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Marcus Cooper comes up big in first significant action with Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals defensive back Marcus Cooper (41) intecepts a pass for a touchdown as Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Brandon Myers (82) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

LISTEN: Marcus Cooper, Arizona Cardinals cornerback

GLENDALE, Ariz. — As the practice week came to a close, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said cornerback Marcus Cooper, who only played five snaps on special teams last week against New England, would see more action in Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Good idea.

Cooper, who was acquired for a conditional seventh-round draft pick just a couple weeks ago, picked off two Jameis Winston passes, returning one of them for a touchdown in Arizona’s 40-7 win.

He also finished with seven total tackles along with three passes defensed.

“It was OK,” he said of his performance. “I fell off in the end, though, my technique and stuff got a little sloppy toward the end of the game. I’m not too happy about that, but it’s something I can work on.”

Cooper, 26, seemed to have little interest in basking in the glow of his big day for his new team. He said the game is over now and it’s time to focus on the next one, with an understanding that opponents will study him and try to find ways to beat him.

But while Cooper was in no mood to celebrate, his coach said he loved the way the young player stepped in and played.

“I thought he had a heck of a ballgame,” Bruce Arians said. “We were splitting reps with he and Brandon (Williams). He got hot. You don’t take hot hands out.”

The rookie Williams started the game and did not necessarily do anything that would be deemed worthy of being replaced. But as Arians noted, once Cooper came in and started making plays, there was no reason to remove him from the game.

Given Cooper’s success, the natural question after the game was whether or not he had done enough to supplant Williams as the starter. Arians said that right now, it’s a possibility.

“We’ll see how it goes,” he added. “He could potentially be the starter over there.”

Cooper said he is not worried about what kind of role he will have going forward, noting how Williams is a good young cornerback and those kind of decisions are up to the coaches.

“I’m not a coach, I’m not going to determine that,” he said of seeing more reps. “Whatever the coaches tell me to do, that’s what I’m going to try to do.”

What he did Sunday was more than enough, and given that he’s only been with the team for just more than two weeks, it’s all the more impressive. Cooper said he’s comfortable with the team’s scheme but added there is always room to learn.

“Or get more familiar with the situational schemes,” he said. “I’m still learning, of course, and I’m just going to continue to progress.”

For now, the Cardinals are pleased with where Cooper is at.

Fellow cornerback Patrick Peterson said Cooper “had a great game” and pointed out how there is “hidden talent” all over the roster.

Defensive lineman Calais Campbell said Cooper’s performance was a nice surprise.

“He looked good in practice but he’s definitely a gamer,” he said. “Good job by the front office finding a talented guy like that and he really came in and made some big-time plays for us and introduced himself correctly.”

As it is, not everyone in the building was excited to meet Cooper on Sunday afternoon.

Winston, who was picked off four times in the game, said everyone was just out there competing.

“He picked me off twice, almost a third one,” he said. “He balled out today, kudos to him. I’m just out there trying to play.”

Though Cooper admitted his afternoon was not perfect, he stepped up in a considerable way.

“I’m new to the team, though, so I have to gain these guys’ trust,” he said. “What’s the best way to do that than make a play? That’s what I tried to do and hopefully, we can just build on this.”

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