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Cowboys Chaz Green’s latest shoulder injury opens door wide for Jonathan Cooper

Once again, Chaz Green is off the field and rehabbing. Jonathan Cooper must rise to the occasion.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys offensive lineman Chaz Green had the inside route toward a starting role in 2017 and now those plans have hit a roadblock. Green wasn’t practicing today due to a shoulder injury that doesn’t seem incredibly serious or may become serious depending on who you speak to:

Dr. Jerry Jones let the media know that Green’s shoulder was examined and showed no tears in the rotator cuff. It’s been labeled just a “pull” in his shoulder. Whatever the timetable is, does it really matter?

Whether it’s two weeks or two months, now is the time for Jonathan Cooper to step in and become the Cowboys’ next Marc Colombo or Leonard Davis. Colombo and Davis struggled for the first four to five years after being drafted in the first rounds of back-to-back NFL Drafts. Colombo was signed by Dallas and went on to be the starting right tackle from 2005 until the 2011 season.

Davis did even better, joining the Cowboys in 2007, being named an All-Pro in his first year, starting at right guard until 2011, and getting to the Pro Bowl three times. It’s time for Cooper, the former seventh overall pick in 2013, to perform the same trick.

It’s never been a talent issue, for Green it’s been a durability issue. Those concerns are what dropped Chaz Green into the third round.

Green was a former four-star recruit who committed to Florida over schools like Ohio State, Georgia, Tennessee, and USC. He redshirted his freshman year but started eight games at right tackle in 2011 before missing the last four games with an ankle injury. As a sophomore, he started ten games but missed two games due to another injury. Green missed the entirety of his 2013 season with a torn labrum before finally playing a full season as a senior.

Fast forward to his name being called at 91st overall by the Cowboys. Green injured his hip in organized team activities and was placed on PUP. He was activated off PUP in December but spent the final five games inactive in a 4-12 season. Last offseason, Green actually played well in four appearances, starting two games for Tyron Smith in wins against the 49ers and Bears. However, Green suffered a sprained foot in October before he developed a back injury. Green promptly received season-ending herniated disc surgery and was placed on IR.

Starting this offseason, Green was rotating but getting the majority of reps at left guard as the Cowboys are trying to replace Ronald Leary who signed with the Broncos in free agency.

The Cowboys now need Jonathan Cooper to step in and take the job. But Cooper also has some injury concerns in his history. Cooper broke his left fibula in his third preseason game, effectively ending his rookie season. He was slow to begin his year in 2014 battling turf toe and recovering from that knee injury. Cooper eventually earned the starting left guard job due to injury late in the season before injuring his wrist in Week 15 against the Seahawks. In 2015, he earned a starting job at right guard but consequently injured his knee in Week 10.

Cooper was part of the Cardinals trade with the Patriots to gain Chandler Jones in 2016. He earned the Patriots’ starting right guard position but suffered a right foot injury in training camp and was released in October. He got picked up by the Browns, started three games, played decently, but was released in favor of Alvin Bailey, who was off suspension.

All that led him to be gobbled up by the Dallas Cowboys for some playoff depth but now he faces his biggest test because it very well may be his last. The front office wanted Chaz Green (their own draft pick) to win that job but he’s unreliable. Jonathan Cooper’s career up to this point has been unreliable as well but he must change that story.

Behind him, taking reps, was Byron Bell, an offensive tackle that hasn’t played a game since 2015. Who’s behind Bell? Well, you got ‘Jumbo’ Joe Looney, who’s working at backup center. After him? Then there is a guy that Bryan Broaddus has been high on, the two-year veteran Kadeem Edwards. Kadeem was drafted by the Buccanneers, waived injured, then spent 2015 and 2016 with the Jaguars and Cowboys practice squads respectively. Not sold? After that you have rookies. Dan Skipper is learning how to play guard being almost seven feet tall. Nate Theaker is a rough and tough guy who the coaches love but hasn’t shown much thus far.

Earth to Cooper, this is your chance! He’s by far the most talented and quite frankly, they trust him over all those guys we just named. The Cowboys loved Cooper in the draft process and this coaching staff has done an amazing job constructing the best offensive line in football.

Jonathan Cooper’s deficiencies could easily be disguised by the two All-Pro players he’s wedged in between. Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick have done so with Leary and a rookie La’el Collins in the past. Both those guys have shown more NFL talent than Cooper has but he’s still a former seventh overall pick.

At some place in time, Cooper was considered one of the very best offensive linemen in his class. Had Dallas had a Top-10 selection in 2013, Cooper may very well have been the name called. Instead, they wound up with Frederick, an All-Pro and multiple Pro Bowl player. Cooper has the opportunity of a lifetime, being the fifth-best lineman on one of the greatest offensive lines in NFL history. Doug Free did it, come on Cooper, it’s all right in front of you.

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