There’s a new chef in town.
By acquiring former Titan TE Jared Cook on the first day of free agency, the Rams may have very well signed the most versatile and able-bodied weapon available. Les Snead has stressed getting weapons for Sam Bradford, but he also mentioned that the only way to measure production is on the field. New Patriot Danny Amendola and new Seahawk Percy Harvin have loads of talent, but how many games will they actually play? In Cook, the Rams acquired both raw ability and durability.
Rams fans desperately yearn for the glory days of the Greatest Show on Turf and its high-octane offense, but there is a new recipe cooking in the mound city. In a league dependent on creating offensive mismatches, Cook will bring some much-needed flavor. Perhaps this improving offense will not have to depend on the leg of Greg Zuerlein to generate points. There aren’t many linebackers who can keep up with Cook’s 4.49 speed, and there aren’t many defensive backs who want to tackle his 6’5”, 240+ lb. frame. I’m not saying Cook is the red zone threat that we desperately need, but he will definitely help Sam and the rest of the offense get there.
I’m pretty sure a majority of Rams fans watched this video within hours of the Cook signing. Tevin Broner of Turf Show Times did a nice write up of this video and I’d like to highlight some parts of the tape as well.
(1:08) – Out of the slot position, Cook is able to stretch the defense and picks up huge yardage.
(3:37) – Cook demonstrates his physicality by breaking a tackle en route to a touchdown. Definitely took less time than Lance Kendricks touchdown against Tamba Bay in 2012.
(6:32) – By now we’ve seen a lot of Danny Amendola routes from Cook; drag routes, curl routes and crossing routes and check downs. Watch Cook’s head fake on this particular play. The linebacker is expecting a check down but gets faked out and Cook is able to get into an open zone for a touchdown. This looked very similar to Anquan Boldin’s touchdown in the Superbowl.
(8:30) – Cook gets matched up 1-on-1 with James Harrison on a critical play, and just plain runs away from him on a shallow cross. A five-yard pattern turns into a 25-yard gain, and becomes a game-winning play for the Titans. They run one more time to milk the clock, and kick a go-ahead field goal with 4 seconds left to upset the Steelers in prime time.
(10:11) – This play resulted in an incompletion but its play design was Bradford’s money play during his rookie year. Sam has hooked up with Daniel Fells and other tight ends with this play-action bootleg. Though we haven’t seen it much lately, Bradford is an excellent quarterback on roll outs and on the run and the Rams should use this play more often in the red zone.
(14:51) – Here is another example of a Cook faking out the defender. The defender bites on the inside move and Cook is able to get the necessarily step needed for Jake Locker to make the throw.
Amendola vs. Cook
I made mention of some of the routes that Cook was running and it’s no question Cook will be asked to do most things that Amendola was capable off. When Cook first signed his contract of 5 years/$35 million ($19 million guaranteed), I thought we overpaid for him. But after seeing Amendola’s contract with the Patriots of 5 years/$31 million ($10 million guaranteed), I’d say we got the better deal.
Let’s start with the negatives on Cook first. He won’t make those Danny-like circus catches and will also drop easy catchable balls (5 drops on 49 catchable passes, per PFF). The Rams offense has never been sure-handed in recent years with the exception of Amendola so a couple of dropsies from Cook will make us regret the signing. Hopefully, the amount of drops that Cook will have will diminish once Bradford and Cook get enough practice time to gel and develop a rapport with each other. Another point that I’d like to bring up is that Cook had to catch balls from both Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck. More practice time with a definite starting quarterback, less drops.
While few pass-catchers can match Amendola’s hands in terms of reliability, he does have his limits. One department that Cook has a leg up on Amendola is speed. Once Cook is able to sell the “move the chains” routes, he can do a double move or a head fake to get down field and get separation for a huge gain. Amendola has a career average of 8.8 yards per catch while Cook averages 13.1 yards per catch. One reason why Sam holds the ball too long is that our receivers do not get separation consistently enough for Sam to throw it. Cook will give Sam a safety valve as well as a down the field threat.
Another area that Cook has the advantage over Amendola is in terms of durability. No one should ever question Danny’s toughness, but that scrappy play can and will cost him some games. While Cook did finish 2012 on injured reserve with a torn right rotator cuff, I would feel safer throwing my money at was essentially a bigger more durable type player who runs the same routes that Danny does.
The Golden Age of the Tight End
The contract numbers for Cook are reasonable because he is a versatile weapon who can be lined up anywhere on the field to provide a mismatch. You can have him as an in-line tight end, a slot receiver, split out wide, and if you’re creative enough, in the backfield.
Just watch this Aaron Hernandez video.
Brian Schottenheimer brings versatility in his play-calling, but his 23rd ranked offense lacked skill players that create mismatches and advantages. Tom Brady and the Patriot offense are so effective because they have those mismatch-making players, and they maximize them by using a lot of a no-huddle, high tempo offense. By utilizing a no-huddle offense more often (which Sam happens to be good at) with players like Hernandez and Cook, big plays can occur more frequently.
The Patriots are hated by many, especially by Rams fans, but you can’t deny that they know what they’re doing (oh you know, when they’re not cheating). After signing Rob Gronkowski to an extension, the Patriots wasted no time locking up Hernandez for the next seven years. We just happened to get Cook for less money.
Cook in Tandem With Lance Kendricks
The signing of Jared Cook does not diminish the role of Lance Kendricks. Cook and Kendricks can coexist on the field because Cook will spend most of his time playing non-traditional tight end roles. Kendricks will not lose any snaps or playing time because he is a highly underrated blocker in the run game.
In all but one of Steven Jackson’s big runs in this 2012 highlight reel (the one in Arizona where he lines up at fullback), Kendricks is present on the field. The majority of those runs feature Kendricks making a key block for the play as well as the responsibility to either chip or block a bigger defensive lineman. The run-blocking ability of Kendricks was a reason why the Rams were able to part ways with fullback Brit Miller mid-season, who was also a special teams captain.
Lance Kendricks will still have his fair share of snaps and should also see more balls thrown his way should opposing defenses key on Cook.
The signing of Jared Cook will do wonders for the Rams offense, which we will definitely see improve in 2013. Let’s hope Brian Schottenheimer has big plans for Cook and how to utilize him, much as he did with Dustin Keller in New York. Somewhere someplace, Sam Bradford must be itching to play with his new toy.