A few months shy of his 31st birthday, in his ninth professional season, on his fourth NFL team, Jared Cook is in the midst of a career year.
Don't call it a rebirth – the veteran tight end has caught at least 29 passes in each of his NFL seasons, save his rookie campaign in Tennessee – but with seven games left on the schedule, and just 13 receptions away from his career-high, Cook is on pace to have one of his best campaigns to date.
Signed as a free agent in March, to be yet another offensive weapon for quarterback Derek Carr, Cook has been just that and more. He currently leads the Raiders in both receptions (39) and receiving yards (499), and General Manager Reggie McKenzie has been very pleased with what he's seen through nine games from No. 87.
"So far, it's pretty good," said McKenzie Friday afternoon during a round table session with the local media. "He [Carr] is definitely comfortable throwing it to him [Cook], and hopefully that gets better for the rest of the season. We like that addition in the passing game, what he's brought."
And what he has brought has been a level of consistency to the Raiders offense; Cook has hauled in at least two receptions in each of the team's nine games thus far, including two games where he's gone over the century mark, most recently in the Week 9 win over the Miami Dolphins.
"Ninety percent of the time, he [Cook] is going to be somewhere in between the hashes or at least inside the numbers," Carr explained. "Those throws are closer. The ball is in the air less. He does a good job of running with speed and getting vertical on all of his routes, so you never know what route it is because if you wait too long or if you sit on something, he can run right by you, as we saw it, I think it was the first third down."
At game's end, Cook had hauled in a team-high eight receptions for 126 yards, the third-highest output he has had in his NFL career. And ask Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing, a game like that – while immediately gratifying – can also be beneficial long term as well.
"Jared works really hard at doing the little things right," Downing explained. "We knew that we could create a couple of matchups for him. That was something that we worked on in Sarasota throughout the practice week. He really did a nice job of the little things on route details, the depth of his route, the timing of his route, being able to come out of the break full speed. I just told him on the practice field, when you invest in all those things and it comes to fruition, it's great validation to do them all the time. I was really, really happy for him that he had such a productive game."
The Silver and Black are on the bye this weekend, but they'll return to the gridiron November 19 in Mexico City against the New England Patriots.
McKenzie spoke with the media for a little over 25 minutes; here are some notable tidbits from his session:
- The Silver and Black are 4-5 headed into the bye; somewhere McKenzie admitted he didn't expect the team to be:
"Obviously, you would like to be more in the win column, for sure, but our record is what it is, and our play is what it is, so we'll focus on getting better and winning the next game. That's where we are."
- He gave an update on the health of rookie cornerback Gareon Conley:
"Right now, we'll see what's happening after we come back from the weekend, and see if he can do anything early in the week, and then we'll make our determination from there … People's bodies are different. When you have those type of injuries, you wait and see if it can heal, and feel better, and good enough to play. Early in the season, he was feeling better, and then we had a setback. We're trying to give it some time to calm down, and see if he can play, so we'll see what's happening over the weekend, and early in the week, and see what he can do. If he can't go, then he can't go. We're just going to have to move on, but we're going to give him every opportunity to see if he can do it."
- McKenzie also shared his thoughts on NaVorro Bowman being an option at middle linebacker beyond just 2017:
"Yes, he could be … He's a football player. Needless to say, his experience, and the way he plays; I'm talking about from an instincts and savvy standpoint, anytime you come two years off an injury, it's always going to be better than the next year, so that's not going to be a deterrent, but he can still play."
- The Raiders GM said that while kicker Sebastian Janikowski is indeed healing, there's no reason to rush him back, considering how well Giorgio Tavecchio is playing:
"You don't have to rush him back, that's for sure. Giorgio's done a great job. He's really stepped up to the plate, and has been kicking well, so the need to bring another guy in here is not there, but "Seabass" is moving forward with his progress, and I think he will be ready to roll here shortly, if needed. Now, right now, there's no need to rush anything."
- TJ Carrie has stepped up in a big way in 2017 for the Silver and Black, and his value has not escaped the eye of McKenzie:
"He's been the glue. He's been there. He's been available. He's kind of held it together playing outside and inside. He's done a lot of things for us, and he's shown up, and definitely played a lot more this year than he's probably ever played, so that's different for him, trying to get his body ready for it week to week. He's been really solid for us."
- As far as Khalil Mack is concerned, McKenzie is hopeful he'll be able to sign No. 52 to a long-term deal prior to the start of the 2018 season:
"I anticipate, yes. I do. Hopefully his agent feels the same."