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Trust Talent Time

Bill Belichick: Glad we don’t have to play Brandin Cooks

Of all the breakout candidates at wide receiver this season, Brandin Cooks of the Saints has been the most impressive through two weeks of preseason action.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick offered high praise after the speedy wideout burned his defense for big plays of 45 and 36 yards in addition to a pair of 18-yard receptions on Saturday.

“I’m glad we don’t have to play him twice a yearand he’s not in our division,” Belichick said, via The Times-Picayune. “He’s a really good player.”

Limited to a Percy Harvin-like role near the line of scrimmage early last year, Cooks was just beginning to expand his route tree and emerge as a more complete receiver when a broken thumb ended his rookie season in mid-November.

Cooks spent the majority of the offseason working on routes and timing with Drew Brees in San Diego. When he wasn’t with Brees, he adopted Steelers superstar Antonio Brown as a mentor and sought advice from Ravens veteran Steve Smith on route running and using his smaller size as leverage.

The results have been evident since training camp opened. Cooks is gaining separation on deep and intermediate routes and making more defenders miss after the catch.

New Orleans coach Sean Payton acknowledged Saturday night that Cooks has “made a ton of strides” since last season.

After watching the team practice, future Hall of Famer Randy Moss told the Saints‘ broadcast team that Cooks is “very good now and he will be great.”

The 2013 Biletnikoff Award winner was on pace for 85 receptions and roughly 1,000 yards from scrimmage prior to the rookie-year thumb injury. Determined to “shock the world” as Brees’ go-to weapon in the aerial attack, Cooks should soar past those numbers with a real shot at 100 catches and 1,200 yards in 2015