Coming into the bye week on a winning note was just what the Raiders needed. With a 27-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday Night Football they pulled to a 4-5 record and it had everything to do with Jared Cook.
Offensively the Raiders are currently ranked 19th in total yards but looked like they may have finally turned the corner against a defense ranked 10th in yards surrendered.
Part of what led to Derek Carr’s 300-yard passing night was the ability to take advantage of the match-up problems tight end Jared Cook presents.
Matched up with a linebacker outside the numbers is an easy win for the athletic Cook. Anything the coaching staff can do to isolate these mismatches will make quarterback Derek Carr’s reads much simpler.
“He does a good job of running with speed and getting vertical on all his routes, so you never know what route it is,” Carr said Wednesday. “Because if you wait too long or you sit on something, he can run right by you. As we saw I think it was the first third down. He ran by the linebacker. So, if you hesitate for one second, he can run by you, but also his ability to run all the routes; inside, outside, all those things. It's really a quarterback's best friend. That and a good offensive line. Those two are a good thing to have. Takes a lot of pressure off the other guys as well."
An issue the offense has had this season is they haven’t attacked the middle of the field nearly enough. On top of being safer throws, they can open up coverage for the outside receivers. Cook is the perfect weapon to use to attack this area and the Raiders did so in this contest.
"Those throws are closer,” Carr continued. “Ninety percent of the time he's gonna be somewhere between the hashes or at least inside the numbers. And so those throws are closer. The ball is in the air less.”
It was rather obvious on film that the team came into this game intent on getting their tight end involved early and often. His game-leading 126 yards on 8 receptions (15.8 avg) on only 9 targets (88% completion rate) says they accomplished their mission.
"Jared works really hard at doing the little things right,” offensive coordinator Todd Downing said Wednesday. “We knew that we could create a couple match-ups for him and that was something that we worked on in Sarasota throughout the practice week. He really did a nice job of the little things on route details, the depth of his route, the timing of his route, being able to come out of the break full speed.
“I just told him on the practice field when you invest in all those things and it comes to fruition, it's great validation to do them all the time. So, I was really, really happy for him that he had such a productive game."
That route running ability was on full display as he beats this defensive back on an out route. For a player who is 6”5’ and around 250-pounds, he sure gets in and out of his breaks really smooth.
What makes a good route runner is their ability to run every route with precise depth and to do so without losing speed. Cook does both of those things very well. Downing would be wise to continue to focus on getting Cook involved in their game planning.
The Raiders have a week to rest up before their “home” game in Mexico City against the New England Patriots. Hopefully they will recognize how much of a factor Cook played in their victory over the Dolphins and take advantage of his skill set. Keeping one of Carr’s ‘best friends’ involved could keep things rolling for this offense.