Browns rookies EJ Bibbs and Xavier Cooper each have one big thing in common: There's not really any duplication of their skill sets at their respective positions.
In Cleveland's preseason opener, Bibbs showed the ability to shed tacklers in space using his shifty feet and wide-set frame. He caught three passes for 29 yards against the Redskins – a 14-yarder late in the fourth quarter from Connor Shaw produced three missed tackles. In a pinch without a fullback, the Browns called on Bibbs to assume the role mainly as a blocker.
It's simple to define what Bibbs has exhibited in his few months with the team.
"Just showing my athleticism," said the undrafted tight end out of Iowa state. "Show the older guys and tell them I can make plays for the team."
Those who have watched practice know that Gary Barnidge is thriving in a role as more of a featured pass catcher. But he can't do all the heavy lifting alone. Having a third tight end behind Jim Dray who's able to be a potentially dangerous pass catcher could give opposing defenses problems.
One of the bigger surprises to the Cleveland coaching staff during the NFL draft was how late they were able to pluck Cooper in the third round out of Washington State. Coach Pettine, defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil and defensive line coach Anthony Weaver have all described Cooper's first-step as "tremendous." In his NFL preseason debut, we finally saw what they were talking about.
Cooper brings an interior pass rushing skill set to the defensive line. For a 300-pounder, Cooper is leaner than you'd think. His initial movement off the ball catches offensive linemen off guard and he's able to position himself quickly. On his second quarter sack of Kirk Cousins, Cooper pinched himself through a space and gobbled up the quarterback on impact. Cooper was so caught in the moment of his first sack, he didn't even bust out a little dance.
"I need to get a celebration going if I'm going to get some sacks here and there," Cooper said.
Except, could it be more than here and there? Excluding Desmond Bryant's five sacks last season, the Browns only tallied two quarterback takedowns from other defensive linemen (Ahtyba Rubin and Armonty Bryant). While the run game is one of the top priorities on defense, so is generating more pass rush from the big boys up front. Xavier Cooper could be a solution to that dilemma.
"I'm just trying to come out there and play with my head on fire," Cooper said. "I bring a lot to the game. Get-off, I have good hands and I just hustle. I'm going to try to bring it all. Everything they want us to play like I'm going to try to do."