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New Orleans Saints program cover story - Brandin Cooks

Second-year receiver has made fast impact with Saints

As fast as Brandin Cooks is now – and these days, he moves faster than a rumor on Twitter – and as sudden as he likely was even at the age of 9, some processes can't be rushed. But, perhaps, the wait makes the conclusion even more satisfying.

"You can't explain it. You really can't explain it. You can't explain it," he said, almost floored by the thought.

But if Cooks almost remains floored, imagine how his mother, Andrea Cooks, still feels after the son who rewarded her with a Mercedes courtesy of the $100,000 he was paid by Adidas for running the fastest 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine while wearing their cleats, raised his game and bought her a house.

"My family was my drive, and the way we grew up as an intermediate family, me and my brothers and my mom," said Cooks, who grew up in Stockton, Calif., and whose mother singularly raised him and his two brothers after his father died from a heart attack. "I was trying to get out for my family and my future one that I (will) have.

"I bought my mom a car. I got her a house. I remember telling her one day I was going to take care of her – I was probably about 9 years old. They laughed and laughed and 11, 12 years later, it happened. So it was just one of those feelings that you cannot explain, to see the emotion that she had."

Fast forward – emphasis on "fast" – and Cooks, in his second season, is expected to be one of the caretakers of the New Orleans Saints' offense.

Since Coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees arrived in 2006, New Orleans has produced a decade-long stretch of offensive production that will rival any 10-year period of production in NFL history – five times leading the league in yards per game, twice leading it in scoring, never finishing out of the top 10 in offense.

Before breaking his thumb and missing the final six regular-season games of 2014, Cooks showed flashes of being a cornerstone offensive player, especially in his final four games.

In them, he caught 19 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns, with his two longest receptions of the year (50 and 40 yards). In his other six games, he caught 34 passes for 278 yards and a touchdown, with a long of 32. And his lone rushing touchdown came in those final four games.

But that taste is nothing compared to the meal Cooks wants to serve to Saints opponents this season.

"Last year I just felt like going in, I was trying to find my role," he said. "I was trying to find what my strengths would be at this level. Now it's more of just going out there and being the best receiver. That's my mind-set. I worked like it this offseason and that's what I'm going to try to do."

"Well, obviously, with what we saw in the preseason games and throughout the offseason, (he) really did some special things," offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael said. "We are really excited about the opportunities that he is going to have and I am looking forward to it being special."

He's had two significant contributors to his drive for improvement. First, new receiver coach John Morton has been a stickler for details and, particularly, refining technique.

"It's day and night," Cooks said of his technique improvement. "(Morton) pays attention to the little details that I never paid attention to. We watch a ton of film. He's so big on technique so I'm definitely a lot more polished than what I was last year."

Second, he had a summer school class with Ravens receiver Steve Smith Sr., a notorious thorn in New Orleans' side during Smith's 13 seasons as a division rival with the Carolina Panthers.

Smith, a smallish receiver (5 feet 9, 195 pounds) similar to Cooks (5-10, 189) showed his pupil how he has survived and thrived (915 career receptions, 13,262 yards and 73 touchdowns) in the big-man NFL.

"He's got that chip on his shoulder," Cooks said of Smith. "I definitely watched a lot of film on him, how he used his size to his advantage and different things.

"I think everybody has been going bigger (at receiver) for the longest, but I don't pay any attention to that. I play my position. I'm tagged as a receiver so I'm going to show up and play big like a receiver, and that's my mind-set.

"These corners are getting bigger but they're still athletic. They have great feet like the smaller corners do, they just have a lot more length. So for me, I have to use my size to my advantage, being a smaller guy out there and playing to my strengths."

One of Cooks' developing strengths is to know when to use that 4.24-second, 40-yard dash speed. Sometimes, he said, haste will result in running into coverage.

"That's another area that I have to understand, that everything can't be 100 mph," he said. "And I'm learning that. We've got a coach that's helping me with that."

And Cooks has proven he can accomplish great things when he's focused on the task, no matter how long it takes. He looks forward to being a primary target – perhaps, the primary target – this season for Brees.

"The quarterback we have, he can put balls in spots that not a lot of people can," Cooks said. "We have a coach that knows how to scheme, knows how to make a gameplan for that. And for myself, it's just a matter of getting open. That's what it's all about."

Associated Press photos of WR Brandin Cooks at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine.

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