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Jared Cook’s 2020 will be marred by costly postseason fumble

In an otherwise strong season, Cook suffered a brutal ending

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

While tight ends have been an integral part of the New Orleans Saints offensive system for years, Jared Cook saw a bit of a reduced role on the Saints in 2020. Perhaps part of it was Drew Brees not being as effective at throwing in the seams and Taysom Hill not being able to do it all, but Cook’s route tree largely seemed to consist of drag and flag routes.

Ultimately, Cook turned in a nice season all the same. Here’s a glimpse at his stats.

Cook 2020 Stats

Receptions Yards Touchdowns YPC Fumbles
Receptions Yards Touchdowns YPC Fumbles
37 504 7 13.6 2

It’s poetic, in a way, that Cook ended with 504 yards, so credit for that. However, these stats don’t tell the whole story. Here’s Cook’s playoff statline.

Cook 2020 Playoffs

Receptions Yards Touchdowns YPC Fumbles
Receptions Yards Touchdowns YPC Fumbles
9 68 0 7.56 1

Part of this is fine. Cook wasn’t targeted often in the playoffs. However, in the Saints’ loss to the Buccaneers in the Divisional Round, he had a key play that singlehandedly swung the momentum of the game. It’s the one bolded stat above. That one, pesky fumble.

Antoine Winfield Jr. punching that ball out with the Saints driving up seven in the third quarter kicked off a 17-0 scoring run for the Buccaneers, and ultimately ended the Saints season. While you can point to a lot of places and plays where it went wrong during that run, the fumble was absolutely the catalyst. Later in the game, a ball also bounced off his hands that was intercepted by Devin White, although it was an awkwardly placed pass.

It was the M.O. for the Saints this season. Fumbles at inopportune times leading to losses. Cook was simply the latest victim. But it’s a hard pill to swallow in what may well be Drew Brees’ last run.

Cook will be an unrestricted free agent as his contract in 2021 voids, and although Saints fans are ready to move on from him, that has to be a calculated move and not an emotional one. Cook has regularly been a strong receiver in the Saints offense, and depending at who’s at quarterback next season they could use him. Whether or not the Saints move on from Cook will depend on the status of Adam Trautman, and Josh Hill is inevitable.

It was a heartbreaking end to another solid season from Cook, who is continuing his tumultuous career. It’s hard to imagine him in black and gold next season, especially as there are other priorities to re-sign. However, the Saints will need to find another scoring threat in the red zone, as Cook led the team in receiving touchdowns.

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