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The Film Room: Brandin Cooks (Part 2)

Brandin Cooks struggled late in 2019. Let’s see if we can find out why.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If you missed Part One, check it out here.

Game: Week 13 of 2019 against the Arizona Cardinals

Play: 2nd & 9 from AZ’s 43-yard line, 13:12 left in the 1st Quarter

Previous to this play, the Rams were using Brandin Cooks as a crossing decoy on screens or short curls and wasn’t the primary read. This is the first play Los Angeles used him as a traditional wide receiver sense, but he’s still a decoy. They send him on a 9 route and let him run. The purpose is to clear out the coverage for Robert Woods, which works as planned, but Goff could have let one loose to Cooks here.

He clears the coverage for R.Woods by taking two defenders
His elite speed actually gets him past the DB

This is Cooks’s third curl of the game, which is a route he didn’t run against Cleveland. The Rams don’t look his way on curls often. Sean McVay is using it as a gadget even though Cooks is open fairly often.

Here in the red zone, Cooks comes open with Goff looking at him, but the sitting linebacker makes Goff nervous, and he ends up throwing it at the crossbar out of the endzone. Deshaun Watson regularly makes this throw.

Cooks open in the endzone

Play: 1st & 10 from LA’s 34-yard line, 08:51 left in the 1st Quarter

The defensive back starts with a good cushion, but he’s not as eager to flip his hips as Cleveland’s defensive backs were. Look at the cushion disappear before the DB flips his hips.

Cushion at the start of the play, true man to man coverage
Cooks eats the cushion quickly
Gets to run side by side, DB feels good about position
Cooks mashes on the brakes to get the route win, but Gurley was wide open for the 20 yard gain

Arizona decided to play Cooks without help over the top and the defensive back played it will. Goff never looks at him.

Play: 1st & 10 from LA’s 19-yard line, 03:19 left in the 1st Quarter

Here’s Cooks’s main concern. Press coverage. This time, it’s Patrick Peterson. Cooks cannot get off him and into his route.

Patrick Peterson gets Cooks in his clamps
Peterson causes Cooks to stumble and he can’t run away
Peterson remains in his pocket, winning the route

Play: 2nd & 10 from LA’s 19-yard line, 03:15 left in the 1st Quarter

Patrick Peterson plays him man up and gets his hands on him again. Cooks can’t win quick enough. Cooks can beat Patrick Peterson in a race, but Peterson keeps him off the route long enough so Goff has to go elsewhere before waiting for Cooks to win. Peterson is still a great man to man corner and he shows it here.

Lined up without cushion
Gets the inside leverage and bumps Cooks off his route
Doesn’t allow Cooks to run away from him before Goff’s time is up. Clinic
Peterson makes his route 1 dimensional and removes his speed with the bump

The next play is more of the same. Arizona is doing what the Browns only tried once. They’re getting hands on him and not allowing his elite quickness and speed to get going. It’s working.

Manned up, no cushion
Clamps on to allow the CB back into a balanced position while Cooks is off balance
By the time Cooks could run away, it’s over, DB win

Play: 3rd & 3 from AZ’s 29-yard line, 00:42 left in the 1st Quarter

Like clockwork. The defensive back doesn’t get his hands on Cooks and he wins. It’s that simple.

Cushion and the DB never tries to press
Cooks has the DB stumbling. If Goff sees this, it’s 6. He doesn’t.

Play: 1st & 10 from LA’s 4-yard line, 10:43 left in the 2nd Quarter

Again, off-coverage and he wins the route. The pattern is clear.

Off coverage, no help over the top
Look at the separation at the top of the route
If the ball is on time, this is another win by Cooks. The ball never comes

Play: 3rd & 5 at LA’s 27, 01:28 left in the 2nd Quarter

Finally, he wins against press, and this should have turned into six. How he wins is what’s important. He has decisive movement to the outside, and keeps the defensive back at arm’s length, using quickness and speed instead of hand-fighting.

Cooks has been holding the L when the D gets on him at the line
Cooks attacks the press with a plan, he keeps the DB on his heels at arm’s length and uses the space outside instead of squaring up to the DB
Once he gets level, he turns on the jets and any other contact would be holding or PI. Could have been 6
Attacks the DB with a plan and wins

Here’s another play where the press knocks him off his route. He wins, but it’s too late into the route to have Goff attempt a pass his way.

Takes too long to beat the press

The rest of the game is more of the same. Curls where Cooks isn’t targeted, press where he takes too long to win, or off coverage where he does win. However, much like in Part One, Jared Goff doesn’t find him. The Arizona Cardinals chose to let other receivers beat them in this game, and those other wideouts did. The cost of taking Cooks out of the game was giving up 34 points to other threats.

This is why Cooks isn’t viewed as being on the same level as Julio Jones, Mike Evans, or (gasp) DeAndre Hopkins. He hasn’t shown that he’ll beat press man with help over the top like a true number one wide receiver. For the Texans’ sake, like the Rams, if someone doubles down on Cooks like Arizona did - they must use that attention to get other threats the ball. Certainly, we can all agree that’s the plan on paper. but can the Texans accomplish it? That remains to be seen.

Follow me on Twitter @RJMetzger1, where I’ll be breaking down Texans film every week of the 2020 NFL season.