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Science Lab: Cooks can make NFL history in '23


FRISCO, TX — Unbeknownst to his parents at the time, Brandin Cooks inheriting that last name would end up being prophetic. As it turns out, every NFL defense he goes up against, he cooks, and we're talking with a full apron over an open fire.

You can bet your prize bull that quarterback Dak Prescott is drooling at the chance to add the former first-round pick to a recipe that's been dubbed the “Texas Coast Offense” — a variation of the West Coast offense, but with tweaks to come from head coach Mike McCarthy and newly-installed offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

And having now hired two highly-respected analytics minds in mid-June to aid them in their quest, namely Sarah Mallepalle and John Park, the aroma emanating from the kitchen in Dallas is tantalizingly delicious.

What's odd about it all, however, is the sudden narrative that alleges Cooks might've lost a step, or that he's "washed" but, if anything, he looked dry cleaned in OTAs and minicamp.

The 60-yard bomb from Prescott to Cooks to conclude Day 2 of minicamp, on a go route down the left sideline that saw not one, but two, defensive backs gapped like the incisors on Michael Strahan for a touchdown in stride, disproves that accusation — easily.

"You saw [his speed]," said Prescott. "It's beautiful."

The adoration is mutual.

"[Dak] can throw any ball," said Cooks.

It all hints at what's likely to come from Cooks in a Cowboys' uniform. But in order to know where one is going, you must first understand from whence one came, and the 29-year-old touts one of the most impressive statistical resumes in league history and, quiet as it might be kept, is also the leader among all active wideouts in number of 1,000-yard seasons produced.

He has six in his first nine tries, and that's despite being well-traveled (i.e., having to quickly pick up a new offense and establish chemistry with a new quarterback in short order).

If he racks up just one 1,000-yard season with the Cowboys, he'll surpass Brandon Marshall as the only player in NFL history to have done so with five different teams.

That's metahuman behavior, along with the fact he's still clearly fast enough to enter the Speed Force to defeat any older versions of himself.

Cooks produced 2,311 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns in his final two seasons with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints (the team that selected him 20th-overall in 2014 after trading up to grab him) in tandem with Michael Thomas, the latter being a 1,000-yard receiver himself during that stretch.

He then gave 1,082 receiving yards and seven touchdowns to Tom Brady alongside peak Rob Gronkowski, the two acting as a one-two punch for the New England Patriots in 2017 after Bill Belicheck traded multiple picks, including a 2017 first-rounder, to acquire Cooks via trade.

From there he'd suit up for the Los Angeles Rams, who sent a package that included a first-round pick, and I'm sure you're picking up on a few themes at this point — one being how costly it was to acquire Cooks each time he was moved.

And those who'd point at Brees and Brady as the primary reason for Cooks' success would need to explain why he was able to produce 1,204 receiving yards and five touchdowns with Jared Goff under center during the 2018 run to the Super Bowl.

That was despite Robert Woods leading the team with 1,219 receiving yards and six touchdowns, or the fact Cooper Kupp also added six touchdowns to the offense's bottom line.

Next came the Houston Texans who, you guessed it, sent a premium pick away (2020 second-round pick) to obtain his services and paired him with Deshaun Watson; Cooks going up for 1,150 receiving yards and six touchdowns with Will Fuller and Randall Cobb as his complements.

In 2021, he produced another 1,037 receiving yards and six touchdowns for the Texans but with Davis Mills (!!) as quarterback and no other player on the roster having earned more than three touchdowns over the course of 17 games — en route to a 3-13-1 record.

And through it all, Cooks has been on the field for exactly 89.2% of his career (116 of a possible 130 games), and enters the 2023 season as one of the most durable players in the entire league, one who also averages 13.1 yards per touch for his career and who can play in all three WR positions.

The Cowboys acquired this player for a … fifth-round pick.

There are a few themes you might have picked up on as it relates to Cooks, the prevailing one being his ability to swiftly become a factor on any offense with little lead-in time.

"Honestly, it's something I don't think about just because, I mean, if you love football and you love ball, it's pretty easy to pick up the playbook," he said this offseason. "I truly never thought about that. I just pick up the playbook, learn it, and keep pushing."

Another obvious thread present in all of this is how, no matter what sandbox you drop him in, Cooks tends to play well with others, i.e., other receivers.

From Michael Thomas and Rob Gronkowski in their prime to the best version of Robert Woods and a progressing Cooper Kupp, Cooks has demonstrated his mesh with top wideouts, seamlessly, and now he joins a Cowboys offense headlined by CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup — two fellow former 1,000-yard receivers.

And the last time Prescott had three of those at his disposal, he was in the MVP conversation with 4,449 yards and 37 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions (2021), when Amari Cooper was in the building.

Is that good? Seems good.

"I think his mindset that he brings to the game," Cooks said of Prescott. "You hear about his approach, his work ethic, the leader that he is, his story, his perseverance that he bounced back throughout his career. I think when you get a mindset like that at quarterback, it takes you a long way. I look forward to having a leader like that."

And so it begins: a mostly unpredictable "Texas Coast Offense" dominated by speed, versatility and, most importantly, chemistry that is on full display in a variety of ways, both on and off of the field for a unit (inclusive of tight ends and running backs) that … on paper … looks undoubleteamable.

Yes, new word. Just go with it.

Cooks adds a dimension to the offense that even Cooper couldn't, one that's literally not been present since the days of the late Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens in 2006. Getting excited is absolutely warranted here, if you objectively peek into the Cowboys' kitchen this summer.

If you don't believe me, just follow your nose.

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