The St. Louis Rams are a team on the rise, especially on the defensive side of the ball. But when are they going to finally get franchise quarterback Sam Bradford some much needed help? Seemingly, it appears as if that movement has started today with the signing of former Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook (via Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com).
Cook has been linked to the Rams for months now because of his past relationship with former head coach Jeff Fisher. Fisher drafted the athletic tight end four years ago out of the University of South Carolina.
Yet Fisher was never able to tap into Cook's full potential because he was fired following the 2010 season. But lo and behold, he now has a chance at turning the former third-round pick into a star. The Rams are poised to ride him until the wheels fall off.
Danny Amendola, Steven Jackson and Brandon Gibson are all free agents looking to sign with other teams. So Cook instantly becomes St. Louis' No. 1 wide receiving threat after signing a five-year contract that made him a very wealthy young man.
However, all of this info leads me to one big-picture question: How will Cook fit in Brian Schottenheimer's offense? Cook will fill the role of being the ultimate matchup problem for any defender. He could line up on the line of scrimmage, in the slot or on the outside—it doesn't matter.
Linebackers can't run with him and defensive backs can't outmuscle him over the middle, so in a sense he becomes impossible to cover, which is exactly why he was such a highly coveted free agent. The NFL is all about winning matchups and exploiting a team's weaknesses. And Jeff Fisher knows that.
St. Louis hasn't had a player, or players, who could do that since Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce were roaming the sidelines during the Greatest Show on Turf era. Obviously Cook isn't that type of player based on the fact that he plays tight end, but that doesn't mean he couldn't be equally effective in doing what he's asked to do.
Expect Schottey to get creative with the two-tight end sets. Lance Kendricks may not ever live up to his lofty draft status, yet he has proven that he can be effective and create mismatch problems of his own. Last year he caught six passes that went for 20 yards-plus and one pass that went for 40 yards-plus.
Couple that with the eight pass plays Cook had that went for 20 yards plus, and the Rams instantly have two tight ends with dynamic playmaking ability.
Moreover, Tim Shields of RamsHerd.com makes a couple of great points while trying to predict Cook's role:
His last tweet ultimately makes the most sense. No other player on St. Louis' roster has the skill to go over the middle the way Cook does, nor does any other player have the ability to separate from defenders the way he does.
Wide receiver Chris Givens showed great potential on nine-routes, but his game doesn't include him going in the middle of the field. And as far as Brian Quick goes, it's a crapshoot at this point. For him to be truly effective next year, he has his work cut out for him.
One would also be wise to take the time to study Dustin Keller's game from his time under Schottenheimer in New York. For as bad as Mark Sanchez was, Keller was about as reliable as it got for the Jets' offense.
He saw two 100-target seasons, and he caught 10 touchdown passes from 2010-2011. Pretty impressive numbers considering they were a run-first football team. Let's not forget that Keller also has a build similar to Cook's and he runs a similar 40-yard dash time.
Without knowing who else St. Louis will add on the offensive side of the ball, it's ultimately tough to try to predict a player's role. But thankfully, Schottenheimer's past has seemingly helped guide us in the right direction while looking for that answer.