Stephen Cooper

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There are countless past (and some present) NFL stars still floating in the abyss known as free agency. Some are available because they have outlived their usefulness. Some make too much money for their team to afford to keep them. Some are the last to know their days are over and they hold press conferences while doing shirtless sit-ups in their driveway.

One recent addition to the free agent whirlpool shouldn’t still be there.

Former Detroit Lions middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch is still in search of a new team. The Lions cut Tulloch on July 5th and almost three weeks later, he hasn’t visited another team. According to the Detroit Free Press, Tulloch had offseason arthroscopic ankle surgery and didn’t pass a physical until the day he was released.

Media reports out of Detroit and different NFL sites speculate the Lions didn’t bring Tulloch back amid concerns of his age, declining lateral quickness and inability to play in coverage.

This is also coming from a team that recently fired most of their front office and has a brand new General Manager calling the shots. One could question the decisions coming out of the front office if they didn’t consider trying to get something for him before the draft if they knew he wasn’t part of the future in Detroit.

There are too many reasons why San Diego should sign this man.

Veteran leadership: Tulloch is 5’11”, 245-pounds and turned 31 on January 1st. A ten-year veteran of the NFL, Tulloch played the first five years of his career in Tennessee before signing on with the Lions. He would be an outstanding mentor to the budding young linebacker corps in San Diego while showing them how it’s done on the field. (i.e. Dwight Freeney).

Durability: The man is beyond durable for his position. Outside of his 2014 season where he suffered a torn ACL in game three, Tulloch has not missed a single NFL game.

Productivity: Tulloch is a tackling machine. Last season, he led Detroit in tackles with 107 combined tackles (74 solo). In six of the last seven seasons, Tulloch has recorded over 100 combined tackles. In his career to date he has 942 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 27 passes defensed and five interceptions.

By comparison, no member of the current Chargers’ roster has had a 100-tackle season. The last ones to do it were Eric Weddle, Takeo Spikes and Stephen Cooper.

Fit: Tulloch would move into a rotation that at the moment lists Manti Te’o, Denzel Perryman, Joshua Perry and Nick Dzubnar as the current middle linebackers. Tulloch would form a great two-down, run-stuffing linebacker. He would form an excellent tandem with the Bolts’ free agent acquisition, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane.

There’s only one logical reason this addition hasn’t happened yet. Money.

Tulloch was in the final year of a five-year, 25.5-million deal he signed in 2012. The base for Tulloch for 2016 was to be 5.5-million. The Lions paid him a 500,000 roster bonus in March. Paying him in the new league year allows them only take a 1.3-million cap hit for releasing him. The Lions free themselves of that contract and Tulloch is officially a free agent.

Any team could sign him for the veterans’ minimum. of course, he’ll want more than that but if they wanted, the Chargers could have him in lightning bolts before training camp begins on the 30th. There’s nothing wrong with competition and bringing in Tulloch would push Te’o and Dzubnar to step up their game or be replaced.

Defense wins championships. This signing would make the defense even more formidable and advance the development of the Chargers’ young nucleus even more. What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Bolt Up!!

 

The Greg One

 

#signthisman

 

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The Lost Manning Whisperer

 

When it was announced to the football world that his royal highness was taking over at Quarterback for the Broncos I was not as worried as I should have been. My first thought was that it was OK because the Bolts had a knack for getting in Peyton’s head. During the 2010 Chargers and Colts Sunday night football game, Chris Collinsworth even said, “Peyton Manning has looked as bad against the San Diego Chargers as he has against any team in the NFL.”

Since the second half of his first game as a Bronco, Manning has seemed to shed his Blue and Gold curse. The Bolts managed to beat him once last year, but as we approach the first of two games against Denver, I wanted look at what the Chargers are missing since 2010 and what has changed.

Why doesn’t the blue and gold Kryptonite turn the all mighty Peyton into a turnover machine like in the good old days?

In my mind it is all on one underrated Charger who wore the number 54 before Melvin Ingram was drafted. Stephen Cooper was the unsung hero of our linebacking corps for many years before a torn bicep (that he tried to play through) ended his time with the Chargers/NFL in 2012.

Cooper was an undrafted free agent out of the University of Maine who played nine seasons in the NFL all with a lightning Bolt on his helmet. He was the most trusted member of the Defense and he wore the Defensive headset getting the calls from the DC on the sidelines and calling the plays for the defense.

Cooper faced Manning 7 times and in that span (4 times with the head set) the Chargers record against the Horseshoe was 5-2. 3-1 when he lead the Defense. Over the last five games as a Colt against the Chargers, Manning was 155 for 238 (65.1% comp), 1580 yards, 10.2 y/c, 6.6 y/a, 10 TDs, 13 INTs.   Considering the big scores Manning’s offense has been putting up throughout his career in those Colt losses, the Charger defense held Manning to 14, 17, 21, 17 and 20 points . Even in the 2008 win the Colts only scored 24 points. In 2010, he threw four interceptions in a game and six in 2007.

Just as Peyton Manning has leeway to make audibles at the line, Stephen Cooper was given that ability by former Defensive Coordinator (now Panthers head coach) Ron Rivera. In 2010, Rivera talked to the Union Tribune about Cooper, “Because he’s so well versed in our gameplan and their offense, you can give him some leeway to make adjustments and control the defense based upon what he sees. “

Manning and the Colts often swept down the field early, but Cooper was listening. Picking up on play calls, terms and Manning’s cadence. Stephen told the media before their last match-up in 2010, “He reads formations and takes clues from the defense, but we do the same thing with him. The goal is to keep him off-balance and, when possible, make him less certain about the decisions he’s making.”

In that 2010 game Peyton Manning threw four Interceptions and only managed to get 14 points before a second half shutout. That was the last time the Chargers played Manning before his year off and eventual joining of the AFC West. The Bolts had the number of Manning so much that one Indiana paper, the Ft.Wayne journal, said of the game, “the Chargers had their usual interception-o-rama against Indianapolis with four.”

Stephen Cooper played a role in two of the four interceptions in the 2010, including a Kevin Burnett pick six play. Burnett’s INT came on 3rd and 5. Burnett fooled Manning by indicating blitz, Cooper who was the defensive playcaller trailed the tight end. Thinking Burnett was coming for him, Manning was ready to quickly get the ball to the tight end. Cooper gave the tight end space knowing that Burnett was dropping back. Easy pick and Burnett almost walked into the endzone. Of course, Cooper had one himself. Granted, the Cooper Interception was a ball affected by a Barnes hit on Manning’s arm as he threw, but Cooper had dropped back into coverage just as the play developed.

Consider what Cooper told The UT in 2010.

“You have to make sure you’re on top of your game when you face him. The only way to do that is to put in the work during the week to understand tendencies and the way he runs the offense so you can read, react and be confident in your decisions during the game.”

Maybe Mike McCoy should consider bringing Stephen Cooper in to breakdown tape on Broncos week. The reality is pretty clear. Hindsight is 50/50 as Cam Newton recently said. (He really did say that!) Stephen Cooper was the Peyton Manning whisperer, no one pitched a tent and camped out in Peyton’s head better than him. We could use a little of his mojo this Thursday.

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David Agranoff is the Wonderland award nominated author of three published novels The Vegan Revolution…With Zombies, Hunting the Moon Tribe and Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich. His novella Punkupine Moshers of the Apocalypse appeared in the Best bizarro Fiction of the Decade . He writes mostly horror fiction but Zombie novel is funny. David is grumpy when the Chargers lose and his other favorite sports team is Portland Trailblazers. Follow him on Twitter @DAgranoffauthor or friend him on Facebook where he also talks about Doctor Who and death metal.

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