SAN DIEGO - NOVEMBER 22: Linebacker Stephen Cooper #54 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates after breaking up a third down pass attempt in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium on November 22 2010 in San Diego California. The Chargers won 35-14. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Paul Kuharsky, the AFC South blogger for ESPN mentioned Stephen Cooper as a potential under the radar style linebacker target for the Jacksonville Jaguars. While Cooper has played primarily in a 3-4 for the San Diego Chargers, Kuharsky opines with the help of Scouts Inc. Matt Williamson on Cooper's viability in a 4-3 system:
"Pretty well actually, (how Cooper would fit in a 4-3) I think he would fit a WLB, MLB or SLB well -- none of them perfectly, but well enough to be a mid-level starter. He is physical enough for SLB or MLB, but also athletic enough for WLB. Not ideal for any and not a great player vs. the run, but he should be able to play on all downs and is good vs. the pass."
To me, that sounds like a stop gap style player I expect the Jaguars to target at the linebacker position after they sign a long-term starter. I still think Kirk Morrison is going to be the fallback stop-gap player just for sake of the Jaguars know what they're getting. I asked John Gennaro of BoltsFromTheBlue.com about Cooper:
Stephen Cooper is an incredibly bright player that has struggled with the physical aspect of the game (outside of 2007 and 2008, which was shortened by a PED suspension). The last two seasons has seen him constantly playing through injury, which has slowed him down a great deal (and he wasn't very fast before) and made him a weak tackler.
Stephen survives on his intelligence, and will help the rest of the defense just by being out there (Ron Rivera used to talk about how having Cooper was like having a coach on the field at all times). However, the improvement you get from the rest of the defense is offset by Cooper's missed tackles and inability to get around blockers.
I think a perfect landing spot for him would be Carolina, where he could help Ron Rivera install a new defense there. However, if Jacksonville were to sign him they could probably get the most value out of him because they play Peyton Manning twice a year. Nobody is quite sure why, but Stephen Cooper has been credited as the #1 reason the Colts cannot beat the Chargers. There have been articles written about Cooper being able to figure out Manning's calls at the line with ease.
Cooper's ability to decipher Peyton Manning's calls at the line of scrimmage would be a tremendous benefit. It it worth noting however, that Cooper was suspended for four games in 2008 for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He tested positive for a banned stimulant.