The New England Patriots acquired WR Brandin Cooks and are expected to jam him into the offense, adding an extremely young, extremely athletic, and extremely productive target into an already incredible offense.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has the fun job of finding a role for Cooks in an offense with the best deep ball receiver in the league in WR Chris Hogan, the best hitch and comeback receiver in the league in WR Julian Edelman, the best tight end in the league in TE Rob Gronkowski, and the best quarterback in the league in QB Tom Brady.
So how does Cooks fit into this offense? Pro Football Focus has an idea:
Patriots receivers run a lot of these routes, and nobody was better at them in 2016 than the guy they just acquired, Brandin Cooks. pic.twitter.com/sNIjrym8DA— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 22, 2017
What does this table show?
Cooks gained an average of 7.38 yards per route when asked to run “any route with more than one break,” per PFF’s Sam Monson. This includes double moves, scramble drills, and the whip routes that the Patriots specialize in using with Edelman.
Just one other receiver eclipses 6.0 yards per route and it’s clear that Cooks is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the league in this category.
So what does this mean for Cooks in the Patriots offense? They’re not going to give him all of Edelman’s routes, and they’re not going to ask him to run multiple breaks on every snap, right?
Instead, perhaps it means that Cooks can bridge all of the different routes mastered by the Patriots receivers. He can run screens, comebacks, slants, crossers, and go routes. He can cover all the bases.
But maybe it means that Cooks can use his quickness to shake defenders to get open at the intermediate level. Hogan can control the deep ball, Edelman can lead the short game, and Gronkowski can run the middle of the field. That leaves the intermediate level for Cooks to navigate and gives the Patriots a dominant target for every depth of the field.
Tom Brady often talks about making defenses cover every blade of grass. The Patriots offense controlled most of the field before acquiring Cooks; now there’s a star option wherever Brady looks.