Drew Brees: Jared Cook a good fit in Saints offense

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  • By Jelani Scott NFL.com
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Behind the genius of head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints have crafted a recipe for success few teams in the league have matched over the last decade-plus.

But what happens when you add a Cook to the mix? That's the question "Who Dat Nation" has pondered this offseason since the team signed Pro Bowl tight end Jared Cook to a two-year deal in March. With OTAs underway, the 11-year veteran is eager to provide the answer with a group known for thriving with lethal options at his position.

"This has always been a tight end-friendly offense, and I thought it would be a great place for me to come and extend my career and come and shine," Cook said, via Nathan Brown of The New Orleans Advocate. "They were with Mike and Alvin [Kamara] a pretty potent 1-2 combo last year, and I thought I could come in and help Mike. And at the same time him help me and relieve some pressure off each other and make this a high-powered offense once again this year."

Pretty potent may actually be an understatement for the type of production wide receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara had in 2018. The tandem combined for 206 of the Saints' 381 catches -- Thomas led the NFL with 125 -- and 13 of their 33 receiving touchdowns.

Bringing in the 32-year-old Cook in the wake of veteran Benjamin Watson's departure should bring a boost the team has lacked at tight end since the Jimmy Graham era (2010-14). Similar to Graham, Cook brings a high level of consistency and versatility, something Brees has already taken notice of.

"I'd read a lot of good things about him before he got here, but he's certainly impressed us these first couple of days," Brees said. "He's got a great feel for the game, and I think he's going to fit very well in our offense.

"He's got great length, so he's got a big catch radius. You feel confident with those 50-50 balls. You feel like there's a lot of places where you can throw it where he can get it and the other guy can't. Anytime you have a target like that, you feel like that's a good matchup."

Since acquiring Brees prior to the 2006 season, the Saints have finished in the top-10 in total offense every year, including an eighth-place finish in that category in 2018. During Brees' 13 years in New Orleans, he's played with two Pro Bowl-caliber tight ends: Jeremy Shockey (2008-10) and Graham, who quickly became a force alongside Brees, totaling 386 catches for 4,752 yards and 51 TDs in four seasons.

Cook's 2018 performance positions him to be the latest addition to that group; he recorded 68 receptions for 896 yards and 6 touchdowns with the Oakland Raiders last year -- all career-highs.

Watson (74 catches, 825 yards, six TDs in 2015 and 35 catches, 400 yards, two TDs in 2018) and Coby Fleener (22 catches, 295 yards, two TDs in 2017) did their best to hold the position down in the years after Graham left for Seattle, but the team expects Cook to bring another dimension. In fact, Payton already seems to be smelling what Cook can whip up in this offense.

"What he did in Oakland is similar to a lot of the things we do formationally, and he's smart and he's got range," Payton said. "You see his route savviness and his ability to get in and out of cuts, and the best thing he does is run after the catch. That's tough to see when we're not in pads and tackling, but he's real good that way."

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