The Oakland Raiders signed Jared Cook in March, and by May, before he even played a meaningful down in Silver and Black, he had made an impression on his teammates, both on the offensive *and *defensive side of the ball.
"I put the film on during OTAs [Organized Team Activities] and was like 'wow, he can run like a deer,' said rookie linebacker Nicholas Morrow. "He's pretty fast. To be that big, man, he can move. He's got good hands. He's got strong hands too."
While Morrow was marveling at the veteran tight end's physical ability, third-year tight end Clive Walford was taking note of how Cook approached the mental side of the game.
"He's about every detail," Walford said. "He don't go into a game not knowing the depth of his route, or not knowing where he needs to be for the quarterback, so that's something I learned real fast. This was back in OTAs when we first got here. He's real detailed."
That attention to detail has paid off immeasurably; not only is Cook the Raiders leading receiver with 546 receiving yards, he's also just nine receptions away from tying his career high.
The former South Carolina Gamecock has unquestionably been one of the best tight ends in the game this year, as has Travis Kelce, the Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro that the Raiders defense will have to deal with Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium.
Like Cook with the Raiders, Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense relies heavily on getting Kelce involved in the passing game, and although they have their own, distinctive styles, Morrow does see some similarities between the pair.
"They're both good receivers, as far as the receiving and tight end part," Morrow explained. "Jared has kind of his own style, Kelce has his own. They kind of use them differently. I could see it on the receiving end, you could definitely see that, the way we utilize him, as far as going to him in the passing game."
While Kelce is In the midst of another Pro Bowl campaign for the Chiefs, when the teams first met Week 7 in Oakland, the Silver and Black did an outstanding job of limiting No. 87, limiting the powerful tight end to just four catches for 33 yards.
"Kelce, he plays the game, and he has fun," Walford said. "I feel like he has the chance to express himself, and on top of that, he's athletic, great player. All-around great player."
While the defensive scheme certainly deserves credit for limiting Kelce in mid-October, Morrow also believes that squaring off against Cook day in and day out during practice, helps prepare the Silver and Black for a player like Kelce.
"Oh yeah," Morrow said when asked if going against Cook helps prepare the defense. "Jared's been in the league a long time, and so it's definitely good to go out there and go against him. He's crafty. He can get open, obviously. He has speed, long speed, got some good hands, so it definitely helps when you go against those receiving-type of tight ends in the game."
As the Raiders descend on Arrowhead Stadium for their pivotal Week 14 tilt against the Chiefs, limiting Kelce will once again be crucial to finding success, as well as getting Cook rolling against a thin Chiefs secondary.
Kickoff is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. PT.