Just last week, the Packers’ offensive-minded coach spent part of his time during the NFC coaches breakfast at the annual league meetings discussing the virtues of two-tight-end sets and raved about the New England Patriots' trade for Martellus Bennett, whom they plan to pair with Rob Gronkowski.
“That’s where the matchups are,” McCarthy said. “I think what New England did with the two tight ends, that’s probably as good as a personnel transaction I’ve seen as far as [a] pure matchup. Defensive coordinators right now are [asking], ‘How do you cover both of those guys? Who’s going to be displaced? Who’s not?’ That’s why the tight-end position and the safety position in today’s NFL is a prominent position in my view.”
Don’t confuse Cook and Richard Rodgers for Bennett and Gronkowski, but the Packers might be able to do some of what McCarthy thinks the Patriots have planned for their two tight ends.
“I mean, yeah, absolutely,” Cook said. “I’ve been always been with other tight ends that turned out to be great players. I was with Alge Crumpler, Bo Scaife, Craig Stevens. Me and Lance Kendricks made it happen in St. Louis. I don’t think that’s necessarily a problem co-existing.
“I think New England kind of proved that with [Aaron] Hernandez and Gronk. For me, [Rodgers] knows the offense, he knows the system, he knows what’s going on. It’s for me to get in and learn everything and essentially catching up with him and what he knows.”
In Cook, the Packers added a much faster tight end than they had in Rodgers. The 6-foot-5 Cook has the ability to run away from defenders. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he has averaged 4.98 yards after catch per reception in his career. Rodgers’ two-year NFL average is just 3.63. Cook’s career average is nearly 13 yards per catch, while Rodgers’ is just under 9.5.
The Packers haven’t been heavy on two-tight-end sets the past three seasons. They ranked tied for 30th, tied for 29th and tied for 30th in snaps with multiple tight ends in 2013, 2014 and 2015, respectively. However, in 2011 and 2012 -- when they had a healthy Jermichael Finley -- they ranked 18th in the NFL in snaps with multiple tight ends on the field.
Given how McCarthy said he wants to attack the middle of the field, don’t be surprised if he uses both Cook and Rodgers in that area.
“Let’s be honest, the middle of the field is open now,” McCarthy said. “League rules. Big people running down the middle of the field, I’ll make no secret about it. I think that’s a key to offensive success, whether that’s a big receiver or big tight end or a big man running down the middle of the field, making those safeties cover you. It’s an important part of playing in today’s NFL.”