FRISCO, Texas -- Brandin Cooks is fast. Like, fast fast.
At the 2014 NFL scouting combine, he was timed at 4.33 seconds in the 40, the fastest receiver to run that day in Indianapolis. With the New Orleans Saints in 2016, he had a 98-yard touchdown catch against the Oakland Raiders, running by two defenders. Drew Brees’ pass traveled 27 yards. Cooks did the rest of the work. With the New England Patriots a year later against the Raiders, he had a 64-yard touchdown catch on a go-ball from Tom Brady.
In the past five seasons, he had 16 catches of at least 40 yards and another six of at least 36 yards.
“The speed is real,” said Cowboys receivers coach Robert Prince, who coached Cooks in 2021 with the Houston Texans.
Now in his first season with the Cowboys, Cooks turns 30 in September, and he is not about to battle his teammates to prove how fast he remains as he enters the 10th year of his career.
“Hey, I’m not going to speak for it,” Cooks said. “Maybe it is Turp. You never know. Maybe it might be CJ. We not going to find out because I’m not doing any racing.”
During the recent minicamp, Cooks showed just how fast he is, slicing through the Cowboys' secondary for a touchdown catch from Dak Prescott down the seam. Earlier, Prescott and Cooks just missed on a deep-ball connection.
If teammates doubted he still had the speed, well …
“I mean, you really never know until you know, you know?” Cooks said. “You had to give a little taste just to be like, ‘All right, it’s still there.’”
Prescott first saw it when Cooks showed up at his backyard field after the trade from the Texans for unofficial workouts. He saw it through the organized team activities and minicamp.
“Real speed. Runs the same way every time. I think that’s the most important thing,” Prescott said. “When you have speed like that, for him to be able to do it every play, every route, the start of every route, the cornerbacks, defense, they don’t know what they’re getting. It all looks the same.”
“Just the ability to jump out of their shoes and get on top of a corner,” McCarthy said.
With CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup in addition to Cooks, the Cowboys believe they have a receiver trio that can attack all parts of the field from different parts of the formation. McCarthy said even if defenses give Cooks a free release off the line of scrimmage, he will still be a downfield option for the quarterback.
“Not only the speed, but I think he's an exceptional route runner,” McCarthy said. “He has a great understanding of routes and time clocks, and specifics of getting in and out of breaks.”
Cooks’ impact goes beyond his speed. Lamb and Gallup said they have picked up small tricks of the trade Cooks has mastered while totaling six 1,000-yard seasons with four different franchises.
“I’m a visual learner and I’m just watching him as he runs his routes, the way he preps, the way he practices, how he goes about his business. I love each and every part of it,” Lamb said. “I mean, he’s a professional to a 'T'. My coach told me bringing him in will be the best thing for me and it is.”
Said Gallup, “He tells everybody, ‘When you are you're done with this, you're done with that, make sure you stretch. Make sure you do what you're supposed to do so you can stay in league as long as you possibly can.’ That's one of the biggest things right now. Football, that's going to be there. We got in the league for a reason. But he's over here talking about how you stay in the league.”
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer partly credited the strong offseason of second-year receiver Jalen Tolbert to Cooks’ arrival.
“What Jalen is going to tell you is he’s spent a ton of time with Brandin,” Schottenheimer said. “So here’s a guy who has been there, done that, and what Brandin wants to do is to encourage and invest in the younger guys, so those guys spend a lot of time together. I see them before practice in the weight room working together. What Brandin brings us is way more than just speed. Absolutely, it’s really fun to watch him run, whether it’s deep routes, short routes. It really doesn’t matter. But what I love is the competitor and the way he’s encouraging that entire room of receivers. It’s been awesome.”
Last season, the Cowboys had two receptions by receivers of at least 50 yards -- and Noah Brown and T.Y. Hilton, who caught them, are no longer on the roster. The Cowboys had 50 pass plays of 20 yards or more in 2022, down from the 63 they had in 2021. Prescott averaged 7.3 yards per attempt, the second-lowest rate of his career (6.8 yards in 2017).
The Cowboys believe Cooks can change that in 2023.
“It’s one thing to run fast,” Cooks said, “but [another] to be able to play fast.”