The New Orleans Saints exponentially upgraded their offensive arsenal heading into the 2020 NFL season – gone are the days of heightened anxiety watching Ted Ginn Jr. sprint downfield to inevitably drop a deep ball. New Orleans’ potent receiving corp now includes superstar Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, (a healthy) Alvin Kamara, Taysom Hill (obviously), newly named tight end Tommy Stevens, and TE Jared Cook.
Despite a somewhat underwhelming 2019 NFL season, expectations nonetheless remain high for the one-on-one nightmare that is Jared Cook; we saw flashes of his lethal potential in his short-lived breakout performance in the Saints’ loss to the 49ers – the debate of Cooks’ absence as a deciding factor in that loss still stands.
Cook’s 2019 performance was undoubtedly affected by his absence in training camp due to injury, with the Week 2 loss of Drew Brees destroying any progress in their chemistry growth.
Jared Cook himself is the first to admit that there are a couple plays that still “haunt [me].” In his August 13th training camp conference call, Cook vocalized his disappointment with his early season performance, lamenting on memories of poor plays he wish he could take back. His outlook on the upcoming 2020 season was decidedly more optimistic:
“It’s a lot different when you’re going through a season, you’re on to the next week, you don’t have a lot of time to just sit there and reflect. But now, we have that time. So we’re doing that. And, you know, hopefully this season will be a lot different. Being that me and Drew (Brees) do have a full season together and more time. So it’s just working through those things and (working to) continue to get better.”
Despite initial growing pains, Cook hit a clear stride in the second half of the season; he not only relieved pressure off triple-covered Michael Thomas, but quickly emerged as a top receiving threat in the NFL.
His late season performance did not go unnoticed, as Cook came in at No. 9 in Pro Football Focus’ top 15 TE list for 2020.
Jared Cook weekly PPR finish after Drew Brees returned from injury last season:— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) July 8, 2020
◼️ TE11 pic.twitter.com/1oor1w0sLG
Cook had some puzzling drops early on in the season and was disappointingly inconsistent; once Brees returned to the field, the duo quickly found their rhythm. Cook finished the 2019 season averaging 16.4 yards per reception and recorded nine touchdowns. Comparatively, No. 1 rank George Kittle averaged 12.4 yards per catch with five touchdowns, and No. 2 rank Travis Kelce had 12.7 yards per catch and five touchdowns in the 2019 season – though they recorded more receptions than Cook, respectively.
The Saints vs. 49ers shootout was the 2019 game of the season – and San Francisco just had no answer for Jared Cook. Prior to his early exit after incurring a concussion, Cook was the star of the game with 64 yards and two touchdowns on the team’s first two opening drives.
While Cook might not have the constant field presence as Kittle and Kelce, the 6-foot-5, 254-pound TE is a matchup nightmare when utilized just right; New Orleans has an unparalleled ability to perfectly exploit players against opposing teams, and Cook is a prime example. At his size, coupled with his disproportionate speed, there’s just no way to account for his presence – particularly when already trying to chase down Thomas and Sanders.
Jared Cook is poised to leave his early 2019 performance in the rearview mirror and focus on a speedy start to the 2020 season with a season with Brees under his belt – though reminiscing on past heartbreaks is pretty on brand for Who Dat Nation (looking at you, 2018).
“Being I was here last year, it’s a lot easier than coming in fresh off the street,” Cook stated during the conference call. “So now, Drew knows how I run routes, he knows the indicators that I give and you know that helps quite a bit in gaining with your quarterback. So hopefully this year we’re a few steps ahead than last year and we can pick up a lot better.”
Cook ended his remarks with abundant praise for Brees and his work ethic, noting, “he might be 40, but his wisdom is off the charts.” His comfort levels entering year two with his QB are apparent; expect that familiarity to pay off with a much quicker start in the 2020 season. The geriatric Saints offensive duo is primed to do some serious damage in sync, and demolishing Brady and the Bucs in Week 1 is the perfect stage to do so. Let’s get hyped.
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