Brandin Cooks was a good receiver for the New Orleans Saints, but he didn’t stand out enough to be mentioned in the same breath as legendary receiver Randy Moss. Leave it to Tom Brady to change that.
Cooks’ downfield speed adds a new dimension to the Patriots offense. Cooks has spent his first training camp with the Patriots blowing everyone’s minds with acrobatic catches and ridiculous one-handed grabs, too.
His timing and anticipation on the route are good here. But they’re not as impressive as hauling in the catch with one hand in the back of the end zone.
He’s making contested catches and demonstrating great body control on sideline receptions. Cooks has been a highlight reel throughout the team’s joint practices against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s making these one-handed catches look routine.
Cooks’ work ethic earned him effusive praise from Bill Belichick, and that’s even harder to pull off than reeling in a one-handed touchdown catch.
“Very hard-working kid. Brandin works hard on the field, off the field, in the classroom, in the weight room, training, conditioning, practice tempo,” Belichick said Monday. “He's a very hard worker, diligent, wants to know the right way to do it, wants to try to do it the way you want it done. He's been a pleasure to coach.”
It sounds like Cooks already has pretty good rapport with his new teammates, too.
Julian Edelman called Brandin Cooks, "Cookie." That's a thing right there.— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) August 8, 2017
After Cooks pulled off a huge touchdown play during a scrimmage last week, Brady said he sees Cooks’ explosiveness as a real asset.
“To make a 50-yard play, or however far that was, was a big play, but those are the kind of plays we need,” Brady said. “If we can build those things into our offense and make some of those down-the-field plays, that takes some more pressure off other parts of the offense.”
The connection Brady had with Moss, especially during the 2007 season, was legendary. They made it look easy. Even when Moss lined up in the wrong spot, Brady could hit him for a 50-yard touchdown. Moss finished the 2007 season with 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns. And no, it’s not likely that Cooks will live up to that standard.
And Wes Welker was pretty damn good, too. He eclipsed 1,000 yards in five of his six seasons with Brady in New England, and racked up a career-high 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns in 2010.
Cooks is just 23, and it’s very possible that he hasn’t reached his prime. And the chemistry between Brady and Cooks is there, based on what we’re seeing in training camp. Rob Gronkowski has struggled to stay healthy and Julian Edelman is 31 years old. Cooks could easily emerge as Brady’s top target this season.
And if he does, his recent history says he’ll produce. Cooks was Drew Brees’ top receiver in both 2015 and 2016 with over 1,100 yards in each season. Cooks scored eight touchdowns for the Saints last year and nine the season before.
Edelman was the Patriots’ top receiver last season, and he remains a legitimate threat. Gronkowski is the best tight end in the league when healthy, and Chris Hogan is another receiver who will probably end up on plenty Patriots highlights this season.
But Cooks has a different skill set, and the trade that brought him to New England gives Brady the strongest receiving corps he’s had to work with since Moss and Welker in 2007.
If Cooks keeps showing out like this, he could end up being the best receiver Brady’s been paired with since Moss’ New England days.