Wide re­ceiver thrust into big­ger role due to in­juries

Pawtucket Times - - SPORTS - By KYLE HIGHTOWER Associated Press

FOXBORO — Brandin Cooks ar­rived in New Eng­land ex­cited to join what was al­ready a stacked sta­ble of re­ceivers for Tom Brady to throw to.

A week into the reg­u­lar sea­son, that group looks vastly dif­fer­ent than it did en­ter­ing the pre­sea­son.

Ju­lian Edel­man is out for the year with a knee in­jury. Mal­colm Mitchell is on in­jured re­serve with his own knee is­sue.

Danny Amen­dola suf­fered a con­cus­sion and knee in­jury in the Pa­tri­ots' Week 1 loss to Kansas City.

Sud­denly, what was sup­posed to be one of the Pa­tri­ots' most de­pend­able units is show­ing cracks. It has shined a

“I just look at it as an­other game.”

– Brandin Cooks

spot­light on Cooks as he pre­pares for a road matchup with the Saints team that traded him this off­sea­son.

“I just look at it as an­other game. I feel like when you start to get hyped up too much, you psy­che your­self out,” Cooks said. “So I'm just re­ally look­ing for­ward to Week 2 and play­ing some foot­ball.”

Play­ing some foot­ball over his first three sea­sons in the league is ex­actly what put Cooks on the Pa­tri­ots' off­sea­son tar­get list.

New Eng­land even­tu­ally spent a first- and third-round pick to ac­quire the 2014 first rounder, who is com­ing off back-to-back 1,100-yard re­ceiv­ing sea­sons.

There were rum­bles be­fore the trade that Cooks was un­happy in New Or­leans and that it per­haps con­trib­uted to the Saints be­ing will­ing to part with him.

But Cooks made it clear ear­lier this sum­mer there was no truth to those ru­mors.

“I felt like we left off on a great note,” Cooks said. “I love the fans. But hey, I don't know. It's an away game. So you're ex­pect­ing what away game fans are gonna give you, right?”

When Cooks was with the Saints, he and quar­ter­back Drew Brees worked out to­gether in the sum­mer near Brees' off­sea­son San Diego home. That didn't take place this year, but Brees said they still re­main good friends.

“It just hap­pens to be that he's on the other side of the ball this week com­ing back here to New Or­leans,” Brees said. “Ob­vi­ously he was a great part of this team for three years and I wish him the best of suc­cess, al­though I'd rather him not go off in this game.”

One of the things that at­tracted the Pa­tri­ots to Cooks was his abil­ity to stretch the field. He was a deep tar­get for Brees, and other times Cooks was able to show off his break­away speed and knack for turn­ing short passes into long gains.

With Edel­man un­avail­able in Week 1, of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Josh McDaniels lined up Chris Ho­gan in Edel­man's nor­mal slot po­si­tion on mul­ti­ple downs. If Ho­gan con­tin­ues in that ca­pac­ity, the role he filled on the out­side last sea­son is open for Cooks.

“We can't let Brandin Cooks get a deep ball,” Saints safety Kenny Vac­caro said “You can run your curls, what­ever your lit­tle routes are be­sides the home run ball, but when you put on the tape, Brandin Cooks is run­ning deep a lot. That'll def­i­nitely be some­thing that we have to stop.”

Cooks was tar­geted seven times in Week 1, pulling in three catches for 88 yards. He got the bulk of that on one play, haul­ing in a 54-yard re­cep­tion in the third quar­ter.

One of Cooks' other strengths in New Or­leans, Vac­caro said, was his abil­ity to break down de­fenses in the film room.

“I know he's study­ing and I know he's do­ing all his lit­tle rit­u­als that Brandin Cooks does,” Vac­caro said. “But at the same time, we've prac­ticed against him. I know his strengths and weak­nesses and our coaches do, too. So, I hope that will give us an ad­van­tage.” Cooks said he's ready for the chal­lenge. “Es­pe­cially af­ter a nasty one last week,” Cooks said. “I'm ex­cited to get back work­ing with the guys, go­ing in do­ing what we have to do to play a great game.”

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