Determining the New Orleans Saints’ core players moving forward

8 of 11

Sep 13, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

WR Brandin Cooks:

The jury is still out on whether Brandin Cooks is able to become a true No. 1 wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints or not, but what is not in question is his value to the team. The second year pro out of Oregon State is on pace for 1,000 yards, and could also have ten touchdowns to go with it. That’s a very good season regardless of who you are, but when you add in the context that most teams this year have built their game plan to stop him it becomes even more impressive. Throughout this season Cooks has acted in the role of a decoy when necessary, taking up the attention of the opponent’s best defenders and freeing up space for his teammates such as Benjamin Watson or Willie Snead.

A decoy alone wouldn’t have him on this list though, and Cooks has been far more than that. If it wasn’t for Drew Brees getting injured early in the year and the two players being out of sync at least in part because of that, Cooks could easily have already well eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark and ten-touchdown mark by now. I would conservatively say that over 400 yards and three guaranteed touchdowns have been lost simply by either Brees not having the time/ability (injured arm prevented a gimme versus Tampa Bay for instance) or Drew and Cooks not connecting on some wide open looks throughout the season. Certainly blame is on both players to varying degrees on such plays, and the at times horrid play of the offensive line plays a part as well.

All the ‘what ifs’ and ‘coulda woulda shoulda’s’ aside, here is what we know for sure about Brandin through most of two seasons. He has tremendous big-play ability and has shown that even when double teamed he can blow the top off of a defense at a moment’s notice. He runs good routes and runs a wide variety of them which puts even greater pressure on his defenders, because he is more than just a pure deep threat. He has great hands and rarely drops the ball, which makes him reliable moving the chains as well as on big plays (Read: Not Robert Meachem). Cooks is also an incredibly hard worker who is willing to put in the work to be great and has the kind of attitude and team first mentality that a locker room needs.

The Saints offense, and Brandin, would benefit tremendously from another wide out with a big frame who can work the middle of the field and create more frequent one-on-one opportunities for Cooks. That would in the conventional sense make him a ‘number 2’ at times for the offense. But regardless of what title he is given, the fact is that Brandin has demonstrated that he scares opposing defenses and has the ability to generate the production to back up the threat. Regardless of what changes come to the team in the future, Cooks should absolutely be one of the core players that the New Orleans Saints build around going forward.

Next: Cam Jordan