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Marcus Cooper Emerges At Cornerback

Recent acquisition picks off two passes and returns one for TD against Buccaneers

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Cardinals cornerback Marcus Cooper (41) is congratulated by Patrick Peterson after his interception return for a touchdown.



Tony Jefferson was seeing double.

The Cardinals entered 2016 with an all-pro cornerback on one side and a massive question mark on the other, and the latter concern wasn't alleviated in last week's opener as rookie Brandon Williams went through some growing pains.

Marcus Cooper took a huge step in providing an answer on Sunday, picking off a pair of passes and returning one for a touchdown in the Cardinals' 40-7 blowout win over the Buccaneers.

On a day when star corner Patrick Peterson had his first interception of the season, Cooper more than held his own on the other side of the field in his first defensive action of the season.

"He looked like Patrick out there," Jefferson said. "Just with a '4' in front of that '1' (on his jersey)."

The Cardinals traded a conditional draft pick for Cooper after the fourth preseason game to compete with Williams and veteran Justin Bethel for playing time opposite Peterson. Bethel is hurt, and after Williams made a crucial mental error in a loss to the Patriots, coach Bruce Arians decided to bring Cooper into the mix against Tampa Bay.

The plan was to rotate the pair, but Cooper's big day was reason enough to call an audible early in the contest.

"He got hot," Arians said. "You don't take the hot hands out."

On his first interception, Cooper did a nice job sticking to Vincent Jackson in coverage. He saw the pass coming their way while Jackson did not, and made the easy interception. Cooper returned it to the Tampa Bay 19 and the Cardinals ended that possession with a field goal for a 10-0 lead.

Cooper then iced the game by returning a twice-deflected screen pass 60 yards for a score, pushing the lead to 33-7 midway through the third quarter.

Cooper's play did all the talking, as he barely acknowledged his memorable day in a postgame press conference.

"It was OK," Cooper said. "I fell off at the end, though. My technique got a little sloppy toward the end of the game, so I'm not too happy about that, but it's something I can work on."

Peterson was more complimentary.

"He had a great game," Peterson said. "We almost had a competition there. I dropped my pick-six and he caught his and went to the crib. That just goes to show the talent we have on this team. We have hidden talent everywhere."

The Cardinals are one of the most well-rounded teams in the NFL, and all facets were on display during the blowout win. The second cornerback spot is arguably the biggest concern, and while one game doesn't provide a definitive cure, Cooper's emergence would be key.

Arians said Cooper could "potentially be the starter over there" moving forward.

Cooper isn't thinking in terms of playing time. He's still one of the new guys on the team just looking to fit in.

"I have to gain these guys' trust," Cooper said. "What's the best way to do it? Make a play. That's what I tried to do, and hopefully we can just build on this."

Images from the Cardinals' 40-7 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2 of the regular season



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