The New England Patriots made two of the biggest personnel splashes of the current offseason. First, the team signed unrestricted free agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a five-year, $65.0 million contract. A few days after news of the signing broke, the defending world champions made another blockbuster acquisition.
New England traded its first and third round picks in the 2017 draft to the New Orleans Saints in order to acquire wide receiver Brandin Cooks and a fourth round selection. While the fourth rounder never had a direct impact due to the Patriots being penalized for how nature operates, Cooks – in an ideal world – will add another dimension to the team’s receiving corps.
Before he will have a chance to showcase his talents and why New England traded for him, though, the 23-year old has some work to do. "[F]irst off, just being well-conditioned," Cooks said during yesterday’s first press conference in front of the New England media when asked about how he balances getting physically ready for the upcoming season and studying a new playbook.
"[...] then just as much as I can to learn the offense so I can catch up to the guys that have been here so we can keep going and not have to wait on me." While Cooks is not the lone addition to the wide receiver corps this offseason – the team also signed two undrafted rookies and re-signed Devin Street –, he is the only one that is a) a lock to make the roster and b) standing in the spotlight as much.
Given that combination of projected role and being a newcomer, Cooks certainly is under pressure. Still, his first impressions of New England are positive. "Right away, I love it," the wideout noted. "I love the way they run things here. It's a blessing to be able to be a part of this organization." Cooks doubled down on those remarks throughout the session, praising the Patriots and how they operate.
One aspect that particularly seems to have caught Cooks' eye is the franchise's attention to detail. When asked what his first impression of the coaching staff was, the former first round pick simply answered "their focus" before elaborating: "Their attention to detail, once again, here is amazing." He also said the same about the person throwing him footballs from now on, quarterback Tom Brady.
Having spent the first three seasons of his career with the Saints' Drew Brees, Cooks is no stranger to catching passes from a future Hall of Famer. Nevertheless, he called his first impression of Brady amazing: "He's just an awesome quarterback and I'm glad to have the opportunity to play with him." And as is the case with the coaching staff, Brady's close look at things stood out.
Cooks was asked about what he had observed about the reigning Super Bowl MVP that he did not know prior to coming to New England and answered as follows: "His attention to detail and how focused he is. [...] Obviously, the game on TV, he's amazing, but to see him now in person in his study habits is awesome." Given how Cooks and Brady depend on each other, he surely has to keep a close eye on the veteran passer – and he's give a lot of opportunities to du just that.
"We get in the time a lot to be out there with the quarterbacks," Cooks pointed out. "Every day, it seems like we're out there with them and getting used to the three quarterbacks [...] getting used to their terminology, not just their play, but how they say things." Naturally, it is a process but according to Cooks it is part of the team's mission.
"We’re on a mission," he said when asked about the Patriots' offseason moves, of which he was one of the most notable. "Whatever mission that may be, I don’t know, but we’re on a mission. That’s what it seems like." While Cooks might not say it yet, the mission is clear: To hoist the franchise's sixth Lombardi Trophy in February. Despite being one of the newest Patriots, Cooks appears to play an integral role in making it happen.