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Saints' Brandin Cooks calls 1,138-yard season 'OK,' expects more

METAIRIE, La. -- Brandin Cooks went on a tear over the second half of last season. But the New Orleans Saints receiver said he is “extremely confident and extremely excited” that 2015 was just the beginning.

“Last year was an OK season in my book. I left a lot of meat out there on the bone,” Cooks said, according to the Saints’ website. “For that to be a 1,000-yard season, I’m so excited about what I can do this year from just getting smarter as a player, knowing how defenses are going to cover me.”

Cooks, who was a first-round draft pick in 2014, finished his sophomore season with 84 catches for 1,138 yards and nine touchdowns.

But he really started to break out over the final nine games, when he caught eight TDs and had four games with 100-plus yards from scrimmage.

Cooks, who doesn't turn 23 until September, is 5-foot-10, 189 pounds with blazing speed (he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds at the combine). He has always been great at catching a high volume of passes on shorter routes -- he led all rookies with 53 catches through 11 weeks in 2014 before he suffered a season-ending thumb injury.

But last year, Cooks and quarterback Drew Brees really started to develop a good rhythm on deep throws. Cooks had touchdown catches of 71, 60 and 54 yards during that second-half stretch.

Cooks’ leadership role is also continuing to grow. Even though he is just 22, he has taken over the Saints’ No. 1 receiver role on and off the field after the Saints released Marques Colston this offseason. The only receiver on the roster with more experience than Cooks is Vincent Brown, who signed with the team last month.

But Cooks doesn’t shy away from that leadership. He has been lauded by coaches and teammates for his maturity and work ethic since the moment he was drafted out of Oregon State.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say (my role) is changing,” Cooks said. “It just is what it is, continue to be who I am, work hard and be that natural-born leader. I’m young, but it’s funny because in a sense I have the most experience on the team.”