Xavier Cooper wasted little time introducing himself to the Dawg Pound in his NFL debut.
During the second quarter of the Browns preseason opener, the rookie defensive lineman blazed through Washington's offensive line and dropped Kirk Cousins for a sack. Cooper, a third-round selection from Washington State, joked he was so excited that he forgot to celebrate.
Cooper was all business in the moment and he's continued to be that way heading into his second game at FirstEnergy Stadium, tonight's 8 p.m. showdown with the Bills.
ClevelandBrowns.com caught up with Cooper on Monday for a one-on-one interview.
CB.com: How have you seen these joint practices with the Bills improve the team?
Cooper: I think it can improve us significantly. We didn't get to practice against the Redskins like this. We're going into the game just getting ready to go out there and have fun and play. Now we get a close eye and a physical look at how these guys are, especially up front. I don't know about the back end, I'm not there, but it looks like everybody got some great work.
CB.com: Is it a different kind of motivation when you're practicing against another team?
Cooper: Definitely. In these type of practices, you treat them like games. You want to compete. You want to win every down. I think we did and we came out and executed a significant amount of good plays. I'm sure we did some bad stuff. We just have to check the film and get back to it.
CB.com: How would you assess your development since you came to Berea in May?
Cooper: My development has been good. I'm confident in my ability. (Defensive line coach Anthony Weaver) and the staff are confident in my ability. They're working me in, letting me get comfortable. The big thing for rookies is experience. I have no experience right now in the NFL. I've only played one game. I've been practicing, but the biggest stage is the game. I'm just working to get in and whatever I can do to help this team, I'm going to do it.
CB.com: You've been widely regarded for having one of the best first steps among rookies. Where'd it come from?
Cooper: I think it came from soccer. Just being quick, being able to move my feet and then when I stepped on the football field, it was just like getting off in track. You want to get off and you want to run as fast as you can. I just use my ability to just get off the ball and always get there before my opponent does. I worked on it and need to get better. That's what I bring to the table, so I need to perfect that consistently.
CB.com: How have you maintained it while weighing 300 pounds?
Cooper: I just eat right and try to hydrate. I think the biggest thing to be quick and be 300 pounds and be so lean is your diet. You can't eat a lot of fried foods, you can't eat a lot of red meat because it's going to slow you down, so I try to just focus on my diet. I eat a lot of stuff that's going to help me on the field and help me play fast.
CB.com: Do you feel like you've carved a niche for yourself on the defensive line?
Cooper: I think I haven't carved out any identity. I'm still a rookie, I'm still battling for a spot on the team. I think every day I'm getting better. I've got a lot of work to do. It's only the beginning of what people can expect from me. I can't wait to go out, have a better practice and on Thursday have a good game.
CB.com: What improved have you improved on the most since you were drafted?
Cooper: I think I've improved in my mental approach to the game. When you're a player in college, you don't have time to learn the game. You've got to go to practice and then you've got to go to school and then you're playing in the game. Now, everything's based on football. Everything is football. I get to look at the personnel, the offense, just little tips that help me play faster. I just think I'm becoming a way better student of the game than I was in college.
CB.com: How'd it feel to get your first sack out of the way in last week's game?
Cooper: It felt great. It was bigger for my family, of course. First sack in NFL history for the Cooper family. I think my family back home, everybody couldn't see the game but they were streaming it online and everybody was excited. I got a lot more sacks to make. John Hughes said it's OK to get these sacks in preseason but it goes right back to zero when the regular season starts, so I'm just trying to stay confident and humble.
CB.com: How important is it for the team to generate more of a pass rush from the interior of the defensive line?
Cooper: That's what they brought me in for, create pressure up the middle, and that's what I plan on doing. Any one-on-one opportunity, I plan on getting past my man and getting to the quarterback and being disruptive, helping Desmond Bryant, Paul Kruger, all these guys on the outside collapse the pocket. I think we've done a great job of that so far.
CB.com: What do you make of the depth on the D-line?
Cooper: It's a lot of depth. I talked to a few of my buddies around the league who play on the defensive line and they say our defensive line is arguably one of the deepest in the NFL. It's just a lot of competition and I'm enjoying it. It's different from college where I'm used to just being the guy every year. Now I have to work from being a rookie now to being a vet. I'm just working every day and excited to be here.
CB.com: You were an under-the-radar prospect coming out of Washington State. Does that motivate you on the field?
Cooper: I love it. I love that people don't know about me. It gives me the advantage on my opponent because people just continue to sleep on me, they just look over me. I'm going to come into the game and make plays and help my team out.
CB.com: How many nicknames have your teammates given to you?
Cooper: Right now, everyone on the team calls me X, Coop … Everybody's got nicknames. You've got to ask Karlos Dansby and Craig Robertson about the nicknames they've got for me.
CB.com: You have a favorite?
Cooper: I just like X or Coop. That's cool with me.