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Raiders opponents game planning to stop Jared Cook

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The veteran tight end has been one of the few bright spots for the Silver & Black.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Oakland Raiders Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In what has been a frustrating season for the Silver & Black, tight end Jared Cook has been a bright spot. The 10-year veteran has emerged as Derek Carr’s favorite target, and opposing defense have taken notice and adjusted their game planning accordingly.

“Everybody defends him differently,” said offensive coordinator Greg Olson on Thursday. “Certainly he’s at the top of a lot of tight end categories, receiving tight end. I think people realize that he’s certainly a threat for us.”

“We haven’t seen the double coverages as much as them maybe putting one of their better defenders. We’re seeing sub-defense to our 12-personnel with Jared in the game. That’s because of his ability to catch passes. That would probably be the difference that we’ve seen, a little more sub-defense when Jared is out on the field.”

When Jon Gruden released Michael Crabtree this past offseason, it was widely assumed Amari Cooper would step into his shoes as Carr’s number one target. Instead, Cook became the primary option, and Cooper was traded to the Cowboys for a first round pick.

“So far he has been hot,” quarterback Derek Carr said earlier in the season. “I know he’s a tight end, but he’s really a good No. 1 target for any team to have. Jared is obviously a mismatch in man coverage and in zone, he’s so smart that he can soft spots and give me an easy target.”

Despite the extra attention he has received from defenses, Cook ranks fourth among tight ends with a Pro Football Focus grade of 77.4 through week nine. His 494 receiving yards are also fourth best among tight ends.

With the losses of both Cooper and Marshawn Lynch, the Raiders offense sorely lacks offensive weapons. But Cook’s versatility and emergence as a top receiving option has helped to create looks for other players on the team.

“He can stretch the field down the middle, or be a mismatch against smaller DBs or safeties or linebackers,” receiver Jordy Nelson explained. “Creating those matchups allows us to be more dynamic.”