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Lyons Yellin / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
Email: lyellin@wwltv.com | Twitter: @wwltvsports

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. --

'We didn't want to put him out there the day after, so that's going to require just a little bit of rest,' Saints head coach Sean Payton said. 'We'll see how that is coming back on Monday and kind of treat it day-to-day.'

Typically, Brees' absence and Payton's subsequent comments would have been the day's biggest news.

Not today, though. Not with wide receiver Brandin Cooks on field, and certainly not after the rookie's awe-inspiring performance.

Sure, it was only a scrimmage, but Cooks delivered as advertised, wowing the more than 4,200 fans in attendance with his speed, agility and playmaking ability. The fans weren't the only ones to take notice, though.

'I see that he's zero to sixty real fast,' linebacker David Hawthorne said. 'That's why we took him with the first-round pick. He's a young guy with a heck of a lot of potential in our opinion. When he gets the ball in his hands, he's dangerous.'

Initially working with the second unit, Cooks ate up yards at an alarming rate from the moment he stepped on the field against the defensive starters. Though official stats weren't kept, Cooks had well over 100 yards on six receptions, culminating with a 30-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Ryan Griffin.

'You guys got a chance to see what we have been seeing the first two weeks here,' wide receiver Marques Colston said. 'He's electric, he can run all the routes, and he's a big play guy.'

On Saturday, Cooks proved that all. He ran out routes, screens, crosses and fades, all of which the defense had no answer for. Cooks not only impressed the defenders, he abused them, too -- none more so than Rob Sweeting, whom Cooks, en route to the end zone, juked and sent to his knees.

'I'm glad he's my teammate,' linebacker Curtis Lofton said. 'I never want to see him catch a ball, but when he does catch a ball it's pretty special. You can't say enough about that speed. I always say it seems like he gets shot out of rockets when he gets the ball in his hands.'

With Brees watching from the sideline, quarterback Ryan Griffin emerged as the Saints most reliable backup option. Griffin began the game by completing his first eight attempts, including two to Cooks, the second of which was a nearly 50-yard pinpoint throw Cooks pulled down just before going out of bounds at the 1-yard line.

'He's been playing well all camp,' Colston said of Griffin. 'Just the chance to really put some drives together, he looked really good.'

Luke McCown began the game with the first unit, but was inconsistent. He threw a touchdown to tight end Jimmy Graham, but also was picked off by safety Marcus Ball, who nearly returned it for a touchdown.

The Saints have stressed the need for a more effective rushing attack after last season's struggles.

Payton said it's been 'one of the points of emphasis in regards to being a physical team and being able to win games, specifically in the second half. That's something that is ongoing.'

Led by Mark Ingram and his more than 50 yards, the ground game was much improved. Ingram, who has been oft criticized as an impatient runner with poor vision, was anything but Saturday. He demonstrated considerable patience and good vision, capping the opening drive with a five-yard touchdown run off left tackle.

'I thought it was up and down in the run game,' Payton said. 'I thought we had some real good runs; the guys up front did a good job.

Still, Payton seemed hesitant to shower his offense, Cooks in particular, with too much praise.

Payton was asked if he's worried about having to 'derecruit' Cooks?

'I'm not worried about that so much with him,' he said. 'Most of these young players, these rookies, understand how much they have to get up to speed with and where they're behind. Every one of them has a lot of work to do, including Brandin.

'If you're around him long enough, I think you get a sense from him that he understands that. I think it's a process and we're really just completing the first week of it.'
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