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Redskins patchwork offensive line holds up vs. Tampa Bay

November 12, 2018

TAMPA Last Sunday, Jonathan Cooper was traveling. Out of the NFL, the 28-year-old was on his way back to Arizona from North Carolina, where he attended his alma mater’s homecoming.

A week later, he was starting at left guard for the Washington Redskins.

Cooper was part of a makeshift offensive line that held up in the team’s 16-3 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Redskins quarterback Alex Smith was sacked twice but threw for 173 yards and a touchdown.

Washington was without three of its five starting offensive linemen from Week 1 with guards Shawn Lauvao (ACL) and Brandon Scherff (pectoral) out for the season, while left Trent Williams recovers from thumb surgery.

From left to right, the Redskins started Ty Nsekhe, Cooper, Chase Roullier, Tony Bergstrom and Morgan Moses.

“The big thing for offensive linemen is definitely there aren’t primadonnas on the offensive line,” Cooper said. “We came right in and everybody got along. I think that’s the biggest thing: We were all able to come right in and just plug and play honestly.”

Cooper was one of six linemen the Redskins looked at last Monday, and one of three signed, the day the team put Lauvao and Scherff on injured reserve.

While he had not seen the field this season, Cooper has plenty of NFL experience. Drafted seventh overall in 2013, Cooper has started 27 of 42 games for three different teams including 13 last season for the Dallas Cowboys.

The Redskins had a short timeframe, however, to get Cooper and the rest of the signees up to speed. During the week, coach Jay Gruden said his staff was trying to teach them “OTAs, training camp and seven weeks, eight weeks of football in a day or two.”

Gruden, though, came away impressed.

“They held up pretty good,” he said. “It has a little bit of an effect when you’re putting the game plan together, you think you’ll be fine, but on game day when you look at [defensive tackle Gerald] McCoy and look at some of the pass rushers that they have, it has a little bit of an effect on making sure Alex is protected, so we were probably a little conservative early.

“For the most part, I think we started airing out a little bit more as the game went on. I can’t say enough about what [guard] Jonathan Cooper did coming in here and playing after only about three or four days of learning.”

The line wasn’t completely solid. Penalties were an issue again after Washington committed five holding calls last week against the Atlanta Falcons. They were calling for three offensive holds, two on Cooper.

Washington also struggled to run the ball. Star running back Adrian Peterson averaged just 3.6 yards per carry (68 yards on 19 attempts).

But the line held.

“To be honest, it wasn’t like there was a ton that was off limits today (in terms of play calling),” Smith said. “I think that’s a credit to those guys and how they were playing.”

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