The 2019 season ended with Jared Cook riding a heater.
His 43 catches for 709 yards and nine touchdowns overall earned a spot on the NFC Pro Bowl team, but his two-month totals from November and December – 28 catches for 537 yards (19.2 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns in eight games, including an eight-snap, injury-shortened appearance against San Francisco – sizzled.
Cook still hasn't totally moved past thinking what might have been if he'd been healthy and on the same page with quarterbacks Drew Brees and Teddy Bridgewater all year in his first season with the New Orleans Saints.
"There are still some plays on the film that haunt me and of course, we're still going back over those plays, and running through them, but they're still plays that haunt me that I still wish I could have back," Cook said. "So it's still, you know, learning from those, talking through them, getting the report, getting on the same page. Because it's a lot different when you're going through a season – you're on to the next week, you don't have a lot of time to just sit there and reflect.
"But now, we have that time. So we're doing that. And, you know, hopefully this season will be a lot different, being that me and Drew do have a full season together and more time. So it's just working through those things and (working to) continue to get better."
Just how different it could be, is an enticing prospect for the Saints.
Cook's emergence – and Brees' return from a torn thumb ligament – coincided with New Orleans' offense taking off. The Saints averaged 32.9 points in the final eight games, and were 6-2 during that stretch.
The familiarity gained figures to be beneficial.
"Being I was here last year, it's a lot easier than coming in fresh off the street," Cook said. "So now, Drew knows how I run routes, he knows the indicators that I give and you know that helps quite a bit in gaining with your quarterback.
"So hopefully this year we're a few steps ahead than last year and we can pick up a lot better. We've kind of felt that so far in practice, and hopefully it just continues to get better. And once the games start, it just continues to grow and hit a lot faster than last year."
Cook, due to safety precautions, wasn't able to participate in individual work with Brees during the offseason. His priority, he said, was to keep his family safe and to make sure he returned in peak physical condition.
Undeniably, the 6-foot-5, 254-pound, 12-year veteran is a matchup problem for defenders.
"I think he is a beast," Saints safety Marcus Williams said. "I think he goes out there and competes every single day. He is just a monster.
"He is going to go up over anybody and go up and get the ball. He is going to make those tough plays. He's going to block, do what you asked him to do. He's not selfish. He just he just a team guy all around, he talks to everybody and he makes us all better."
Cook is seeking to make himself better today by correcting the mistakes of yesterday. There's specificity in the details of fine-tuning, so that plays that were missed hopefully won't be missed again.
"It was a couple in the Atlanta game (six catches, 74 yards for Cook) that me and Drew missed each other on," he said. "We talked about those early this past week, and kind of cleared the air. And it's just plays like that.
"There was one early in the Tampa Bay game (four catches, 41 yards and a touchdown) where Teddy (Bridgewater) overthrew me. There was another one in the Seattle game (one catch for seven yards, on two targets).
"It's just continually going over plays and talking through them, and making sure that you never make the same mistake twice. Now, how do you grow from last year to this year? And continue with that same mentality of not making the same mistakes, so it is just going over and revisiting. It sucks to revisit, that's like the worst part, but it makes you better forward."
Head inside Saints Training Camp practice as our players, coaches and staff take the field to prepare for the 2020 NFL season.