It is no coincidence that the Packers offense has opened up (and become unstuck) ever since Jared Cook came back from his injury. Rodgers clearly likes throwing to Cook and this isn’t lost on opposing defenses. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where it seems he’s having the same effect on the field (whether he’s the pass target or not), that Jermichael Finley did in his prime. Finley could run down the seam and would command attention from usually a decent defender, and sometimes two of them. And he was the guy just nagging safeties mentally. If teams put an afterthought kind of defender on Finley, Rodgers exploited that matchup all the time just crushing opposing defenses. Cook is doing the same thing now. Some teams try to put quicker but smaller DBs on him but they can’t get around him to make plays because he’s so massive. And the bigger LBs are often not as fast (though Cook is not a burner), but they also cannot contend with his super long arms and his overall range. Just like Finley.
This is so nice to see. I think most spectators are clearly noticing the matchup issues he causes whenever he’s on the field, but the quieter and I think more profound effect, is what he does then for our WRs. Until 7-8 games ago, the Packers went through a painful, embarrassing stretch of about a season and a half, where our WRs just couldn’t seem to get open. I went to several games and saw first-hand just how incredibly bad the team was at getting open. Some of that was due to McCarthy/Rodgers being stuck in a rut of calling similar, predictable plays. I also think our personnel on the field often contributed to these bland play calls (when Lacy was in, it was likely going to be a run, etc…). With the personnel we have now, it’s different – especially with Montgomery because he is truly a dual threat every time he’s in there. But the real change for this team, came when Cook started playing and started catching the ball. Defenses, especially safeties, started having to think WAY more about this tall lumbering pass catcher with pretty good hands wandering across the middle of the field. And this has necessarily opened things up for the WRs. Sometimes this might mean our WRs see less safety attention and sometimes this means they might draw a weaker #3 or #4 DB. And sometimes, it’s just a game of numbers – they put a #1 DB on Jordy, a #2 on Davante, that leaves them thin then trying to cover Cobb and especially Cook. Whatever the case is, the lock down coverage on our WRs that plagued the Packers for a season and a half, is now just gone. And I think Jared Cook’s presence on the field (and him actually being a pass catching threat) is a huge reason for this.
In fact – just came across this Packergeeks post from the beginning of the season where I talk about Cook being a key to the Packers winning the Super Bowl. Check it out.