When Cooks came to the Patriots, the Branch comparisons were loud and proud. Cooks size and speed and overall stature as a receiver made Branch a clear comparison. Since then, many have stepped on those comparisons. The biggest argument against Cooks being the next Branch is Cooks apparent reluctance to run routes over the middle. Cooks has made a living playing outside the numbers. Fly routes and out routes have been his MO in the NFL, and some will say it is highly unlikely for him to do a complete 180 and start to take the hits over the middle that linebackers dole out, but don’t be so quick to rule it out.
When you have someone as talented as Cooks, you don’t pigeonhole him. Belichick will use Cooks in every way possible. Don’t be surprised if Belichick has Cooks run over the middle a lot more than he did in New Orleans. Cooks is too talented for Belichick to just leave him running routes outside the numbers. If the Patriots want to get the most they can out of Cooks, he’s going to be used differently than he was in New Orleans. A lot of the perception is Cooks wouldn’t want to go over the middle and take those hits, but Cooks has made the opposite publicly clear.
Last year in New Orleans, Cooks complained about not getting targeted in one of New Orleans’ wins. If Cooks wants more targets, why would he refuse to run routes that will get him just that? If Cooks wants to be a focal point. he’ll have to run those routes in New England. Even so, the Patriots aren’t going to completely adopt the New Orleans Saints offense just to appease Brandin Cooks. Cooks needs to fit into their offense, and the need for him to run those routes just increased with Edelman now done for the season. While they have other guys like Hogan, Amendola, and Mitchell who can attempt to fill that hole, none are half the player that Brandin Cooks is. The plan should be to get Cooks the ball as much as possible, so he should be running a lot of those routes over the middle. They’ll still have Cooks run a lot of fly routes, the idea isn’t to take that away, the idea is to use Cooks in as many ways possible.
If Cooks buys into New England’s system, he has every chance to be the best Patriots receiver since Randy Moss, and probably even better depending on how much you factor winning into that. Cooks is fast, but don’t overlook how talented he is in the other aspects of being a receiver. If Cooks and Brady can get a good rhythm early on, the Patriots will be even more impossible to cover than they have been in years past, with or without Edelman.
Photo: (The Boston Globe) (Stampede Blue)