Pressure Cook-er: VY says Titans TE can rise to top
Pressure keeps sneaking up on tight end Jared Cook. It never has been his idea.
He came to the Titans with the weight of expectations already heaped upon him because the organization traded a 2010 second-round pick to move up and draft him during the third round in 2009.
[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=Jared+Cook&iid=7502767″ src=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/7502767/tennessee-titans-seattle/tennessee-titans-seattle.jpg?size=500&imageId=7502767″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]Cook (6-5, 246) was the talk of training camp and the preseason a year ago. He led the Titans in receptions (17) and yards (159) in the preseason. No one else even had 10 catches.
But it didn’t translate to the regular season. He was slowed by an ankle injury in the fourth preseason game. He had trouble blocking. He had trouble catching.
Cook finished his rookie year with just nine receptions for 74 yards. The dreaded “bust” word could be heard in the local media.
But no one at Baptist Sports Park is ready to give up on him yet. Unwittingly, though, Vince Young heaped more pressure on him after a recent practice. The quarterback was just trying to be nice.
“He’s a special tight end,” Young said. “He’s getting better and better. The speed and the height and the hands and the long arms that he has … he’s gonna make a lot of plays when he gets more comfortable in the offense. He’s gonna be one of those top tight ends like Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez, in that bracket, because he can go outside one-on-one with a cornerback, free safety, anything because of his size.”
Gates and Gonzalez have had more catches in single games than Cook had last season. Gonzalez is a first-ballot Hall of Famer whose next catch in the league will be his 1,000th. Gates probably needs only another season or two at his current pace to be considered the same.
Cook is just one year out of South Carolina, and he left early to enter the draft. He turned 23 in April. He’s neither Gates nor Gonzalez. Few are. He was floored when informed Young had mentioned him the same breath with them.
“Man, that’s big. For him to say that, that’s big,” Cook said. “As long as I do what I need to do and work hard I can be in a class with those guys eventually. Those are my goals.”
“It’s cool. … OK, actually maybe it’s a little bit of pressure,” Cook said. “I really appreciate that he thinks highly of me and that he can see that. Hopefully I can build a lot of confidence in a lot of people and not let them down.”
Every team would love to have a tight end who can stretch the field. Bo Scaife is not a field-stretcher. His career per-catch average is 9.6 yards.
Maybe Cook can start to put it together. There have been times during OTAs where he flashes what Young is talking about. Cook is a big target who can run with just about any tight end in the league. Now it’s about learning the nuances of the offense, and being able to block well enough to keep the coaching staff happy.
If you can’t play tight end and block then you’re not going to see the field a lot for a Jeff Fisher-coached team.
“Blocking was not something he was accustomed to doing in college,” Fisher said. “He has done well with it (during recent OTAs), and we hope it translates over because we haven’t been in pads yet.
“Training camp is gonna be real important for him from that standpoint. As a receiver he’s got all the skills.”
Cook believes he is better acclimated.
“It’s your second year,” he said. “You know the system. You know the coaches and what they expect of you. It’s a lot easier transition than your rookie year when you only spend 2-3 months with the guys before the season is on you.”
Jared Cook’s second season is about to be upon him. Only time will tell if he can go from just plain bust to joining the likes of Gonzalez and Gates with bronze busts in Canton, Ohio.
Something in between probably would suit the Titans just fine.