When guard Laken Tomlinson signed a three-year contract extension in June, it solidified four of the five starting spots on the offensive line. Tackle Joe Staley is a lock at left tackle, Tomlinson at left guard, free agent signing Weston Richburg at center, and first round pick Mike McGlinchey the starter at right tackle. That leaves one spot open: right guard. Guard Jonathan Cooper signed a one-year $4.9 million dollar deal with the 49ers and will compete for the right guard spot in 2018.
Cooper was drafted seventh overall in the 2013 NFL Draft, and played 13 games for the Dallas Cowboys in 2017. Cooper is 6-foot 2 and weighs 311 pounds. Head coach Kyle Shanahan likes his offensive lineman to be more athletic than mauler due to the amount of outside zone running plays he uses in his offense. Is Cooper athletic enough to run the system?
Jonathan Cooper #64 2017 Week 7 at San Francisco
This is a great example of what Cooper will be asked to do in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. The outside zone run play is the base play that Shanahan builds his offense around. An offensive lineman needs to be athletic enough to carry the defensive lineman horizontally to the play side of the field, giving the running back a chance to get outside and run upfield. Cooper shows he has the athleticism to perform this play.
This is another example of an outside zone run play, but this time Cooper gets beat. Now, on this play he is going against the best defensive player on the 49ers Deforest Buckner. Buckner completely blows it up and forces the running back inside. Cooper needs to keep mistakes like this to a minimum if he wants to win the starting right guard spot.
The 49ers invested $135 million dollars in Jimmy Garoppolo to be the franchise quarterback, so keeping that investment upright is going to play a big role in who wins the right guard spot. Cooper does a great job on this play in pass protection. If he can play like this in training camp and in the preseason he should have no problem winning a starting spot on the offensive line.
Sometimes Shanahan asks his guards to make reach blocks to the second level of a defense. Cooper does a fantastic job of getting to the second level of the defense and letting his running back hit the hole for a touchdown.
Cooper was a top-ten pick in the NFL Draft, so he has the skills to be a starting NFL guard. He showed last season with the Cowboys that he can play in the league and he will try to do the same with the 49ers on a one-year prove it deal. The new regime in San Francisco has shown that when a player is on a one-year deal and proves that he belongs, they pay him. Cooper will look to be one of those players in 2018.
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