Last week, he helped beat the Saints, the team that brought him into the NFL. At this time last year, he was preparing to play in his first Super Bowl, completing a productive first season with the Patriots.
On Sunday, Brandin Cooks arrived in Atlanta with his newest team, the Rams, as they look to take down Cooks’ most recent former team, the Patriots, in Super Bowl LIII, hoping to do for the Rams what he ultimately was unable to do with the Patriots.
If this all sounds a bit confusing, well, it goes to show Brandin Cooks has been around.
“When you just see, whether it was in New Orleans or the one year that he had in New England, he’s got the ability to do a variety of different things,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said. “Clearly, what people always recognize is his ability to stretch the top shelf of the defense, track the deep ball. But I think he’s demonstrated that he’s a complete receiver. He is meticulous with regards to his detail, how he operates.”
It has been an eventful and action-packed five-year NFL existence for a fleet receiver who is being praised for a catch he did not make. In overtime of the NFC Championship in New Orleans, McVay called for a receiver screen with the Rams on the Saints 39-yard line, looking for a few more yards to put Greg Zuerlein closer for a game-winning field goal attempt. Cooks, 4 yards behind the line of scrimmage, saw Jared Goff’s pass coming his way and immediately determined cornerback Marshon Lattimore sniffed out the play. Rather than risk losing yards, Cooks dropped the ball on purpose. On the next snap, Zuerlein drilled a playoff-record 57-yard field goal for a 26-23 Rams victory.
“I thought it was more important to save those yards, not that Greg needs them,” Cooks said. “Rather play it safe than sorry.”
“I was not aware at the time that he did that intentionally,” Goff said. “Afterwards, found out that it was probably a pretty good decision. I probably shouldn’t have even thrown it to him.”
Cooks is in demand because of his ability to hold on to the ball, but, for some reason, finding a football home has been elusive. Cooks was a 2014 first-round pick of the Saints, but despite big-time contributions in his final two seasons (162 receptions, 2,311 yards, 17 touchdowns), the Saints traded him to the Patriots in 2017. In his one year in New England, Cooks emerged as a reliable down-the-field option for Tom Brady (65 receptions, 1,082 yards, seven touchdowns) and might have won a championship with the Patriots, but was forced out of Super Bowl LII early after sustaining a concussion as the Pats lost to the Eagles.
It was one-and-done for Cooks in New England, as Bill Belichick shipped him to the Rams, who signed the 25-year-old to a five-year, $81 million contract extension. Cooks fit in seamlessly and was his usual productive self, with career-highs in receptions (80) and receiving yards (1,204).
“He caught right up to the playbook almost instantly,” said Shane Waldron, the Rams’ pass game coordinator. “Obviously, Brandin is fast as can be, so he’s going to be able to be that guy that’s a vertical threat. But, he’s not just a vertical threat. He can run those mid-level throws. He’s good in the quick game and he’s great in the jet-sweep. So, he’s really able to fit right in our offense and give us a weapon that can do everything in all the different phases.”
Patriots know first hand why Aqib Talib is Rams game changer
It has been five years since Aqib Talib was a…
It did not take Goff long to realize what Brady learned about Cooks in 2017 — he can make a quarterback look good. It was in the spring workouts that Goff saw this with his own eyes.
“I think the way I can tell if a receiver and I are going to jell is the way that he tracks a deep ball,” Goff said. “I think it’s something that you can’t really teach, you can’t really drill it. It’s just something that either you have or you don’t from a young age, and he has it. When a guy can do that, you can kind of have a little bit more room for error as a quarterback. When I can throw a deep ball with not exact perfection and he can go and get it, it causes that chemistry to go up. He’s the type of guy who can do that.”
Cooks will be a great source of information for the Rams, as he can instruct his defense as to the fine points of the Patriots attack.
“That definitely is something that you draw on to communicate with your players,” McVay said.
One year after trying to win a Super Bowl with the Patriots, Cooks will do all he can to beat them in a Super Bowl.