cooper has proven that if you double someone else and single him he will hurt you. So, with DJax gone, let’s say defenses do double Cooper more, but that leaves Maclin one on one. Ok, so maybe DJax > Maclin so there is a dropoff. But, pre-Kelly DJax had averaged 3.9 catches and 67.4 yards per game and 23 TD’s. Maclin has averaged 4.4 catches and 58.5 yards per game and 26 TD’s(in 12 fewer games). So, how much of a difference can there really be ? It doesn’t look like there was any difference under Reid.

    • Brandon

      And remember who ever is in the slot (Matthews or Huff) is going to be a HUGE upgrade over Avant in the passing game.

  • Frank

    There is always going to be a safety giving help to a cornerback, that’s not exactly double teaming. And now that DeSean is gone, that safety will still give help to the cornerback that is covering Maclin……so Cooper still will be catching passes against man to man coverage. Bottom line is Cooper and other receivers will still be getting single coverage….that will not change.

    • dnabrice

      Or if the safety moves over to Cooper…long shot, I know…Maclin will get the benefit of the 1 on 1.

  • scomo

    I remember Cooper making a similar play to the one in green bay when Kevin Kolb was the quarterback. He has definitely shown good ball tracking skills.

  • Ben

    The national media doesn’t talk about it enough, but Cooper is of course going to make plays what with his excellent size, innate ability to track balls, and the third hand coming out of his pants.

    • anon


  • Johnny Domino

    One thing’s for sure, when the ball goes up Riley Cooper will fight all y’all.

    • borntosuffer

      Damn, that was funny.

  • DuckHunterSThompson

    “I think the culprit, why a lot of guys see single coverage on this team, is LeSean [McCoy],” said Ertz. “He’s the key cog in this offense… Defenses have to stop LeSean first to try and stop this offense.”

    That has always been my understanding. If other teams seriously start to cheat towards the side of Riley Cooper then aren’t the Eagles just winning at the game football. I mean seriously, the other teams are in single high coverage. They can only go towards one side while the other is manned. It doesn’t matter who’s on the other side (as long as they are a professional–I’m not beating man coverage) because one will still be in man and Chip is choosing his players on their capability to beat man coverage.

    • Kev_H

      Bingo. The Eagles will still line a receiver up out there and the high safety will still favor one side or the other.

    • Brandon

      And not only that we have a legit QB who is going to make the right read pretty much every time.

  • Mike Quick was on with Gargano today discussing this issue. He said that while it was true that defenses played the birds in single-high safety, that safety shaded or favored DeSeans’ side. Not saying Cooper was open all game/every game. There was some serious chemistry there with Foles and some great plays on the ball.

    Anyway, it strikes me as a bit of a false choice. You can think that Cooper had a good year on his own merit AND still think DeSean’s production will be hard to replace.

    • anon

      Teams better be really deep at the DB position if they want to stop us, b/c all of our boys can run routes and catch the ball.

      • John E. Zang

        Yeah I’m just interested to see how many we can keep. I like the prospect of Momah dare I say and that Kadron Boone could be something from what I hear. I also like Arrelious Benn. I say keep Momah and whoever wins the Benn/Boone battle. Maybe practice squad for Boone. But if Momah performs and is ready he may be able to play in red zone packages or if Benn light it up he may be able to see the field with his experience.

        • anon

          Momah’s running with the rest of the scrubs. Maybe practice squad. It’s too bad he couldn’t work out with guys like Marshall to learn how to be a big WR.

          • dnabrice

            If he’s significantly improved, then maybe the PS will be able to take him to the next step. I don’t think he’s ready to make the team yet.

    • poetx99

      basically. ‘double team’ is a misnomer. but the single high was damn sure shaded to djax’ way, EXCEPT (like in the raider pic) when we were in the RZ or right outside of it. desean wasn’t as much of a threat to outright run past his man when there were only about 30 or 40 yards in front of him, and the single high safety could be more purely a center fielder.

    • Danielzinho

      Cooper had a good year on his own merit and Desean’s production will be easy to replace as long as the offensive line keeps the running game shredding people.

  • Soybot

    This is perhaps my favorite post so far this year.

  • Jerry Pomroy

    All I’ve got to say about Coop making plays & Jackson drawing coverage is that DJax had been here for some time with Coop playing opposite and we hadn’t seen him make those plays. Basically what I’m saying is that regardless of DJax, Cooper never made plays like he did last season. I wanted Coop gone before last season and us to bring in another guy to be the big target red zone receiver. He outplayed my expectations & I’ll certainly give him credit for that. But I can’t concede to give that credit to his success to DJax drawing more attention. I do give more of the credit (outside Cooper) to Foles for actually throwing the guy the ball in situations where he can make plays & trusting in him to do so.

    • John E. Zang

      Yeah it’s called we finally got a legit quarterback. Now I won’t speculate as to his future but he’s a real quarterback not a make a couple reads and bail quarterback.

      • Jerry Pomroy

        I’ve got 3 letters for you… LOL

  • Outoftownguest

    Great comments and debate. A long time reader, first time commenter (I usually find someone I agree with making my point).
    With all due respect to what McCoy, Jackson, and Cooper himself brings to the debate, I’m shocked that no one points to Foles as the main factor in Cooper’s success.
    Vick is/was a sight based passer. He wanted someone to be open before he released the ball. Foles, on the other hand, sometime anticipates where the receiver will be, or throws to a spot in which the receiver can make a play on the ball.
    Cooper makes the adjustments and some nice catches, but Vick never would have thrown a lot of those passes.
    Foles is the number one reason for Cooper’s success.

    • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

      Great first comment.

  • southy

    Of course Riley Cooper got his stats because of DeSean. DeSean had trouble getting off of press man… Foles wasn’t gonna throw it to the small, covered guy. What choice did he have?

  • Sconces

    Why I think Matthews will lead our team in receiving yards: When teams go to that single high coverage, I don’t think those small slot CBs are gonna stand a chance. He’s a permanent mismatch that I think Chip got to be the piece where defenses really don’t have an answer anymore.

    • Brandon

      Yeah I think people are forgetting how massive of an upgrade Matthews (or Huff) is going to be over Avant in the slot (even though they’re rookies). I love Avant but besides the occasional 3rd down conversion, he pretty much gave us nothing from the slot WR position last year due to his declining speed. And remember the 3 WR set was our base formation.

      Maybe Maclin is a step down from Jackson on the outside but I think having Matthews/Huff will more than make up the difference in the slot.

  • Brandon

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the red zone. Desean pretty much did jackshit in the redzone and might actually have been a hinderance to Cooper in coverage, yet Cooper still did work. Not sure how many red zone TDs Cooper had but I think he had more than a few.

  • Brandon

    Isn’t Kelly’s philosophy big people beat up little people? Desean is a little person.

  • Frank

    Quote from Kelly……..”Defense had everybody as close to the line of scrimmage as possible and nobody was helping anybody. They were trying to stop the run game.”

    So there was NO double coverage on DeSean…

  • poetx99

    one point people are completely missing is that, under chip, we actually RAN the damn ball.

    chip’s offense creates mismatches from alignment and scheme and execution. under andy, when teams played 2 high and backed way the hell out of the box the eagles’ response was, ‘lets find a different way to pass against this’.

    chip’s establishment of the run (and shady) as a primary, and ever-present threat FORCED teams to get out of 2 high. and once they were in single, no, it wasn’t an actual double team, but that safety was either rolling to djax side or shading when in the open field. that’s just common sense.

    formations also helped tremendously in dictating coverage (and providing man coverage for our receivers). the threat of the bubble screens to either direction, and the need for db’s to play force in the event that the run game went wide meant that we generally knew the alignment we’d face, as well, from the secondary.

    cooper stepped up majorly, and foles did some great, and, in some instances, some extraordinary things. but that was dictated, by and large, by the fact that chip’s offensive strategy made teams show their hand and commit to stopping the run.

    if maclin is physically good to go, he may not have the same number of explosive plays as desean, but i expect him to put up numbers.

    i think ertz is going to break out and i think matthews is going to blow up in the slot. you are NOT covering him w/ a LB, and he is going to beat most teams’ 3rd CB.

  • Danielzinho

    Anyone who can’t see that Shady McCoy and Chip Kelly’s running game were the reason that Riley Cooper had a very good season (and not DeSean) is probably not too bright.

  • Danielzinho

    Desean Jackson’s success was a result of Chip Kelly and Shady McCoy. Don’t get it twisted. Jackson’s in for a big surprise this season.

  • Danielzinho

    Obviously racism is the reason Riley Cooper was in single coverage so often. Nobody’s trying to respect a white wide receiver. #TruthBinge