Jul 28, 2014; White Sulpher Springs, WV, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) gets past a defender during training camp at The Greenbrier. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports
I’m a fan of the New Orleans Saints. You can probably tell from my previous articles. I will, however, try to speak as objectively as I can as a fan of football. As dynamic as wide receiver/running back/ lightning bolt Brandin “Effortless” Cooks has proven to be at this point, I don’t believe he makes the New Orleans Saints favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Why? If you could compare Cooks to anyone in the NFL, I think it would be fair to compare him to former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith. Both have incredible speed, can create separation in their routes, can make defenders miss, and have reliable hands.
In his rookie season as a wide receiver in 2002 (In 2001, he was used mostly on special teams), Smith caught 54 passes for 872 yards and three touchdowns. The very next year, the Carolina Panthers played in the Super Bowl against the Patriots. In 2003, Smith caught 88 passes for 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns. The Panthers lost that Super Bowl and Steve Smith was held to four receptions, 80 yards and a touchdown.
Smith had a lot of success during the season and even exploded in the post-season against Dallas (five catches, 135 yards, one touchdown) and St. Louis (seven catches, 163 yards, one touchdown), but was held in check for the NFC Championship game and the Super Bowl.
The reason that the Panthers got to the Super Bowl was not Steve Smith, but their defense that featured one of the best front four defensive lines in Carolina Panthers history with Julius Peppers, Brentson Buckner, Mike Rucker, and Kris Jenkins. Great linebackers like Dan Morgan and Will Witherspoon were free to help in intermediate pass coverage when necessary. Rookie cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. with some timely interceptions (sound familiar?) and young safety Deon Grant over the top helped in pass coverage.
After two seasons in the NFL, Steve Smith was a dynamic receiver capable of making a big play at any time, but he still needed help from the defense to even make it to the Super Bowl. Cooks may be more dynamic than Smith was his rookie year, but he is not the difference between a good playoff team and a Super Bowl winning team. He still hasn’t played a regular season game yet. He hasn’t even experienced his first big hit in the NFL.
Cooks will help generate more offense in the regular season and probably make a few splashy plays in the post-season, but the improvement of the New Orleans Saints defense will have more to do with a Saints Super Bowl win than what Brandin Cooks does. Speed does not win championships yet.