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Hannable: Brandin Cooks quietly doing solid job of replacing Julian Edelman in Patriots offense

Ryan Hannable
October 24, 2017 - 11:30 am

When Julian Edelman tore his ACL in the third preseason game, the biggest question was how would he be replaced in the Patriots offense?

Aside from Tom Brady, Edelman was the most important player to the offense just because of how much the offense ran through him and his chemistry with Brady. 

While Cooks certainly isn’t the same type of receiver and does his damage on the outside and down the field opposed to short, quick passes over the middle, he’s done a good job of replacing Edelman as the Patriots’ No. 1 receiver.

“It’s been great,” Brady said last week. “He's just done such a great job and I just can't say enough good things about him and his work ethic and his ability and his character and his intensity and his attitude. It's all positive. He's just fun to be out there with. I've played with a lot of great receivers over the years and he just shows up and does everything you ask him to do.

"I wish I could get him the ball more often. You watch the tape after the game and go 'Man, I should've worked him on that play, should've got it to him on that one too.' He just keeps getting more opportunity because of how well he's doing with the ones he gets. It's been a lot of fun."

The narrative with Cooks through the first seven games hasn’t been what it should be.

Some have felt the former Saints wide out could be producing more given he was acquired for a first-round pick, but the reality is his performance has been up there with the best receivers in the league. It appears his multiple drops have stuck in the minds of many opposed to the number of big plays he makes on a game-to-game basis.

Over the first seven games, Cooks has caught 28 passes for 537 yards and three touchdowns. His 537 yards receiving are third in the NFL, trailing just Antonio Brown (765) and A.J. Green (545). Also, his 19.2 yards per catch rank second in the entire league, trailing Vernon Davis of the Redskins who averages 19.5 per reception.

Though the first seven games last season Edelman caught 37 passes for 321 yards, but it should be noted the first four were without Brady. In Edelman’s first seven games with Brady at quarterback last year he had 421 yards. Cooks has 116 more yards in his first seven games this season.

Cooks’ start has been better than most think.

His 537 receiving yards are the ninth-most by a Patriots receiver through seven games of a season under Bill Belichick and Cooks joins Randy Moss and Wes Welker in 2007 as the only two receivers to have more than 500 yards in their first seven games as a member of the Patriots.

Additionally, Cooks is fourth in yards from scrimmage per game with 78.1, as he only trails Brown, Green and Stefon Diggs. The thing that stands out with Cooks is he’s been getting more involved in the offense by the game.

He’s had at least four catches in each of the last three games, which comes after getting a total of five the first two. Brady appears more comfortable with him as well, considering his catch percentage has been 80 (percent), 67 and 63 respectively the last three games. In the first four games, he had three where it was at or below 50 percent.

Cooks is on pace to have 64 receptions for 1,227 yards and seven touchdowns this year. The yards would be a career-high, as currently the most he's had in a season is 1,173 yards last year. For what it's worth, Edelman's career-high is 1,106. If Cooks were to finish with 1,227 yards it would be the eight-most receiving yards in a single-season in Patriots history with only Welker, Moss and Stanley Morgan ahead of him. Pretty impressive company.

We should have known the chemistry between he and Brady would take a few games considering in the preseason Cooks only had two catches for 15 yards. It likely will even get better as the year goes on, as the two can be very dangerous with Cooks running come back routes and Brady hitting his back shoulder right as he turns back towards the ball.

Yes, he may not be standing out as much as Edelman did, but Cooks’ production has certainly fulfilled the No. 1 receiver role and the reality is through seven games Cooks has actually exceeded expectations, not fallen short.

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