When it comes to intelligence, few on the Oakland Raiders can reach James Cowser’s level. Showing both book and football smarts, the former Southern Utah Thunderbird (one of the best mascots, quite honestly) drew praise recently from defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. Norton praised Cowser’s timing and hustle.
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That’s some mighty-high praise. In reality, Norton Jr. is rare to say anything remotely negative about a player to the media. He tends to blow a lot of smoke up the media’s butt when a mic is placed in front of him.
Nonetheless, Cowser’s football IQ cannot be denied. After all, he ranks as the FCS all-time leader in sacks (42.5) and tackles for loss (80). What also can’t be dismissed is the 26-year-old lacks the athleticism that makes the league’s premier edge rushers so tantalizing to watch. He had a middling 40-yard dash time (4.73) at his pro day. Yet, he impressed with 24 reps on the 225-pound bench press.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Cowser does make up for that with a non-stop motor and desire. Those two traits combined with IQ can make up for a lot of things. Cowser’s sack (his lone takedown of the season) of Buffalo Bills fleet-footed QB Tyrod Taylor is a great example of this.
That’s also a great reason why the Raiders made him a priority undrafted free agent. Cowser finished with a total of nine tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery in six games of action.
With the Raiders famished for an edge rush outside of Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin and relatively thin when it comes to linebacker depth, Cowser finds himself again with favorable odds. A noted film junkie and gym rat, Cowser’s desire continues to burn strong.
“Everyone is working hard,” Cowser said in an interview with The Spectrum. “You would think in the NFL people are lazy and that they rely on talent, but no, they work hard. Everyone is working hard. So you have to give it that much more.”
That’s exactly what Cowser, lacking ideal speed, power and agility, needs to do every single day — give much more.