Pharoh Cooper and Samaje Perine have enough familiarity with the Cincinnati Bengals’ offense both new players believe they can step in pretty quickly and contribute if needed.
The Bengals acquired both players on waivers Sunday – Cooper, a wide receiver from the Arizona Cardinals, and Perine, a halfback from the Washington Redskins – after the initial 53-man roster cutdown process took place Friday and Saturday. They arrived in town Sunday and joined the team Monday for the first practice of the week leading up to the season opener Sept. 8 at Seattle.
Cincinnati also re-signed guard John Jerry on Monday, while placing tackle O’Shea Dugas on the reserve/injured list, and added former New York Jets rookie offensive tackle Wyatt Miller to the practice squad.
Cooper originally was a fourth-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams in 2016 and spent almost two years with Bengals coach Zac Taylor before the Rams waived him in December. Perine, a fourth-round pick by the Redskins in 2017, reunites with former Oklahoma backfield mate Joe Mixon.
“I could have gone somewhere else and probably would’ve had to learn a whole new system, staying up for extra hours late at night to try to pick up the offense,” Cooper said. “But being that I’ve got history with Zac, it’s going to be much easier to pick up. It was great coming here.”
Taylor was the assistant receivers coach Cooper’s second season with L.A. in 2017 and spent time drawing up plays and going through routes with him in a similar system to what Taylor is now running with the Bengals.
Cooper has played in 33 games with four starts over three seasons, recording 25 catches for 190 yards. He was an All-Pro as a kick and punt returner in 2017, having led the league in kick return average at 27.4 and gaining 12.5 yards per punt return, but was limited by an ankle injury early last year and then ended the year with the Cardinals.
The Bengals waived Josh Malone to make room for Cooper. He hopes to contribute to the offense and on special teams if given the opportunity.
“The talk around the league is I’m just known as a returner, obviously as a punt returner/kicker returner, and the receiver part comes last when my name is mentioned,” Cooper said. “I just want to bring what I can to the table as a returner and receiver. I know Zac’s offense a lot, so I hope I would be able to help in that if they need me to. Other than that, my talent is big plays, making plays down the field, whether it be returning punts and kicks.”
Perine played 21 career games with eight starts for the Redskins, rushing for 635 yards and a touchdown on 183 carries and caught 25 passes for 187 yards and another score.
When the Redskins waived him Saturday, Mixon tweeted: “@Bengals let’s bring in my brother @samajp32!!” and joked Monday, he was happy they listened. The tandem was quite impressive the final two seasons they played together at Oklahoma. In 2015, Perine rushed for 1,349 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Mixon had 753 yards and seven touchdowns, and the following year Mixon was the leader at 1,274 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Perine had 1,060 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Bengals liked him enough to move down to four linebackers, cutting Hardy Nickerson.
Perine said he actually thought he was headed to Buffalo based on talks he was having with his agent over the weekend. He found out he was going to Cincinnati around 1:30 p.m. Sunday, arrived by about 7, checked into his hotel and met up with Mixon to watch Oklahoma beat Houston 49-31.
“Knowing someone coming to a new organization it helps big time — him and (fellow Sooner) Jordan (Evans),” Perine said. “I’m real close with those guys. It helps to ease into it and you’re not going in blind not knowing what to expect, because they give you a rundown of things. It’s a big help.”
Perine is the third Oklahoma running back with the Bengals this year, though Rodney Anderson, a rookie sixth-round draft pick, is out with a torn ACL. He adds depth behind Mixon and Giovani Bernard and can helps as a third running back if Trayveon Williams isn’t recovered from his foot injury.
The familiarity with Mixon especially makes the transition to a new offense easier, but Perine said there are also some similarities in what the Redskins were doing and what he will be learning with the Bengals. The play calls are different but concepts are similar, he said. Cooper said the same about Taylor’s offense now compared to what he did with the Rams.
“I like to think of myself as a fast learner so in about a week I’ll be good,” Perine said.
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