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Can Jared Cook Be the Next Gary Barnidge or Delanie Walker?

Green Bay Packers fans are aglow after the spectacular show tight end Jared Cook put on Tuesday in his first Packers’ training camp action. Could it be the Packers have found a diamond in the rough?

For a likely answer, let’s examine some other NFL tight ends. It’s the original hybrid position, with some teams using its tight end as a key receiver and others primarily as a blocker. Those used primarily as receivers tend to get all the recognition, the gaudy statistics and the All-Pro honors.

A look at how many times a tight end is targeted by the quarterback says a lot about which role the tight end plays in his team’s offensive attack.

Seven tight ends were targeted 100 times or more in 2015: Tennessee’s Delanie Walker (133), Cleveland’s Gary Barnidge (123), Carolina’s Greg Olsen (123), New England’s Rob Gronkowski (120), Washington’s Jordan Reed (114), Dallas’ Jason Witten (104), and Kansas City’s Travis Kelce (100). Not surprisingly, these were the seven top-yardage tight ends. The first four each amassed over 1,000 receiving yards on the year.

The careers of several of these players give us reason to believe Jared Cook might rank in this group in 2016.

Greg Olsen’s 1,114 yards ranked second among tight ends and 17th among all receivers, last year. In his three non-rookie seasons with the Bears, however, he averaged only 87 targets. His receptions have steadily been rising, since being traded to the Panthers five years ago. Now he’s a star.

Jimmy Graham, however, has been going in the opposite direction since being traded to the Seattle Seahawks. Graham averaged 138 targets from 2011 through 2014, while in New Orleans. A combination of injuries and the Seahawks not utilizing him as a key receiver caused Graham’s targets to dip to 73 last year. After twice having 1,000+ yard seasons with New Orleans, Graham managed only 605 yards in 2015.

You probably never heard of Gary Barnidge until last year. He was an afterthought in his first four years with the Panthers and the Browns, averaging only 18 targets per season. Last year he gets thrown to 123 times (by Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel, and Austin Davis!), accumulates 1,043 yards and is suddenly a star at age 30.

Delanie Walker has an even more promising history for Jared Cook fans. In seven years with the 49ers, this no-name was never targeted more than 44 times in a season. After being traded to Tennessee, however, he’s averaged 109 targets over the past three years. Walker’s 1,088 receiving yards in 2015 was the third best among tight ends and his 133 targets was tops for the position. Walker will be 32 on Friday, three years older than Cook.

Cook was never a featured receiver with the Titans or the Rams. Last year he had 39 catches for 481 yards – nineteenth among tight ends – but was only thrown to 73 times.

Richard Rodgers was targeted 85 times last year, hauled in 58 of them for 510 yards, and was ranked sixteenth among tight ends in yardage – but his 8.8 yards per catch was disappointing.

With Aaron Rodgers now zinging the ball to Cook, will he be the next Delanie Walker or Gary Barnidge? After Tuesday’s showing, it’s a plausible scenario.

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Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.

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10 Comments

  1. Chad Lundberg August 11, 2016

    Rob Born might be the best writer on Total Packers.

    1. Phatgzus August 11, 2016

      He and Shawn are usually the only one’s worth reading, that’s for sure.

      Good article Rob, valid points of conversation.

  2. PF4L August 11, 2016

    I also agree it’s a fine article, i just don’t agree with the premise.

    I just don’t see Cook getting anywhere near 100 targets, even if he is the winner of training camp. Richard Rodgers is still going to get the ball. He has sure hands, he maybe a little quicker this season. But most importantly, Aaron trust’s him. Not to mention, if Nelson comes back for a full season, i just don’t see Cook with anywhere near 100 pass attempts. Maybe 50-60 or so. That’s if he doesn’t drop too many critical passes.

    I also see Adams getting his targets, presuming Nelson is back. With Nelson back, theoretically Cobb and Adams should have more opportunities. And based on last seasons play calling, there doesn’t seem to be any reluctance to throw Adams way. Plus if Montgomery can stay healthy, there is no reason why the Packers wouldn’t also target him, to gauge his full potential. I think we may all have the feeling, a healthy Montgomery pushes Adams down the depth chart. Or maybe that’s just the way i see it.

    So, with all that said, plus the possibly of the running game improving, this is why i’m so optimistic about the offensive potential this season. Barring major injuries or setbacks of course.

    1. ferris August 11, 2016

      Totally disagree. If he can get open he will see the targets. Should be a mismatch every time he is on the field.

    2. Phatgzus August 12, 2016

      I don’t expect him to have near that total either, not with all the weapons Rodgers has and the way he spreads the wealth. And therein lies the beauty of this signing, Cook really doesn’t have to be much more than the player he already was in previous seasons in order to make this offense better. He’ll probably have similar stats but on fewer targets/plays.

  3. Howard August 11, 2016

    I can see Cook getting targeted 100 times. Many picture a TE closer to the formation. If the Packers start lining Cook wide along with his normal TE set then Cook will get a hundred targets. I would be sure that McCarthy will try to isolate Cook on smaller corners, slower safeties and linebackers. Rodgers will go were his reads show a mismatch. In addition Rodgers is very good at making adjustments at the line to force those mismatches. Cook will cause mismatches. Expect Rodgers to take advantage.

  4. PF4L August 11, 2016

    Well, citing the fact that the Packers have never had a tight end with 100 pass attempts from either Favre or Rodgers, or ever. I’ll stick to my prediction and reasoning.

  5. Icebowler August 11, 2016

    If both of our TE’s are effective, we’re gonna kick butt. This is the best pair we’ve had in a long time. If they both stay healthy, neither is going to be in the top 10 for targets or receptions or yards. So what? Their presence in the middle is going to open up the outside and the underneath for the slot guys. Spread it around and keep the defenses guessing.

    1. PF4L August 11, 2016

      ^5…Great post Ice

      This is the very reason McCarthy re-vamped the playbook. Which was way over due. McCarthy has waited a long time for this. there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about this offense. It may take some time for it to all jell, but i’m hoping mid-season or so. We just need our weapons to stay healthy, Especially Cook and Nelson.

  6. Icebowler August 17, 2016

    I’m sure glad we didn’t go after Ladarius Green in free agency. His career my be over due to concussions:
    http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2016/08/12/report-green-didnt-tell-steelers-about-headaches/