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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.