It wasn’t what Jared Cook would consider a breakthrough performance Sunday.
But encouraging? His four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown – all season highs for the 2018 Pro Bowl tight end, who’s in his first season with the New Orleans Saints – was a sign that the arrow is pointing in the right direction.
Cook’s 9-yard touchdown catch from Teddy Bridgewater, with 32 seconds left in the second quarter, gave the Saints the lead for good in their 31-24 victory over Tampa Bay. And it helped Cook achieve his highest level of comfort as a Saint.
“I had a lot of productivity in the pass and the run game, but I know I can still be better,” said Cook, who has 12 receptions for 131 yards this season. “I got a lot of plus-minuses on my grade sheet, and I know I can still get better off some little things. That’s kind of what keeps me hungry, those are things that I can improve on being a big portion of this offense.”
And make no mistake: The Saints – 4-1 and leading the NFC South Division – want Cook to be a big part of the offense.
Drew Brees is ready to get back out on the field with his teammates. However, the New Orleans Saints quarterback likes what he’s seeing in his team as he continues to rehab his injured thumb. Brees was recently on WWL Radio and he evaluates the team the last three weeks.
“I’m extremely proud,” Brees said. “I’ve had a chance to sit back [and watch] from a different perspective than I’ve ever been in and really watch the team grow and be strengthened from within.”
This past Sunday, the Saints took on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and they came away with a 31-24 win. Backup QB Teddy Bridgewater threw for 314 yards and four touchdowns while completing over 74 percent of his passes.
“He did a great job all day of making great reads, getting the ball out on time, Brees said. “You’re just seeing the product of what we get to see every week with Teddy.”
Brees also gave credit to wide receiver Michael Thomas who caught 11 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday.
“That’s a great security blanket,” Brees said while laughing. “Michael Thomas is just one of those guys that, if he’s sees singled [in coverage], he feels like he’s going to win. You feel like he’s going to win. So there’s just a ton of confidence throwing to the guy.”
In the Saint’s second game of the season against the Los Angles Rams, Brees injured his right thumb. He had surgery on the thumb in L.A. a few days later and he’s projected to miss six weeks. However, Brees was recently seen on the field throwing a football, so it’s possible he could be back at the end of the month.
But based on the way the Saints are playing right now and what Brees had to say about the team, they don’t have to rush their star quarterback back into action. in three games Bridgewater has been a steady hand, throwing for 370 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and completing 73 percent of his passes during that span. And because of the play of Bridgewater and the rest of the Saints, they have a 4-1 record and they are in first place in the NFC South. By this rate, the Saints could win the division for the third consecutive season.
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“Just measuring receptions, touchdowns – he had some big plays,” Coach Sean Payton said. “I feel like, and I felt like heading into that game, we’ve got to continue to look at ways to get him the ball. And he and Teddy hooked up on a handful; the touchdown going in was significant.
“He’s a big target, he’s got a really good grasp as to what we’re doing in the passing game, and so we’ve just got to continue to look at ways to feature him. And oftentimes, he’s opposite of (receiver) Mike (Thomas), so sometimes that goes hand in hand – if Mike’s drawing a cloud, there’s probably going to be opportunities for him opposite of where Mike is.”
The attention drawn by Thomas (11 catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns against Tampa Bay, a league-leading 45 catches for 543 yards and three touchdowns this season) is helpful. So, too, is the fact that Cook’s role didn’t much change even after the injury to Drew Brees.
Now, it’s just a matter of getting the right defensive looks to take advantage of.
“It’s pretty much been the same,” he said. “The offense, I think it’s changed a little bit, of course, since you have somebody else under center. But I think my role has been pretty consistent. I just go out there and try to do whatever they ask of me to the best of my ability.
“Sometimes you get different, funky looks that you don’t practice all week, or the defense might show you something different than you’ve been practicing all week. But that’s the best thing that us as players to try to do, is be consistent, and just do what the coaches ask you to do and do what you’ve been practicing to do all week.”