At the midway point, however, Cook’s role has been diminished, and there are indications the Titans have received a trade request on behalf of the fourth-year pro.
That said, Tennessee must keep Cook around because Matt Hasselbeck needs that pass-catching tight end for an additional downfield target. Plus, Cook is well-established and has proven to be consistency reliable.
Here, we look into why Cook's presence is so vital to the Titans' offensive production.
Move the Chains
Of Cook's 28 receptions in 2012, 16 have gone for a first down. In addition, the man averages 13.3 yards per catch and is second on the team in receiving yards and receptions.
The most impressive aspect Cook provides to Tennessee, though, is dependability. Excluding Chris Johnson, Cook has the highest percentage of receptions per number of targets on the Titans. In being targeted 41 times, Cook's 28 snags result in a 68.3 completion percentage.
Nate Washington, Kendall Wright and Kenny Britt have not had the same level of impact and only Wright has more than 50 targets.
Presenting solid size and athleticism for his position, Cook matches up well against anyone man-to-man or settling between the zones.
Plus, that athleticism bodes well for yards after the catch and making key receptions on third down and when inside the red zone.
Chris Johnson Finding His Stride
Through Tennessee's first three games Chris Johnson compiled a measly 45 rushing yards on 33 attempts. He then had a breakout performance against the Houston Texans for 141 yards, but quickly came back to reality with only 24 yards versus the Minnesota Vikings.
In the three following outings, Johnson has racked up 385 rushing yards on 58 carries. For as relieving as that brief consistency appears, it will not last long unless Tennessee can maintain a balanced attack.
Hasselbeck's receiving corps is solid between Washington, Wright and Britt. Johnson can also leak out of the backfield occasionally as a checkdown, not to mention the extra dynamics of screens and draws.
Cook, however, is a key factor in Johnson continuing success. He'll prevent linebackers from bracketing Johnson against the run and widen underneath zones, which bodes well for draws and quick tosses.
Everything ties together when looking for a balanced approach and the schedule has its role as well.
Remaining Schedule Requires Balance
Chicago and Green Bay are excellent at forcing turnovers, whereas the Dolphins know how to get consistent quarterback pressure. As for the Jets, Rex Ryan's defense is capable of well-disciplined play against anyone: its best performances came versus the Houston Texans and New England Patriots.
Now within the AFC South, Tennessee gets Houston and the Indianapolis Colts once more, with the Jacksonville Jaguars twice. The Colts and Texans require a balance, because both can lock down in coverage and apply impressive quarterback pressure.
Jacksonville not so much in any facet. And provided Cook remains, the Jags are two winnable games along with the Jets, Colts and Dolphins. Miami is weaker against the pass and both New York and Indy are vulnerable versus the run.
In short, a balanced offense will keep defenses honest and Cook's impact—not necessarily numbers—plays an important role for Tennessee's postseason chances.
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