New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) outruns the defense on a 25-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter during the preseason game between the New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis on Friday, August 8, 2014. (Michael DeMocker, Nola.com / The Times-Picayune) (Michael DeMocker)
New Orleans Saints rookie receiver Brandin Cooks dazzles with touchdown in debut
Katherine Terrell, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune By Katherine Terrell, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
St. Louis — New Orleans Saints rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks seems to have made a habit of turning almost every practice snap into some kind of spectacular play.
In training camp, he’s looked fluid on punt returns and stole the show in the Black and Gold Scrimmage last week.
Cooks made Saints players like cornerback Patrick Robinson look pedestrian on the practice field. And while he didn’t exactly do on every play in his debut game against the St. Louis Rams, a 26-24 win Friday, he didn’t exactly disappoint either.
The Rams held him in check on punt returns. He fair caught one call and had two returns for a total of five yards.
He didn’t get in the game until the second quarter as part of a plan to bring players into the game in phases.
“We were trying to monitor snaps for all of our guys and receivers, but also give them a chance for touches,” coach Sean Payton said.
It took him a bit of time to adjust, but once he did, Cooks displayed just why the Saints traded up to get him in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.
Outside of a spectacular catch and run by tight end Josh Hill, who stiff-armed defenders for a 50-yard gain, some of the biggest offensive plays of the night went to Cooks.
Toward the end of the third quarter, facing mostly second- and third-team defenders from the Rams, Cooks grabbed a pass from quarterback Ryan Griffin, juked a defender, and floated into the end zone for a 25-yard score.
It was the second of two long plays for Cooks, as Griffin had found him on a crossing pattern two plays earlier for a 17-yard gain.
“Honestly, Griffin just threw a great ball,” Cooks said. “It was an out route, and he did a great job of putting it on the right shoulder for me to be able to make a move real quick and get up under it.”
Just like in practice, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Cooks made it look easy.
“It was fun to get out there, had to get some of the jitters out in the first couple of series, but that’s how the game is,” he said. “I was blessed enough to be able to come out here and play in my first NFL game.”
Cooks finished with five receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown.
Coach Sean Payton said Cooks, who led the team with eight targets, has been steadily progressing. He missed almost all of OTAs while finishing up school at Oregon State, but that hasn’t seemed to hold him back.
“He’s quick with the ball in his hands,” Payton said. “I thought he played hard, he’s smart, get’s lined up very quickly. We’ll keep bringing him along. There’s a lot of things he needs to work on still.”