Jared Cook: Seam StretcherTuesday, May 07, 2013
4. Cook primarily lined up in the slot when he was targeted in Tennessee.
I didn't pay much attention to Cook's blocking in my tape study. I don't think it's relevant anymore. Rams coach Jeff Fisher knows Cook's strengths from their time in Nashville and will use him as a receiver. Lance Kendricks is St. Louis' in-line, blocking tight end. If you are truly curious about Cook's blocking, PFF graded him positively in 2012 run blocking with a slightly negative pass-blocking grade. They charged Cook with zero sacks or quarterback hits allowed.
Cook lined up in the slot for 76.7 percent of his 2012 targets. He was a detached H-back or in-line tight end on 15.1 percent, and an X or Z outside receiver on 5.5 percent. For two targets (2.6 percent), I couldn't tell exactly where Cook had lined up because the game film was too blurry. The bottom line is that Cook is a slot receiver. He will help the Rams replace Danny Amendola.
5. The Titans barely used Cook in the red zone last season.
This was stunning. Granted, the 2012 Titans were so bad that simply getting into opposing red zones was a rare occurrence. But when they did, their mismatch-creating tight end was regularly either ignored by the playcaller or quarterback, or rotting on the sideline. Again, Cook was targeted 76 times last season, including penalty-negated plays. Only nine of Cook's 2012 targets (11.8 percent) came in the red zone. The results of those nine targets? Five completions for 44 yards and two touchdowns. Not great red-zone efficiency, but not terrible by any means.
I suppose there are some elements to Cook's game that might lead a coaching staff to believe he isn't a dominant red-zone receiver -- and we'll get there next -- but to waste a 6-foot-5, 248-pound athletic phenom in scoring position seems to me like fantastically poor coaching. You may notice a theme here: I don't believe the Titans are coached or quarterbacked very well. But that's a topic for another forum.
6. I don't think Jared Cook will ever be a high-volume tight end.
We'll come full circle here. Jared Cook has never been a voluminous catcher of footballs because that's not who he is. He is a big-play, vertical-seam tight end, ill suited to be utilized like Jason Witten in Dallas, or even Brandon Pettigrew in Detroit. That's not his skill set.
Some short to intermediate tight ends like Pettigrew, Witten, and Houston's Owen Daniels eat up defenses with short, high-percentage checkdown-type completions and gain yards after catch with awareness and/or physicality. They can create on their own. Jared Cook isn't like them. He's not a quick-twitch, sudden mover. He'd be worthless on a tight end screen. There is little stop-start to Cook's game, and he is not elusive after the catch. He's not even an especially physical tackle breaker despite his size. He gets tackled by smaller defenders in the open field one-on-one. I charted Cook with just 136 yards after reception in 2012, and the vast majority of them came on open-field opportunities when Cook was in space running to green grass.
7. My expectations for Jared Cook in St. Louis.
As alluded to previously, I expect Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to run a lot of four-wide packages with Cook and Tavon Austin in the slots, and Brian Quick and Chris Givens as the outside receivers. I anticipate this'll be Schottenheimer's base offensive look on most passing downs, whether it be third-and-long, third-and-medium, or when St. Louis is attempting to erase a deficit.
Look for Austin to lead the Rams in 2012 receptions. While I don't think Cook will ever be a high-volume receiver who catches 65-80 balls a year, I wouldn't be surprised if he paced St. Louis in receiving yards and touchdowns.