WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- The star of the New Orleans Saints' scrimmage on Saturday?
The same guy who has been the star of their entire camp -- rookie receiver Brandin Cooks.
Somehow, the dynamic playmaker keeps managing to top himself with each passing day. Among his other highlights on Saturday, Cooks torched cornerback Rod Sweeting with a sharp cut for a touchdown of about 25-30 yards, leaped up to reel in a deep ball behind cornerback Patrick Robinson at the 1-yard line and broke a big gain on a kickoff return.
Unofficially, Cooks caught a total of six passes (some against the first-string defense and some against the second-stringers).
Unfortunately Cooks wasn’t available for interviews following the scrimmage. But he left enough of an impression to allow the scarred defenders to speak for him:
“Obviously today we were going against our offense, so I was quite upset. But it’s an amazing thing to watch. He’s everything we expected him to be so far.” -- outside linebacker Junior Galette.
“I’m glad he’s my teammate. I never want to see him catch a ball, but when he does catch a ball it’s pretty special. You can’t say enough about that speed. I always say it seems like he gets shot out of rockets when he gets the ball in his hands.” -- linebacker Curtis Lofton.
“He’s zero to sixty. Real fast. ... When he gets the ball in his hands, he’s dangerous. ... A bunch of people were saying, 'I hope I don’t have to cover the guy.' The people who were covering him were saying, 'Bring me a little help.' He’s a great young player, he will do well.” -- linebacker David Hawthorne.
Obviously it must be stressed that expectations shouldn’t soar too high for Cooks based on a couple weeks’ worth of training camp highlights -- especially in a deep Saints offense that likes to spread the ball around.
But it really has been remarkable how consistent and versatile Cooks has been. He has thrived by flashing his speed and quickness, as well as his ball-catching ability and instincts.
The other day, quarterback Drew Brees raved about the way Cooks can do a little bit of everything.
“He’s explosive," Saints coach Sean Payton said Saturday, "and a guy that if you can get the ball to him in space, he has a chance to give you some run after the catch. And he did that. You’ve just got to keep working with him on a lot of the nuances and specifics with the passing game. It was good to see him make a few plays.”
Making plays is nothing new for the 5-foot-10, 189-pound Cooks, who put up monster numbers at Oregon State last season (128 catches, 1,730 yards, 16 touchdowns) before posting some monster measurables at the NFL scouting combine (4.33 seconds in the 40-yard dash).
And Payton said he’s not worried about Cooks getting a big head over his early success because of his makeup -- another outstanding trait the Saints raved about when they traded up to draft Cooks with the 20th overall pick.
“Most of these young players, these rookies, understand how much they have to get up to speed with and where they’re behind. Every one of them has a lot of work to do, including Brandin,” Payton said. “If you’re around him long enough, I think you get a sense from him that he understands that. I think it’s a process, and we’re really just completing the first week of it.”