FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys knew they were getting a jolt in their deep threat department when they traded a couple late-round draft picks (a 2023 fifth-rounder and a 2024 sixth-rounder) to the Houston Texans in exchange for wide receiver Brandin Cooks. He's one of only seven players in the entire league since 2014, when Cooks entered the NFL, with over 8,500 receiving yards (8,616) and over 45 receiving touchdowns (49). Alongside Cooks in that exclusive club is Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, free agent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs, and Antonio Brown.
"It's different," Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said at Cowboys minicamp Thursday when asked about Cooks' speed. "Not only the speed, but I think he's an exceptional route-runner. He has a great understanding of routes, time clocks, and specifics of when to get out of breaks. Great releases, picks his spots. I've been really impressed. He's played in a number of different systems. I really like the detail with how he approaches his game. His ability to go deep and to talk to guys. The biggest compliment you can give a receiver who has his ability to go vertical is when a corner is in press technique and you still beat him off the line one-on-one, he's a viable number one. That says something about Brandin. He's been a great fit for us so far. We're very pleased with him. Also the way he's come in here and made everyone on the offense better."
His six career seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards are tied for the third-most in the NFL since 2014, trailing only Evans (nine seasons) and Kelce (seven seasons) in that statistic. Cooks has achieved the feat with each of his four previous teams: the New Orleans Saints (2015-2016), the New England Patriots (2017), the Los Angeles Rams (2018), and the Houston Texans (2020-2021). Doing so in 2021 with Houston is especially noteworthy given he was catching passes from Tyrod Taylor and rookie Davis Mills.
"Brandin is great, I actually worked with him in Houston [as their wide receiver coach] in 2021, great human being," Dallas Cowboys wide receivers coach Robert Prince said Thursday. "Obviously you see the speed on the field, what he brings to the room. He's a great pro, and it's great for the young guys to see. You know, what a guy like that does to get 1,000 yards wherever he's been. He's had production. It's been great."
What McCarthy didn't know right away is exactly how much Cooks was going to pour into some of Dallas' younger wide receivers, like 24-year-old, second-year wideout Amari Cooper being traded to the Cleveland Browns, and veteran Michael Gallup easing his way back into action after a late-season ACL tear in 2021. That wasn't the case. Tolbert was a healthy scratch in Week 1 after losing a spot on the active roster to the undrafted Dennis Houston, who was later released. In all, Tolbert had only 89 offensive snaps in eight games played as a rookie, and he caught just two of three passes thrown his way for 12 yards. Cooks wasn't asked to mentor Tolbert, but he's gone out of his way to help elevate the young receiver's game.. The 2022 third-round pick was expected to contribute immediately as a rookie last season with four-time Pro Bowl receiver
"I'm a big fan of Brandin, and the speed is evident, but just watch the way he works in practice," Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said Thursday. "Jalen Tolbert has had an incredible camp, and if you talk to Jalen, what Jalen is going to tell you is he spent a ton of time with Brandin. So, here's a guy that's been there and done that and what Brandin wants to do, in addition to coming in and learning a system, is he wants 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. So what Brandin brings us is way more than just speed, absolutely. It's really fun to watch him run whether it's deep routes or short routes, it really doesn't matter, but what I love is the competitor in the way he is encouraging that entire room of receivers. It's been awesome."
Schottenheimer had somewhat of an idea that Cooks' Cowboys tenure was going to be an incredible fit culture-wise when he received a text from his former pupil and future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees shortly after Dallas acquired Cooks. Brees first became an NFL starting quarterback with Schottenheimer as his San Diego Chargers quarterbacks coach from 2002-2005. Cooks got his start in the NFL catching passes from Brees with the Saints from 2014-2016 after being New Orleans' first-round pick nine years ago.
"I'd say number one, well it's two things," Schottenheimer said when asked about why Cooks has been able to be an important team leader despite being one of the newest Cowboys. "Number one he's a veteran that's been around. I was not surprised by it because obviously you know Drew Brees and I are very close, and when we made the move to get Brandin the very first text I got was from Drew. Drew was like 'You are gonna love this guy.' Drew is a hard guy to get to give out a lot of positive reinforcement…So I was not surprised, but again you [wait] until you see it yourself. You don't realize that he doesn't have to do that but he wants to do that and he goes out of his way to do it. And that's why I get I just again, it's worth pointing that out. I think he's been a big influence on Jalen as well."
If Cooks' speed can help Dak become a more efficient passer and provide him two more receiving options (Cooks himself and Tolbert), the Cowboys "" offense should live up to its name with larger-than-life production.