SPECIAL DELIVERY: Package of Elite Skills Make Saints TE Jared Cook Unstoppable

Photo Credit: New Orleans Saints on YouTube.com / Michael C. Hebert

Virtually unstoppable. A one-on-one match-up ‘nightmare’. When on the top of his game, one of the very best in the business at his position. Those are just a few very small sample-sized portions of complimentary phrases used recently, to describe starting New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook.

Heading into what will be his 12th year of his NFL career, the 33-year old Cook is expected to have an even bigger impact this season than the one he made last year; when his late-season surge helped propel the Black and Gold to a 3rd straight NFC South Division Championship — and his elite-caliber receiving skills could bring New Orleans a “special delivery” — containing a package of possibly even greater success for the Saints offensive attack, in the upcoming months ahead.

According to Cook’s position coach, Saints TE coach (and also assistant head coach) Dan Campbell, the 2-time Pro Bowl selection still possesses all of the tools necessary to remain as one of the biggest threats at TE in the entire NFL, especially when he’s completely healthy.

“Jared Cook, the sky’s the limit,” Campbell said in a recent interview with New Orleans Advocate beat writer Luke Johnson. “That talent level has been in there. Jon Gruden (Raiders head coach) was able to pull it out of him (when Cook played for Gruden), he knew exactly what to do with the guy, and we’re trying to do the same thing.”

“We just know he is a one-on-one nightmare, he is a match-up nightmare for a defense. I don’t know how to cover the guy. I wouldn’t know what to tell them.”

(Photo Credit: Edwin Goode, WVUE-TV – FOX 8 New Orleans)

“To me and to him, to everybody on the offense, that’s what we pictured,” Campbell said. “We pictured a guy that we could put out there, and if you try to take away Mike Thomas and you’re going to try to leave somebody one-on-one with Jared Cook, you’ve got a problem, and we’re going to hurt you if that’s what you want to do.

“If you’re going to single us up and you want to put single coverage on Jared Cook, there is nobody in this league that can cover him (man-on-man).”

At 6-foot-5 and 254 pounds and built physically much like an NBA basketball ‘power forward’, the Birmingham, Alabama native Cook owns the unique blend of size and speed to be a clear-cut match-up problem for NFL defenders League-wide.

However the primary knock over the years by Cook’s biggest critics, have always been about his lack of consistency and not about what is his distinctive and rather obvious talent. But now with the addition a few months ago of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders in Free Agency this off-season, Cook should see even more favorable one-on-one match-ups in the coming season ahead.

Undoubtedly, if he can continue last year’s late-season momentum and also manage to stay relatively healthy for the majority of their 16-game Regular Season schedule, Cook can help make the Saints high-powered offensive attack nearly impossible for NFL opponents to defend with any sustained degree of success.

After signing a 2-year, $15.5 million deal last off-season in 2019 NFL Free Agency, Cook’s first season in New Orleans didn’t actually get off to all that great of a start; after he suffered an injury during the middle of Training Camp which eventually led to him experiencing some rather notable struggles early on during the 2019 NFL Season.

But after healing sufficiently enough to return to the full-time starting role at TE, down the stretch Cook provided the Saints with the “difference-maker” on offense that they thought they had initially signed to begin with.

Cook finished the 2019 season with 43 receptions for 705 yards and 9 TD’s, which is a great stat-line for any typical starting-caliber NFL tight end. But in Cook’s particular case, 7 of those scores came in his late-season surge during the final 8 weeks of the season.

In the final eight contests — all of them with starting QB Drew Brees back in the line-up after an early-season torn-thumb injury — Cook caught 28 passes for 537 yards and 7 TD’s.

Those numbers were incredibly impressive when you take into consideration that he had only caught just 15 passes for 168 yards and 2 TD’s, over the course of the first six weeks.

New Orleans.Football analyst Nick Underhill says that the reason that Campbell and the rest of the Saints offensive coaching staff believes that Cook can be even better this season is not only just because of the off-season free agent addition of Emmanuel Sanders, but also because they’ve simply LEARNED HOW to properly utilize him and take full advantage of his distinctive skill-set.

The Saints feel that they’ll be able to create more mismatches for Cook against opposing defenses, since opponents won’t be able to double-team all of the various receiving options (Sanders, Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith, and Alvin Kamara out of the backfield) that will be at Brees’ disposal.

Bottom line: Cook might just be damn-near unstoppable this coming season.

Photo Credit: New Orleans Saints on YouTube,com

That’s a possibility that Campbell himself certainly endorses whole-heartedly.

“I think that the back half of the season was certainly closer to what our vision was — and then to see [Cook and Brees] gather a rapport and see the confidence level with both of them,” Campbell said in the interview.

“All the little nuances of the game between those two are important, and I think you saw it was a little shaky at first. But just them being together, man, you look at the back half of the season and that’s what we’re capable of doing.”

As Underhill has noted in the past: Cook’s football IQ from 12 years worth of NFL experience. is such that he completely understands the “ins and outs” of  route-running — and his ability to recognize holes in zone coverage when combined with his top-caliber receiving skills, size and athleticism — make the former University of South Carolina star everything you’d ever want in a starting NFL tight end.

Cook’s 2nd half of the season was nothing short of phenomenal. Perhaps even “jaw-dropping”, if you prefer extreme terminology to describe the level of production that he was cranking out in that late-season stretch.

Photo Credit: William Anthony

No matter who opposing defenses tried to put on him in pass coverage, he simply just DOMINATED them in every sense of the word. Imagine what he could do over the course of an entire season, in which he played a majority of the offensive snaps and wasn’t forced to miss any time.

Clearly that’s something that the Black and Gold would absolutely love to see transpire, by the time that late December finally rolls around.

Jared Cook remains among the NFL’s very best at the TE position — and his elite-caliber receiving skills could bring New Orleans a “special delivery” — containing a package of possibly even greater success for the Saints offensive attack, in the upcoming months ahead….

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked previously as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending their games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, uptown at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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