Saints looking to use Jared Cook in Jimmy Graham's mold

Yahoo Sports Contributor
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Tight end <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/9353/" data-ylk="slk:Jared Cook">Jared Cook</a> (left) hopes he can build off his first Pro Bowl season. (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)
Tight end Jared Cook (left) hopes he can build off his first Pro Bowl season. (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

Ever since the New Orleans Saints traded Jimmy Graham in 2014, the team has been looking for a replacement.

They’ve tried Ben Watson, Coby Fleener, Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui to no avail, but the Saints are hoping they’ve found their guy in Jared Cook.

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The free agent signee just reached his first Pro Bowl last season at 31 with the Oakland Raiders, and the Saints are ready — if nothing else — to call some of their favorite plays for Cook that they ran with Graham.

“The base is already here, the foundation for that is already here because they had a guy like (Graham),” tight ends coach Dan Campbell said, via The Times-Picayune. “Look, we’ve already got what we need, we can brush off some of the stuff we’ve done before without any problem.”

Campbell raved about Cook’s size and speed, which has been evident since the Tennessee Titans selected him in the third round of the 2009 draft. He gives them options to run plays they never could with less athleticism.

“We’re going to do what (Cook) does best, we’re going to use those plays, but let’s see everything he can do,” Campbell said. “Let’s test him.”

Cook will be hard pressed to top the 1,099 yard average in Graham’s final four seasons with the Saints — or his league-leading 16 touchdowns in 2013 — but he can be a major upgrade for Drew Brees.

Besides Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, no Saints player topped 427 receiving yards or 46 receptions last season. Brees threw touchdown passes to a record 15 different receivers, but what he could really use are a handful of good, consistent options.

Cook reached career highs across the board with 68 receptions for 896 yards and six touchdown yards last year, but his numbers could improve under Brees. It’s somewhat concerning he only accumulated 30 catches for 377 yards with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in 2016, but Saints head coach Sean Payton knows how to leverage athletic tight ends better than most coaches.

“Gruden is a hell of a coach, too,” Campbell said. “That’s what he does. He’s looking. He wants to see, let’s stretch it and see how far we can go with this kid, let’s push the boundaries. I feel like we’ll do that with Jared, too.”

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