Chris Cook will establish himself as a critical piece for the Minnesota Vikings defense next year and a dominant corner in the league. This versatile defensive back will turn around a secondary that allowed the third-most yards per attempt by opposing passers.
The NFL is a passing league, and nothing proved that more than the record-setting pace at which quarterbacks shredded opposing defenses last season. Players like Jonathan Joseph and Nnamdi Asomugha took advantage of their rising value in free agency, and some of the top cornerbacks in the league are the highest-paid players on their teams.
Fans are starting to pay more attention to players like Darrelle Revis, Cortland Finnegan and Brent Grimes. Observers in the know will also be looking at Chris Cook.
Cook shows real promise, despite playing for a historically awful defense. Having only played six games in the 2011 season, his abilities are not familiar to many fans.
He played at a different level in 2011 than he did in his injury-plagued rookie season, and the 6’2” rangy corner found his home against some of the top players in the league.
His best performance came against what may be the best receiver of our generation, Calvin Johnson Jr. Only allowing 52 yards in coverage, Cook nearly muffled Megatron.
Corners who play press coverage well are extremely valuable, and Chris Cook plays press with the best of them. His arms pack a punch when they shoot out, and his ability to disrupt timing on routes doesn'thinder his ability to run with the receiver.
Like Asomugha, Cook excels more in man coverage but isn't hampered in a zone. He has shown an ability to rotate in and out of zone assignments while doing well to pick up receivers.
He also tackles well, having allowed the fifth-fewest yards after the catch of all cornerbacks. He still needs to work on this skill by aiming lower or possibly improving his leg strength in order to drive through tackles.
The only red flag for Cook is his low interception count—he doesn't have one recorded in his short time starting. He will need to force turnovers in 2012 if he wants to be taken more seriously.
Given that quarterbacks only threw at him 54 times last year, his inability to pick the opposing passer isn't much of a concern. He places himself well, reacts to the receiver and adjusts to the ball to put him in a position to make a play.
Most good cornerbacks will convert 2.5 percent or more of their thrown balls into interceptions, and it looks like he will follow suit soon.
While others have taken issue with the penalties that Chris took earlier in the season, don't expect it to continue; he has only recorded two penalties throughout his career, which is much lower than most cornerbacks have had in a similar number of snaps.
His familiarity with the receiver route tree and his footwork throughout coverage complement his ability to read receivers and quarterbacks well. He boxes out opposing players as well as any power forward in basketball.
The Vikings defense was not the same without him, only allowing opponents to complete 64 percent of passes and a 78.6 passer rating in the six games he played.
Those familiar with the Vikings' secondary in 2011 know that the story changed quite substantially in his absence.
What should we expect from Chris Cook in 2012?
The Vikings allowed 72.5 percent of passes to hit their targets and allowed 26 touchdowns while only generating two interceptions.
No quarterback in history threw as well in a season as the Vikings' opponents did in those last 10 games.
The Vikings gave up a passer rating of 126.6.
A tough, physical defensive back, he will need to use all of his lengthy frame to match up against receivers like Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall and Greg Jennings in the NFC North.
Expect him to succeed.