The New England Patriots’ offseason acquisitions were coming so fast and furious that fans were hard-pressed to find the time to actually soak them in and understand the consequences of the additions.
The Patriots traded for Dwayne Allen, signed Stephon Gilmore, re-signed Duron Harmon and Alan Branch, jumped a car through a skyscraper — crap, no, that was the “The Fast and the Furious” franchise — traded for Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy then signed Lawrence Guy and Rex Burkhead … all before topping a bonkers six-day stretch by re-signing Dont’a Hightower. Hours after one player was added, it was on to the next.
All of this is to say that over the next couple weeks, we’ll be taking a closer look at those players acquired by the Patriots and seeing how they’ll fit during the upcoming season.
WIDE RECEIVER BRANDIN COOKS
5-foot-10, 189 pounds
23 years old
4.33-second 40-yard dash, 1.54-second 10-yard split, 6.76-second 3-cone, 3.81-second short shuttle, 10-feet broad jump, 36-inch vertical leap, 16 bench press reps of 225 pounds
2016 stats: 78 catches, 1,173 yards, eight touchdowns, six carries, 30 yards
What he can do: Cooks likely will spend the majority of his time split outside as the Patriots’ “Z” receiver. That will leave Chris Hogan in the “X” role with Julian Edelman taking over the slot. Cooks can also play inside, which would allow Edelman to bump back outside. Hogan also can play in the slot. All three Patriots receivers have plenty of maneuverability.
Cooks is a Miata and what he lacks in height, weight and the ability to go up over a defender to take the ball away, he makes up for in downfield separation. It doesn’t really matter if he can leap up and take the ball away from a bigger cornerback if he’s 5 yards past him, right? The key will be in Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hitting him in stride more often than not.
Cooks also doesn’t lose speed when he’s coming out of his breaks while running shorter, more precise routes, which is perhaps the biggest advantage you can have over a defensive back and why it’s easy to predict that he’ll succeed more in New England’s short passing game than he did with the New Orleans Saints, when he was asked to run deeper routes. Cooks is a great route runner, and he’s hard to cover because of his ability to maintain his 4.33 speed.
Cooks was unhappy with his role in New Orleans because he was kind of used as a one-trick pony. The Patriots don’t like one-trick ponies. They like ponies who can do all kinds of tricks. I don’t know if there’s a word for that kind of pony, but it’s the kind of pony Bill Belichick likes, OK? One of those versatile ponies who can not only jump over fences but also neigh and kick up its front legs and maybe stick one of its hoofs in the air. I don’t know much about ponies.
But yeah, Cooks should be able to win on deep routes, quick ins and outs and in the intermediate part of the field. He didn’t do much as far as yards after catch with the Saints, and even if that continues, he should be able to do plenty of damage in the Patriots’ offense with Brady throwing him the football while surrounded with the best supporting cast of his — both Cooks’ and Brady’s — career.
Cooks has sure hands and athleticism to burn. He can get open anywhere on the field and is faster than any effective weapon Brady has had since Randy Moss.
What he can’t do: Does it really matter? Chances are he won’t be asked to do it if he can’t. The Patriots are all about how a player can fit and less so about how they can’t. Why waste your time thinking about something that ultimately doesn’t matter?
Thumbnail photo via Chuck Cook/USA TODAY Sports Images