Tight End Jared Cook
Defining moments in a player's career are a rarity, but when they arise, each individual needs to be prepared to produce on the big stage.
For Oakland Raiders tight end Jared Cook, that moment came in the divisional round of the 2016 NFL Playoffs, while Cook was on the Green Bay Packers. In case you haven't seen the highlight, Cook demonstrated what it means to be clutch in the fourth quarter, as he made a game-changing play against the Dallas Cowboys in the closing seconds of the matchup, which helped the "Cheeseheads" advance to the next round.
As one of the more-skilled tight ends in the league, Cook has been consistent during his eight seasons as a pro. Last year, the former South Carolina Gamecock was a go-to target for one of the premier quarterbacks in the league, former NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers. As a student of the game, Cook paid close attention to what separates one of the game's greatest signal-callers from the rest.
"Ball placement," Cook told reporters following Tuesday's practice. "[He's] able to read coverages on the move, able to read defenders positions on the receiver and able to put the ball where it needs to be for completion ratings and success as an offense."
While Cook was mainly pointing out Rodgers' strong suits, he was also sharing similarities between Rodgers and his current quarterback Derek Carr. No. 87 (Cook's new number) hasn't been a member of the Silver and Black for more than two months, but he's already observed Carr's determination to be great, and his desire to be considered amongst the best signal-callers in the NFL.
"It's [been] awesome, man," said Cook, describing what it's been like to work with Carr so far. "[He's a] great quarterback, great skills, great leader, excited to be in the huddle with him. Very communicative. Tells you exactly how he wants routes, tells you how he wants to run them and talks to you if something goes AWOL a little bit."
After working with an established veteran in Rodgers, and now building chemistry with one of the NFL's budding stars in Carr, Cook seems thrilled about his opportunity with the Raiders. Not only is he excited, but No. 4 shares a mutual feeling, and is ecstatic about his newest 6'4", 235-pound offensive weapon.
"With a guy like Jared that can stretch the field vertically like that, it's going to lead to more single coverage outside for 'Coop' [Amari Cooper] and 'Crab' [Michael Crabtree]," Carr said. "It's going to lead to more one-on-ones for Seth [Roberts]. The possibilities are endless when you add a guy at that position that has that much speed vertically. The things you can do with him really put a lot of stress on the defense."
With a new offensive coordinator at the helm in former quarterbacks coach Todd Downing, the offense will look to continue its recent success on the field. Downing, like Carr, believes Cook can be a matchup problem for defenses, and will free up space for fellow offensive playmakers.
"He's a big, long guy. Runs really well, stretches the field vertically inside. He's a matchup nightmare for linebackers and most safeties," Downing said during his media session Tuesday. "He really brings a sense in the passing game of a mismatch that we can count on week in and week out. Beyond that, and kind of what I'm pleasantly surprised with, is he's a really good in line blockers as well. Jared's versatility is going to be something that we're able to feed on a little bit and use him in different packages."
As mentioned previously, defenses around the league are cognizant of Cook's ability to be a playmaker when called upon. After hauling in one of the most important receptions of his career during the playoffs last season, Cook will look to add another defining moment to his repertoire this season, except this time it'll be as a member of the Silver and Black.