I have a little game that I’ve started recently with myself; a game to see which adjective I can use to describe the talent, the ability, and the speed of the dynamic rookie Saints WR Brandin Cooks. My new favorite word for Cooks at the moment is EFFORTLESS, because I think that perfectly describes how Cooks looks to me (and should to anybody who observes him) when he’s out on the field. That certainly describes how Cooks looked to me live and in living color as he ran right toward me (literally) on his reception of a 65-yard bomb from QB Ryan Griffin (a play that I thought I had recorded until discovering my smart phone had died on me about two previous plays before). As I stood there in both anger and amazement, the thought popped into my head: This is why Brandin Cooks makes the Saints favorites to win Super Bowl XLIX.
Now with all due respect to NFC contenders Seattle, San Francisco, Carolina (yes, they’re still good — thanks to that defense), Green Bay, and Philadelphia; I know I may be getting waaaaaaaay ahead of myself here,by making such a bold prediction this early on (when we practically haven’t even made it halfway through the pre-season yet). But after finally getting to SEE Cooks in person this past Friday night and yesterday within about 1oo feet, I can assure you that there’s nothing to suggest that I’m wrong for making such a statement.
I also realize that little things like injuries and bad breaks, can derail the dreams of even the most prohibitive of title-contending favorites. Surely Who Dat Nation breathed a huge sigh of relief when starting CB (and future All-Pro, to be sure) Keenan Lewis appeared on the practice field with his left ankle heavily taped, not participating but otherwise looking no worse for the wear. But watching Cooks it’s just so obvious why the Saints were so determined (by making the necessary moves to acquire him in the draft) to bring him to New Orleans and into this offense. It’s because they realize that he is he difference in being a wild-card team that loses in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs — or the team that wins the Conference Championship and plays for a World Title.
Sure Cooks is fast (as if there were any doubt), but he’s also a good route runner and has an excellent pair of hands (one of the things that made him so DANGEROUS as an All-American WR in college). His game perfectly translates to the NFL level, and especially into Sean Payton’s high octane offense. I firmly believe that Cooks is the reason why Saints QB Drew Brees envisions himself playing into his 40’s. It’s because Brees knows what Cooks brings to the Saints’ table.
It’s not exactly the greatest secret among those who have followed my work that I’ve been shamelessly salivating over the many talents possessed by Cooks since long before the draft. Saints analyst and WWL radio host Mike Detillier was the very first person in the media (as far back as the end of January) to suggest the Saints needed to target Cooks, and he opened my eyes to what the young speedster and Biletnekoff Trophy winner (the nation’s top receiver) from Oregon State could bring to the table. I certainly can attest after watching his effortless ability yesterday evening, that Mr. Mike definitely was on the money with his assessment.
I think however that what really sticks out as the most impressive thing about this young man is his “football IQ”. It’s not often that a player of his caliber can come in as a rookie and absorb the required information needed to make the initial step of adjusting from having played college ball to the NFL. With his talent and his intelligence combined together as one package, it makes him a threat that not too many teams initially will be prepared for. As rookie UDFA Brian Dixon found out yesterday in practice yesterday on that pass I spoke of up above (to borrow a phrase from a good pal of mine on Twitter), if this guy gets a step on you, it’s over.
Consider this tasty morsel of football fact: In both pre-season games thus far, Cooks has played the “X”, “Y”, “Z” and slot positions at WR within the Saints offense, as well as returning punts. Remember, this is a ROOKIE that we’re talking about. How impressive is that? That’s definitely got to offer some reassurance to a Saints QB (whom we always assume will be Drew Brees); who’s hoping he’ll be exactly in the right spot when looking to find him down the field. Cooks has actually seen 78 snaps so far in the Saints two pre-season games this season, easily the most of any player. That has to speak directly to the level of both faith and confidence that the organization is going to place in this young man.
In the same year that quality WR’s such as Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, (LSU’s) Odell Beckham, Jordan Matthews, and Cody Latimer (whom I got to see in person while living in Indiana outside of Indiana University), I honestly believe that Cooks will OUTSHINE THEM ALL. In my opinion he clearly “stands out from the crowd”, and he gives this offense a dynamic that it hasn’t had since they drafted Reggie Bush back in 2006. (yes — Darren Sproles was that type of player; but clearly he’s not on the same level any more of the one that Cooks is).
When I head back out to Saints practice today out in Metairie from my little brother’s house here in Harahan (a 10 minute drive to the Saints facility with no traffic), I’ll certainly be trying to observe the other Saints players that I’ve been looking to watch since I arrived here the other day, including back-up QB Ryan Griffin (he’s been VERY impressive as well, and I’ll talk about him another time), RB Mark Ingram, and rookie safeties Vinnie Sunseri and Pierre Warren. But invariably I expect my attention to be diverted back to Cooks — as I can’t help but think to myself that this is the “missing piece to the Saints’ puzzle” —- and why I believe that Brandin Cooks makes the Saints favorites to win Super Bowl XLIX……