One week into practices at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Saints rookie WR Brandin Cooks has been nothing less than SPECTACULAR; and he hands down has been the star of the 2014 Saints Training Camp. To say that he has lived up to expectations thus far would be stating it mildly; and for a lack of a better term — I think it’s safe to say that Brandin Cooks is the “real deal”. Cooks’ arrival has put the entire Who Dat Nation into a state of overwhelming happiness, and they are absolutely brimming with excitement over the many wonderful possibilities that the addition of Cooks’ presence now presents. With that in mind, let’s just go ahead and take a quick look at 5 Reasons Why Brandin Cooks is the “Real Deal” :
The “Fear Factor”
This past January following the end of the Saints’ 2013 campaign in the wind and the rain at Seattle, the focus immediately turned to what the Saints would have to do to become competitive once again at the level of the two NFC powers, San Francisco and eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle. I was one of the writers whom immediately begin researching the participants who would be entering themselves into the 2014 NFL Draft later this year in the month of May (in my previous capacity at another site), and while doing some research came across a stunning bit of information.
On Februaury 2nd, well-regarded and tremendously respected NFL analyst and college football Draft expert (and WWL AM Radio New Orleans co-host to name only just a few of his many duties) Mike Detillier; had written is his blog Mike Detillier.com this bit of stunning information. It was a quote that he had gotten from a NFC defensive coordinator (that wished to remain anonymous) which he revealed in his Comment of the week for 02/02/2014:
“Sean (Payton) is one of the brightest minds in the NFL today and he knows he will not get back to the Super Bowl without a power rushing attack,” said an NFC defensive coordinator. “He will put a lot of emphasis on a power rushing attack in 2014, which means more of Khiry Robinson and Mark Ingram in the lineup. Teams also didn’t have much fear of the Saints wide receivers going deep on them. Payton will bring in a “quick strike” wide receiver to get those safeties off the line of scrimmage. I think they follow the blueprint of what the Denver Broncos did in getting Peyton Manning a large array of aerial weapons. I believe they’ll change up their style a bit to aid Brees, but a steady dose of power football would really enhance the Saints in 2014. The philosophy of all these long drives sort of ends by the Saints because now, if they can acquire that big play end, they can strike quickly offensively and have confidence in a talented defense that will get them some three and outs. That part has never been there in New Orleans under Payton. It is now.” - NFL Analyst Mike Detillier, February 2, 2014;
In a nutshell, what Mr. Detillier essentially had laid out for all who were paying attention was this fact: the opponents of the Saints did not fear them anymore. It made it clear then that the Saints’ top priority in the upcoming draft should be a player who had the ability to restore the fear and respect that opponents once had previously for the Saints’ offensive firepower — one that begun to slowly fade over these last few seasons since the accomplishments of the record-breaking 2011 team. The selection of Cooks hopefully has now put that entire belief to rest, from here on out.
A Difference Maker
Tying directly into the first reason up above, this next reason of why Brandin Cooks is the “real deal” is fairly simple. The popular belief among other teams throughout the League is that they no longer need to fear the Saints’ passing game as much as they had before. The reason why they believed that way about the Saints came down to one simple thing: the Saints no longer had a ‘difference maker’; a game-breaking WR — one with elite speed that could “take the top off” of a defense, and be a threat to score every single time he touched the football. Simply put, heading into the Draft the New Orleans Saints had no receiver on the roster that could put a “scare” in the heart of a defense; and although current WR’s Kenny Stills and Joe Morgan are considered ‘burners’ at the position, they respectfully don’t keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night in preparation to face them on a given Sunday.
It was no secret that the Saints would likely seek to address the WR position in the upcoming Draft; with Sean Payton examining the likelihood of taking that very type of WR who is an offensive weapon of for a lack of a better term, a “home run threat”. Though many observers and fans of the Saints were clamoring for an edge-rushing OLB or a top-rated offensive lineman to protect Brees, it was no doubt that the WR position was also an option with the 27th pick overall. The selection of Brandin Cooks (via their trade up to the 20th spot held originally by Arizona) now has clearly given this team that difference maker, which no doubt was evidenced by Cooks’ brilliant performances during this first week of Camp at Greenbrier.
In the simplest of terms that I can possibly use to describe the incredible speed that Brandin Cooks possesses, I think it’s fair to use the term “blazing fast”. His acceleration once the ball is in his hands is nearly breath-taking. This is another reason (tying in with the other two reasons that I’ve listed above) why I believe Cooks is the “real deal”. His performances as I mentioned have been nothing less than brilliant, as evidenced by this video posted on Twitter a couple of days ago.
Cooks’ incredible speed is well-documented, and it’s how he earned the nickname originally given to him in his hometown of Stockton (in suburban San Francisco), CA; because of his track and field accomplishments in high school: “Sonic Boom”. It was Saints CB Keenan Lewis who re-branded Cooks with the new nickname of “Lightning” during Mini-Camp back in June, and honestly either nickname you choose to use is appropriate. During the Scouting Combine back in mid February, Cooks ran the second fastest time of ALL the players, with a 4.33 40-yard dash. That no doubt got Sean Payton’s attention, as he and the rest of Saints management sought to address the first two reasons I gave up above.
Special on Special Teams
To say that the Saints have been somewhat anemic on special teams during the Sean Payton Era is probably understating reality. With the possible exception of 2006 when then- rookie RB Reggie Bush was also returning punts part -time, the Saints have had no legitimate threat in the kick return game now for some time — dating back to the days of the beloved “Beer Man”, Michael Lewis. Recently departed RB Darren Sproles actually is one of the better return men in the game dating back to his days at Kansas State and with the San Diego Chargers; but as with Reggie Bush, Payton chose to keep Sproles under wraps (with the exception of a return or two, including one for a TD at Green Bay in 2011).
That will change (presumably) in 2014 with the arrival of Cooks; who though he didn’t return punts and kicks on a full-time basis at Oregon State, is more than capable of filling that role, given his unique ability to “take one to the house”. This is one of the reasons that I personally believe that Cooks stood out to the Saints management at the Combine and heading into the Draft; which is that Cooks has multi-dimensional talents in his skill-set that can make a HUGE IMPACT during any given game. If Cooks doesn’t beat you with a 60-yard bomb from Brees or a screen pass that he breaks into the clear with, he can beat you with the 70-yard punt return TD to win it in the game’s final and critical moments.
Re-Energize the Fan Base
The final reason why I think Brandin Cooks is the “real deal” is clearly visible among all of the members of the “Who Dat Nation”. The addition of Cooks has re-energized this fan-base — one which if it wasn’t already passionate enough, is now giddy with excitement over the plethora of possibilities that Cooks presents.
Cooks without a doubt has a chance to be something truly special, and he just may become a future superstar in this League, without question. It’s hard not to gush over what he brings to the table and not think that he could indeed be what has been the missing piece to winning another Super Bowl. I think it’s important though to remember that Cooks is in fact a rookie, and though teams may not be able to game-plan well enough initially for him until they’ve had a chance to feel him out (and figure out HOW to defend him); eventually they’ll get up to speed.
That’s where Cooks’ incredible talent will have to come into the equation, and it’s one that I personally feel could put this franchise back on top once again. That would surely wipe away the lingering bitterness of Bountygate, and put this fan-base back into a state of total delirium. Cooks will put many smiles on faces and butts in the seats across the entire Who Dat Nation — and it’s yet just one more reason, why Brandin Cooks is the “real deal” for the New Orleans Saints……