Can LA Rams WR Brandin Cooks stretch a field in 2020?

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

The LA Rams WR Brandin Cooks is a bit of an enigma for the team in 2020. Touted as a “stretch the field” receiver, he did everything but in 2019

The LA Rams were a little tight-fisted when it came to planning for the 2019 offensive line, but the team seemed to have an nearly endless supply of both funds and enthusiasm when a skill player was up for a new contract. And so it went that the Rams locked in WR Brandin Cooks to a long-term deal, and in return locked up the LA Rams until 2023 to the receiver.

The plan was sound. locking in a burst speed receiver to keep safeties locked into playing over the top plays, which would give teammate running back Todd Gurley fewer defenders. That type of speedy receiver need not be the target on a passing play, merely the threat of the deep pass is enough to counter any defensive plans to put eight defenders in the box.  But defenses have figured out the weakness to that strategy.

Cooks, as fast as he is, needs time to run 20+ yards downfield.  Speedy edge rushers need to rush just five to eight yards to get to quarterback Jared Goff. Through the 2018 season, Cooks was the faster of the two racers. But in 2019, edge rushers got the upper hand. In 2018, Cooks saw 989 offensive snaps, 117 targets, 80 catches and 1,204 yards. In 2019, Cooks saw just 701 offensive snaps, 72 targets, 42 catches and just 583 yards.

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In 2018, Cooks was targeted nearly 12 percent of the time, resulting in 10.3 yards per target, and 15 yards per reception.  In 2019, Cooks was targeted just 10.7 percent of the time, resulting in 8.1 yards per target and just 13.9 yards per catch.  Cooks production dropped across the board.

Making matters that much worse is the fact that Cooks dropped from 90 percent of the offensive snaps in 2018 to just 63 percent of the offensive snaps in 2019.   Not only did the Rams need to shorten the time for Cooks routes to develop, but the wide receiver was not on the field for nearly 40 percent of the offensive plays.

The concept is sound.  Wide receiver Brandin Cooks can stretch the  field if he can stay on the field and if the quarterback has time. Neither was the case in 2019.  So if the argument to keep a highly compensated Cooks on the Rams roster is primarily based on “we need him to stretch the field”, perhaps the Rams need to do a much better job in 2020 to ensure that truly is the case.

Next. Lookback at LA Rams 2019 NFL Draft results one year later. dark

Otherwise, why have Cooks on the roster earning nearly $17 million ?  That is much like buying a NASCAR racing car to keep in the garage. Fast players, like fast cars, are only valuable when they are moving quickly.