Brandin Cooks consistently has turned out highlight catches over his first three seasons in the league, the majority of which feature him dusting defenders with impressive straight-line speed.
Often lined up as the X receiver on the outside, Cooks exposes defenders with an explosive first step and elite acceleration. He tracks the ball well — having the ultra accurate Drew Brees as his partner in crime in New Orleans certainly helped — and smoothly snags balls without breaking stride.
Now Cooks will be showing off his skills in New England, where Josh McDaniels’s offense isn’t as reliant on the deep ball but rather a complex compilation of combinations and crosses. Can Cooks thrive in such a different offense? Absolutely.
In addition to his blazing 4.3 speed, the 5-foot-10-inch, 189-pound Cooks has exceptional quickness and foot speed, and hands — skills that translate whether you’re running the Wishbone or the Fun ’N Gun.
Cooks alluded to his versatility when asked about how he might fit in with a Patriots offense that values versatility.
“As a young guy, I think there were some things that I would’ve liked to have done more,’’ Cooks said back in March, shortly after being acquired for a first-round pick (No 32 overall). “Not like I wasn’t able to do them [in New Orleans], we just had great guys doing those other things, so if it’s not broken, why fix it? But coming to New England, it seems like it’s an offense that guys do a bunch of different things and I’m looking forward to being able to do some things that I didn’t necessarily have to do in New Orleans [and] hopefully to get the chance here and do it here.’’
While it’s impossible to get a full picture of how Cooks is adjusting to his new home and new roles based on snapshots from OTA and minicamp practices, his quickness, speed, and energy made him stand out during those sessions.
For a glimpse into why Cooks will be a success as a member of a receiving corps that already features established and versatile veterans Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and Chris Hogan in addition to promising youngster Malcolm Mitchell, we break down a play from 2016.
Facing a third-and-5 against the Seahawks, Cooks was lined up wide right in the X spot, with a defender poised to jam him at the line. At the snap, the flanker (lined up to Cooks’s left) gets a free release and cuts hard right, where he picks Cooks’s defender. This allows Cooks to take off diagonally toward the middle of the defense.
Brees hits Cooks in stride 3 yards from the line of scrimmage and Cooks bolts through the heart of the defense, leaving linebackers in his wake before he’s taken down after a 21-yard gain.
Cooks also will be used in the role he’s most accustomed to, as a go-route blazer capable of scoring from anywhere.
For an example, there’s Cooks’s 98-yard scoring strike against the Raiders. Lined up as the solo receiver on the left, Cooks draws press coverage from cornerback Sean Smith.
At the snap, Cooks jukes Smith and takes off to the outside. With Smith already effectively toasted, Brees drops the ball into Cooks’s hands in stride at the 30. Safety Reggie Nelson is woefully late in help coverage and Cooks steams into the end zone.
Even when he’s not the intended receiver, Cooks’s big-play ability must be respected and will, at the very least, open things up for others.
It’s often said that Tom Brady’s favorite receiver is the open one. With Cooks’s outstanding skills — and the tantalizing teases he provided this spring — he’ll likely become one of Brady’s favorites in a flash.