- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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METAIRIE, La. -- Rookie receiver Brandin Cooks said he is “beyond excited” to join the New Orleans Saints’ versatile, creative offense. And Saints coach Sean Payton is obviously fired up about having such a dynamic and versatile new athlete to work with.
But they’re not the only ones who are intrigued by the possibilities.
Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said he’s also looking forward to watching what happens from across the field – especially since he won’t have to worry about defending it when it counts.
“Anytime a player is hand picked by Sean Payton to play offense at receiver, you’d better believe he’s gonna be something,” Ryan said between practice sessions at the Saints’ rookie minicamp Saturday. “So I’m anxious to see him. I’m out here watching and it’s like, ‘Oooh.’ This guy opens your eyes.
“You can feel his speed. It’s something that [the late Raiders owner] Al Davis used to say. ‘Can you feel his speed?’ You can feel his speed. So I’m looking forward to seeing him. Because I know how Sean … they’re gonna create roles to get this guy involved, and it’s gonna be awesome.”
For now, the Saints’ first-round draft pick is simply lining up at the X receiver position while they install their playbook – which is typical for all players at this stage of the offseason.
But once New Orleans gets into training camp and the preseason in July and August, Payton will no doubt find a lot of creative uses for the 5-foot-10, 189-pound receiver, who ran the fastest 40-yard dash (4.33 seconds) of any receiver at the NFL combine.
That’s certainly what former NFL coach Mike Riley did with Cooks in a pro-style offensive system at Oregon State, where Cooks led the nation with 128 catches for 1,730 yards last year with a combination of deep balls, slants and screens, among others. He also ran the ball at times and returned punts.
“He is versatile,” Payton said. “He’s obviously a receiver [first and foremost]. And I think we can line him up in the slot, line him up outside. [He has a] very good skill set with regards to acceleration, speed, catches the ball well. And I like his toughness.”
Cooks obviously couldn’t have hand picked a better offense for his skill set. Cooks said that’s both because of Payton’s creativity and quarterback Drew Brees’ penchant for spreading the ball around to whomever is open – something he said he appreciated from watching the Saints over the years.
“No doubt. When Coach Payton called [on draft] night and talked about some of the things we talked about, and how excited he was to use me in this offense …,” Cooks said. “And you look at Drew Brees’ stats, he’s getting the ball to all of his wide receivers. In the backfield, Kenny [Stills], Jimmy [Graham], [Marques] Colston, he’s getting the ball to everyone. So as a receiver when you see that, you get excited.”
Cooks said he feels like he’s been absorbing the playbook well so far, and he said it helps that a lot of the concepts and terminology are similar to the offense he ran at Oregon State.
Unfortunately, he’ll have to miss a chunk of OTAs over the next month since Oregon State is on a quarters system, and rookies can’t participate in OTAs until their school’s academic year has finished. But Cooks doesn’t think it will slow him down.
“[This weekend is] very important, to show that I can get comfortable with the playbook, I can pick up on things easily, and I can study. These five practices are extremely important to me,” Cooks said. “They drafted me for a reason, so I’ve gotta prove ‘em right now.”
NOTE: Stay tuned for more updates over the coming days from the Saints’ three-day rookie minicamp. Most sessions were closed to the media, but a portion of Saturday’s practice was open, followed by interviews.
3dEric D. Williams
3dEric D. Williams