Cornerback Marcus Cooper had been in the starting lineup from the start of Kansas City Chiefs' offseason practice. The feeling as things got started was that he was just a placeholder until Brandon Flowers ended his holdout.
That, of course, never happened. Flowers was released instead and there’s no longer a temporary feeling about Cooper’s place in the lineup.
He’s a starter, unless the Chiefs feel compelled to sign a veteran free agent to take his place. There’s no indication they plan to do so.
That doesn’t mean they should be comfortable with Cooper as a regular. At 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds, Cooper has the big body and the long arms the Chiefs are looking for in a cornerback. He played well as a rookie last season after taking over as their third cornerback, showing good instincts and ball skills. He had joined the Chiefs off waivers from the San Francisco 49ers at the start of the year and for half the season he looked like a real find.
But his play tailed off sharply toward the end of the season. Things got so bad for Cooper that the Chiefs benched him as the third corner for a time.
If he plays like that again this season, the Chiefs are in serious trouble. Without Flowers, the Chiefs are perilously thin at corner.
They have veteran Sean Smith as the other starter but their other options are unpalatable. Veteran Chris Owens, at 5-9, is a nickelback. Journeyman Ron Parker played well as the starter in last year’s final regular-season game in San Diego, but he allowed several big plays in offseason practice this year. Third-round draft pick Phillip Gaines doesn’t look like he’s ready to help.
Otherwise, the Chiefs have a cast of developmental players at cornerback. Perhaps one or more of them will rise up, as Cooper did last year.
Cooper has enough going for him and played well enough for a time last year that he deserves the shot at the starting spot. But it wouldn’t hurt for the Chiefs to have a backup plan, something more reliable than what they have now.