Jared Cook appears to catch nearly anything thrown at him.
And best of all for the Tennessee Titans, that appears to includes the playbook as well as the football.
Just a couple of weeks into training camp, the Titans appear almost giddy over the quick development of Cook, and the ways he can be used to jazz up a passing game that has flat-lined at times over the past few years.
While the 6-5, 250 pound Cook is far from a finished product as a rookie third-round pick, he is already drawing praise from onlookers and those whose opinions matter most — the man who calls the plays and the man who throws the football.
“I think it’s going to take him a little while, once we start the games and the speed,” offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger said. “But he’s done a great job with everything we’ve given him. It’s going to be a process over the year, because the speed of the game is different and some of the things he’s going to see are different. I think he’s getting into football shape, so I can see it taking a little bit of time, but he’s really done a good job with everything.”
Quarterback Kerry Collins is excited at what Cook brings to the offense as well.
“He’s a guy who’s asking questions and is learning from his mistakes. If he can do that as a rookie, with as much as we’re asking him to do, I think it bodes well for his future,” Collins said.
The Titans thought so much of Cook’s abilities that they dealt next year’s second-round pick to New England to jump back into round three to select him with the 89th pick overall. Cook apparently slipped that far because of concerns about his blocking at the pro level, but the Titans had a high second-round grade on him and rated him one of the best tight ends in the draft.
While blocking will still be part of the equation, it probably won’t be his primary responsibility as mainly an H-back, rather than an on-line tight end. Cook indicated, too, that he is also learning some wide receiver sets as well.
“Basically, I’m learning two separate positions, but a lot of the stuff is tied in together,” said Cook, who indicated he has seen time at both tight end and wide receiver. “There’s two different positions, but the concepts tie everything into one, so it’s not too hard to learn.”
Collins likes the way Cook is catching on because with his size and 4.5-speed, he should be able create mismatches with that size/speed combination almost anywhere on the field.
“He definitely has the potential to help us. He is a big guy who can run, and he’s fast enough to get behind people,” Collins said. “We put him outside at wide receiver sometimes, and he’s holding his own against cornerbacks. I think he’s one of those guys we can use a lot of ways and create matchup problems and help stretch defenses.”
Heimerdinger wouldn’t admit that Cook is getting time as a wide receiver, but said as the H-back, the Titans can be creative in their use of him.
“It’s probably the nature of the H-back position. We square out the H-back sometimes. We split Bo [Scaife] out sometimes last year, and Jared will be split out at times as an H-back,” Heimerdinger said.
It is somewhat reminiscent of another player with a similar skill set that Heimerdinger knew while with the Denver Broncos – Shannon Sharpe. When asked if Cook has that sort of ability, Heimerdinger — normally not one given to easy praise — said the youngster could eventually compare similarly.
“Shannon lined up inside a lot and got some pretty good match-ups on linebacker,” Heimerdinger said. “That’s a pretty lofty comparison. Shannon was a pretty good football player, but both guys are similar. Eventually, I think you’d be able to do that with Jared, because he runs, he’s smart and he’s got a feel for things. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice, and once he becomes a vet and learns Shannon’s savvy, we’ll see if he can do what Shannon did.”
What about Sharpe’s ability to be quick-witted and quote-worthy?
“Nobody is as good a quote as Shannon. Shannon is the best quote ever. Shannon has had some classics,” Heimerdinger said.
And that is just fine with the quiet, easy-going Cook.
“I don’t know about that. I’m a little bit quieter. I’m a little bit more subtle,” Cook said. “I haven’t proven anything yet. I’m still a rookie and I haven’t even played the first game, so I’ll just stay humble.”