The New Orleans Saints could climb into the NFL playoff race with a victory against the Detroit Lions. In order to move up the standings, the Saints will have to continue to do what they have done in the past month — add balance in their offensive attack. The Saints will need all hands on deck in order to improve upon their 5-6 record. That includes wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
New Orleans did not begin the season on a positive note. The Saints opened up at home versus the Oakland Raiders. A pure back and forth took place between the Saints and Raiders, which lasted until the waning seconds of the game. Ahead by a touchdown, all the Saints had to do was keep the Raiders out of the endzone. The Saints could not.
Typically, most NFL teams do not go for a two-point conversion to take the lead at the end of a game. When the Raiders did so, and was successful, that was the start of a three-game losing streak to open up the season.
With the Saints winning five out of eight, they have climbed into the NFL playoff race. The Saints are just two games behind the NFC South division leading Atlanta Falcons. For their wild-card hopes, all of New Orleans’ final games are against conference teams whom they are battling for what is likely the last playoff spot. The final game of the season is a showdown with the Falcons that determine the division winner.
In order to be in that position, the Saints have to win all of their remaining games. Each week presents a beatable opponent. If the Saints can run the football, that will open up the passing game, where they cannot forget about one of their best weapons.
This season has not been the full coming out party that Brandin Cooks had envisioned. Some solid games have been mixed in with some terrible performances. Much of what Cooks can do on the football field hinges on the plays which get called and where Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees throws the football.
Cooks has not been targeted by Brees more than nine times during a game this season. Cooks has only topped 90 yards three times in 11 games. Those are paltry numbers for a guy penciled in as the New Orleans Saints’ top receiver. Cooks had zero targets versus the Los Angeles Rams for the first time in his career. The Saints hung 49 points against the Rams. For Cooks to not get one target was alarming.
This upset the star receiver, who was vocal about his frustrations (courtesy of ESPN) while talking to reporters days later after a Saints’ practice. While understanding that he gets the attention of the opposing team’s best secondary players via double-teams, Cooks wants to prove that he can help the Saints even if he draws two defenders.
“The guys who are remembered in this game are remembered for doing more than one thing. And that’s why I wake up every morning and I come in here and work the way I work, because I want to be remembered as one of those guys that is great down the road. Don’t get me wrong, that’s my strength [catching deep balls], but at the same time I want to continue to develop my game all around. You know, I feel like I’m young. Most guys come into the league at my age, and I still have a lot of growing to do, and I want to continue to do that.”
The New Orleans Saints are better when they spread the football around, involving everyone. Drew Brees making Brandin Cooks the primary target could be detrimental to the Saints’ playoff hopes. Getting other players the football also enhances the times that Brees can find Cooks open. There are other ways that the Saints can get Cooks going.
Including him in the running game and throwing a couple of screen passes that highlights his speed would help the New Orleans Saints. Brees targeting Cooks with the first pass of the game could ease the frustrations, but the Saints cannot fully go out of their way to accommodate him. It could cost them the season.
Most important for the New Orleans Saints is keeping the running game going. The road to the NFL playoffs is paved by a respectable rushing attack. Brandin Cooks can help the Saints there as well. We will see what the New Orleans Saints do against the Detroit Lions.
[Featured Image by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images]