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Trust Talent Time

Saints WR Brandin Cooks does nothing to quiet hype in opener

Brandin Cooks almost blew his chance to make the New Orleans Saints‘ biggest play of the night in Thursday’s preseason opener.

The dynamic second-year receiver got loose behind Baltimore Ravenscornerback Asa Jackson and caught a beautiful over-the-shoulder deep ball from quarterback Luke McCown for an apparent 36-yard touchdown in the second quarter. However, the play was nullified because Cooks stepped out of bounds while separating from Jackson.

No problem. Cooks just scored again four plays later on a 28-yard screen pass that showed off another part of his dangerous skill set.

Cooks weaved through a series of outstanding blocks on the third-and-16 play as he zoomed untouched into the end zone against Baltimore’s second-string defense.

“To be honest, [McCown] threw a good ball and everybody blocked for me,” Cooks said. “All I had to do was just run straight to score. It was a great call by coach. All I had to do was catch and run.”

Cooks wasn’t just being modest. There was a series of awesome blocks on the play — including left tackle Terron Armstead and center Max Ungershowing off their athleticism as they got out in front of defensive backs. Veteran receiver Josh Morgan also showed why he has earned a reputation as a strong blocker.

The TD was Cooks’ only catch of the night, as he was unable to reel in a low ball from McCown on the opening drive. But those two plays flashed the big-play ability that this offense was lacking even before it traded away Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills this offseason.

As I’ve written many times, I expect Cooks to emerge as New Orleans’ No. 1 playmaker this year with a combination of those deep balls and short passes designed to get him in open space.

Cooks led all NFL rookies with 53 catches last year when he suffered a season-ending thumb injury in Week 11 (with more modest totals of 550 yards and three touchdowns). It’s not unrealistic to imagine he could double those yardage and TD totals this year.