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John DeShazier: Saints receiver Brandin Cooks smoothly bridging the gap from college to pros

Rookie excited to play his first NFL game Friday

Photos of rookie WR Brandin Cooks at 2014 New Orleans Saints Training Camp presented by Verizon. (New Orleans Saints photos)

White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. – Brandin Cooks doesn't mind talking about his job, but the New Orleans Saints' rookie receiver would much rather just do his job.

The problem for Cooks is that he has done his job so well in training camp at The Greenbrier resort, it's been virtually impossible for him not to be asked to talk about it, especially after last Saturday's Black and Gold scrimmage in which he stood above the standouts.

"My faith in God," Cooks said, explaining the humility. "No matter how well I'm doing in football or in life, I continue to remain humble."

It's a character trait that seems to flow throughout the Saints' receiving corps. From the top of the food chain (Marques "Quiet Storm" Colston) to the bottom of the ladder, there isn't a blatant self-promoter in the bunch.

But the absence of bellicosity doesn't parallel the talent level, especially with Cooks in the mix.

Saturday's scrimmage featured an outstanding grab at the goal line between two defenders, and a quick reception on the sideline that he turned into a touchdown with a juke that left his opponent sliding out of bounds and him with nothing but grass in front of him.

"I felt like I did all right," Cooks said. "Some of the things I've got to work on are little things but as far as catching the ball and running routes, I feel like I did a pretty good job of that and I've just got to continue to learn and build."

Cooks said his learning curve includes improving his blocking, adjusting to how defenses will play him and getting accustomed to coverages.

"Guys at this level, they can disguise a little bit better than college," he said.

But he has a cadre of mentors that is formidable, including receivers Colston and Robert Meachem, and cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Keenan Lewis.

"Guys like Champ and Keenan Lewis, I can tell the difference in how they played me the first couple of days and now," he said. "And that's helping me as a player, because I've got to fix other things and work on my craft in different areas.

"I find myself going to (the veteran receivers), and they're coming to me. Guys like Colston, Robert Meachem, I continue to learn from those guys because, obviously, I have a lot to work on and they've been in this game for a really long time. After every practice, I come up to them and ask them what I did and what I did wrong."

It's that kind of willingness that the Saints were hoping they were getting in Cooks, along with his game-altering ability. Add in the fact that he's a quick study – he pretty much is up to speed on the playbook even though, due to school obligations, he was unable to be in New Orleans for much of the offseason workouts – and he has been a rare rookie package.

"He's consistent, and that's what we look for more than anything else, the consistency in which you do things," Saints receivers coach Henry Ellard said. "And he's done a great job of learning the playbook, and not making a lot of mistakes, and when an opportunity presents itself of going out and making plays.

"That's always the biggest thing, how well can they pick up the playbook? Because the more you know, the more comfortable you are. But he was a student of the game, where he was studying that playbook. He knows a lot of stuff we're doing. You would have thought he would have been through the whole offseason program, the way he's kind of picked things up. He has done a nice job.

"I think the sky is the limit when it comes to him, and he has proven that point by being out on the field, doing it day in and day out, and staying healthy."

Cooks smoothly has bridged the gap from college to pros so far.

"I feel good," he said. "I mean, it's football. So I just come out here and have fun and do what I do best, and be a play-maker and learn from older guys and stick around guys like Drew (Brees). I feel like I'll be all right doing that.

"They're just telling me to keep up the work, keep working hard, don't get complacent, this team is going places and I'm going to help them. Just continue to work."

The next phase of the work comes Friday, when Cooks plays his first preseason NFL game in St. Louis.

"I'm extremely excited just to be able to have this opportunity that I've dreamed of my whole life," he said. "It's right around the corner."

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