WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. --Brandin Cooks missed all but the final week of offseason training activities while he finished school at Oregon State. No matter, his learning curve has been razor sharp as has his play.
The Saints rookie wide receiver is turning heads, taking names and making one for himself during his first NFL training camp. Cooks hasn't been as good as advertised, he's been better.
Just watch Cooks and you'll think he's a seasoned NFL veteran, not a 20-year-old who's yet to play in his first professional game.
He's been poised, focused, committed and, without question, a player whom his teammates are excited to have.
Said tackle Zach Strief: 'He's pretty good. He's electric. I think the thing you see with Brandin is that it seems very natural. It doesn't seem like when he's running fast that he's running fast. You see some guys really get going and it looks like (it). ...
'Brandin just seems to kind of smoothly go faster than everybody. It's clearly real natural to him and he's got a great burst and carries himself like a much older player. You talk about a guy you'd like to come in and have an immediate impact. ...
'He acts like an eight year vet. He really does. He's very calm, cool and collected. He's very Marques Colston-esque, personality wise. He's very quiet, just comes to work, all the things you want to see. I don't know where we keep finding these receivers that don't talk, but he's just another one that just goes out and plays well for us.'
Said defensive back Keenan Lewis: 'Well when you're guarding a guy like that, you've got to make sure that your shoes are very tight because he will probably leave you out of your shoes. Just make sure you get your hands on him quick, so he doesn't get into his route. Don't let him make you do what he wants you to do, make him play your game. That's a guy who has been working extremely hard and I'm excited to see what he'll do.'
Said linebacker Junior Galette: 'Obviously (Saturday) we were going against our offense, so I was quite upset. But it's an amazing thing to watch. He's everything we expected him to be so far.'
Said safety Jairus Byrd: 'He does a lot of the little things well and that is rare for a rookie coming right in. He is mature beyond his years. He is good.'
The universal praise from his teammates, coaches and really, just about anyone who's seen him play seems interminable.
Nevertheless, Cooks has remained grounded, thus avoiding complacency.
Despite his early success, Cooks knows he still has much to learn, often seeking out his teammates with the hopes of soaking up their knowledge.
'I find myself going to them (for advice), and they're going to me (for advice),' he said. 'Guys like (Marques) Colston, Robert Meachem, I continue to just learn from those guys because obviously I have a lot to work on and they've been in this game for a really long time. After every practice, I come up to them and ask them what I did wrong.'
Cooks isn't content with going through the motions. He's determined to master his craft by working on the more nuanced aspects of the game like, he said, 'blocking and how people are going to play me and getting used to coverages that the guys at this level can disguise a little better than in college.'
Many young players have trouble adjusting to the speed of the professional game. But not Cooks, whose 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine was the fastest of any receiver.
'I have to use my strengths to my advantage, and that's my speed,' he said. 'As far as the speed of the game, it's not that much different to me. But how smart people are, that's the different part from college to the NFL. That's where you have to work on your game.'
And he has.
Cooks, hoping to develop chemistry with Drew Brees while catching up on much of what he missed during the offseason, trained with the quarterback in San Diego during the month off between OTAs and training camp. Cooks credits Brees with his smooth transition to the NFL.
'It's been easy being with Drew because he's so smart, and obviously he's a great quarterback,' Cooks said. 'Watching film with him and learning just the little niches of the game and where he wants me to be on certain routes has been an easy transition.'