Patriots notebook: Wide receiver Brandin Cooks looks toward next challenge, not previous success
FOXBORO — Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks believes in momentum, but he has no desire to live in the past.
Cooks broke out last week against the Texans with five catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner, so he has some tangible validation that his productive summer would translate to the season. Consider, he doubled his production from the first two games (five catches, 125 yards, no scores).
“I don’t care about last week,” Cooks said with a genuine smile. “I wouldn’t say I don’t believe in (momentum), but the rule is you’ve got 24 hours to think about it and now it’s on to the next. New opponent, new week, so now you’ve got to build off that.”
The former Saint is gearing up for a familiar opponent, as the Patriots host the NFC South’s Carolina Panthers today at Gillette Stadium. Cooks had 27 catches for 398 yards and two touchdowns in four games against the Panthers from 2015-16.
But the Panthers have also reworked their secondary over the past year, particularly by jettisoning cornerback Josh Norman, so Cooks wouldn’t assume past success would carry over to today. Clearly, that’s the theme this week.
“I don’t necessarily think it helps or doesn’t help me,” Cooks said of those prior encounters. “They’ve got a great defense. I don’t go off the past. It’s a whole new year. Guys have gotten better. They’ve got a great secondary, and obviously their linebackers and defensive front are great. So we’ve got a challenge ahead of us and we’ve got to go in there and do our job.”
By the way, Cooks’ big-time performance against the Texans unveiled an alteration to his touchdown celebration, which is a tribute to Bible verse Psalm 144:6: “Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy; shoot your arrows and rout them.”
Cooks used to pull an imaginary arrow off his back and fire it into the sky after each touchdown, but the NFL decided last offseason to penalize such a celebration. Against the Texans, he pulled out two arrows and emphatically dropped to the ground.
Different gesture, same meaning.
“It has to be because I don’t want to do anything to hurt the team and get a penalty or fined,” Cooks said. “It’s still the same philosophy with me being able to glorify my God in a different way. It’s still the arrows. I’m just not shooting them in a sense.”
Edelman lends a hand
Wide receiver Julian Edelman is still helping the Patriots despite being more than a month removed from a torn ACL.
Edelman has been among the contingent to help wideout Phillip Dorsett in his transition to the offense. The Patriots acquired Dorsett on Sept. 2 and have raved about his dedication, and it’s been a group effort.
“Just stick to it,” Dorsett said of Edelman’s general advice. “It’s a grind, honestly. Being here, we work really, really hard. Just got to keep studying. Keep studying. That’s the main thing. Keep studying because there are going to be plays thrown at you from all places.
“(Edelman) is a great guy, one of the funniest guys I’ve met in a long time, and I always studied him even when I was in Indy. I admire his game. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, and that’s how I try to be. He makes the most of his opportunities.”
Wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea worked Dorsett hard at the start, staying with him around the clock in the film room, bringing him out for extra walkthroughs and quizzing him on routes, concepts and terminology throughout the day.
But Dorsett has also been a diligent student in his own right. He has three catches for 68 yards, all of which came in Week 2 against the Saints, and he knows the results will improve along the way.
It’s been a heck of a test, and he said he’s heard of new plays and terminology every day of his tenure. But his confidence in his work is obvious.
“I wouldn’t say it’s impossible,” Dorsett said. “Anything is possible. You’ve just got to put in the work because it’s probably the most difficult thing you can ask any receiver to do, to come in and learn a playbook like this without any training camp or offseason work. I think it’s been going well. I’ve just been putting in the time.”
More Lewis in store?
This might be a good week to increase Dion Lewis’ workload.
Lewis has only played 32 offensive snaps through three games, which is the third most among the Patriots’ four running backs. And Rex Burkhead (18 snaps) has basically missed six quarters due to his rib injury.
The Patriots rank 21st in the NFL with 3.5 yards per carry, which is also Lewis’ average (eight carries, 28 yards). But remember, he was the only running back who could save the Patriots’ run-blocking issues in 2015, so it might make sense to up his snap count today.
“I think Dion’s been good,” Bill Belichick said. “He can make plays with the ball in his hands, both in the running game and the passing game. No problem with him in there. I think he’s done a good job when he’s had an opportunity.”
Belichick even said Lewis could be effective in goal-line situations, which was interesting because Lewis has never gotten a handoff from the 1- or 2-yard line in his three seasons with the Pats.
“I think he’s good with the ball in his hands and he has good vision, runs hard, has a low center of gravity, is a hard guy to tackle,” Belichick said. “So I think you could hand him the ball in any situation — inside, outside. Yeah, I think he’s a hard guy to tackle, and he has good vision, can find space.”