- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Saints’ first-round draft pick delivered a dynamic performance in his preseason debut Friday night, catching five passes for 55 yards in a 26-24 victory over the St. Louis Rams. The highlight was a stop-and-go move on a 25-yard touchdown catch that might still have a couple of Rams defensive backs spinning in place inside Edwards Jones Dome.
But Cooks passed the credit for that play to quarterback Ryan Griffin.
“The quarterback threw a great ball and put it on the right shoulder for me to be able to make a quick move and get out of there,” Cooks said.
When asked about that ability he has shown to "stop on a dime," Cooks said: "It’s one of those things you just don’t think about. I guess you can say stopping on a dime. I don’t want to say it’s hard, it’s just a technique or more a sense where the defenders are coming from. So I was blessed to have that ability.”
And Cooks was also humble while describing the performance overall, saying he wants to just “continue to build and continue to learn.”
“As a rookie, I’m gonna make a few mistakes. But you’ve got to own up to those mistakes and go back and watch film so when the next game comes it doesn’t happen again,” he said.
Cooks didn’t make any obvious errors, though there was one point where he and Griffin failed to connect on a third-down pass after Cooks turned around wide-open on a comeback route. Clearly they weren’t on the same page in that moment.
And Cooks started slowly with just two catches for 8 yards in the first half, though they were both tough catches in traffic.
His breakout came during a three-play span in the third quarter. First, Cooks found a wide-open cushion in the middle of a zone defense for a 17-yard gain. Two plays later, he caught a short pass around the 18-yard line and made defensive backs E.J.Gaines and Lamarcus Joyner whiff badly after a sharp inside cut toward pay dirt.
Cooks did at least allow that it was a special night overall because it was his NFL debut.
“It’s one of those things that I just came out here and wanted to build and be able to learn and be able to see how the NFL game feels,” Cooks said. “Just finally be able to get out here in live action and transition from practice to the real game.”
As the Rams’ defensive backs learned the hard way, Cooks is able to make transitions quickly.