HOUSTON -- Brandin Cooks has played for four teams in his seven NFL seasons. Learning to play with a new quarterback -- a position that will look much different this season for the Houston Texans -- isn’t new territory for the wide receiver.
It’s that experience with different offenses, Cooks said, that has taught him how to bring his “expertise to the game,” while also being able to listen to what his quarterback likes and “adjust and be able to get on the same page.”
“I feel like I’ve always had a new quarterback, every other year,” Cooks said. “So for me, what I always tell guys is, finding out what your quarterback likes, molding into that, but also bringing your signature to the game.
“Because of all of the offenses I’ve played in, to be able to just mold into any offense and continue to perform at a high level, I take that seriously. And whatever I’m asked to do, I’m going to do to be able to help this offense to succeed the best that we can.”
In his seven seasons, Cooks has more than 1,000 receiving yards in five of them. Last season for the Texans, he had 81 catches for 1,150 yards, leading the team in both categories. Since then, speedy receiver William Fuller V left in free agency to sign with the Miami Dolphins, Randall Cobb was traded to the Green Bay Packers and quarterback Deshaun Watson -- who demanded a trade and currently faces 22 lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct -- won’t be Houston’s starting quarterback, barring a massive change.
Now, as Cooks enters Year 8, the receivers room looks different and he is undeniably the teams’ No. 1 receiver. In 2020, Cooks played with Watson, who had the best season of his career, and for a team that trailed for an average of 32 minutes and 39 seconds per game, according to Elias Sports Bureau -- the sixth most in the NFL. Because of this, the Texans needed to rely on their passing game. Houston ran 620 offensive plays while trailing (eighth most in the league) and were losing at halftime in 10 of their 16 games in 2020.
While that may still be the case in terms of the Texans trailing, they’re also going from Watson to Taylor. He has not started more than three games in a season since 2017, when he was with the Buffalo Bills. And though Watson and Taylor have different skill sets, Cooks said the change isn’t as challenging as one might think.
“Obviously, we know Deshaun is explosive, but at the same time, Tyrod [Taylor] has been playing in this league for a long time and that’s for a reason,” Cooks said. “He’s very smart, the way that he’s precise in his throws. He brings a different signature to the game, but I still will say in a great way for this offense.”
Taylor, who said he’s known Cooks for several years from working out together in San Diego, feels the two are on the same page.
“I’ve always respected his game from afar, and to see him work day in and day out has definitely been something that's very impressive,” Taylor said. “He's a very smart, talented man. He's played a lot of football. We see things the same way a lot, but just continue to keep picking his brain and continue to keep building chemistry with him.”
Although only 27 -- and not the oldest person (that would be 33-year-old Andre Roberts) in the receivers room, he was quick to point out -- Cooks has taken on a leadership role within that group. Rookie receiver Nico Collins said he spends practice picking Cooks’ brain, taking tips from him on everything from football to releases to learning “small things all around to become a better receiver.”
“He is a true pro, and he’s been a great example for the whole room with his work ethic and how he takes care of his body,” wide receivers coach Robert Prince said. “... He does every rep with intent.
“He’s gotten a lot of experience. He’s been at places that have done it right, and so for him to bring some of those experiences, that’s been great. ... When your best guy wants to be coached, it helps develop the room and the culture of the room.”