SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Green Bay Packers' offense got a preview of what it will be like to have tight end Jared Cook in the lineup, but it was just a tease because the real test of his impact this season will come when receiver Jordy Nelson returns.
Based on the four catches for 54 yards and four first downs Cook had in a little over a quarter of play in the Packers’ 21-10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Friday, the big free-agent pickup may cause some big problems.
“Another weapon for A-Rod,” running back Eddie Lacy said. “It’s dangerous for opponents. It’s real scary. I can’t wait to see myself when I’m playing.”
The Packers won’t find out what Nelson can do for Cook and Cook can do for Nelson until Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Nelson took part in pregame warm-ups for the second straight week, but he won’t play during the exhibition season.
They did, however, get a chance to see Cook play live with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and while three of Cook’s catches came with Joe Callahan at quarterback, there was evidence that this offense will have a different look with Cook bringing his talents to multiple positions in coach Mike McCarthy’s scheme.
“I think he’s going to be a big part of our offense," Rodgers said. "He made a lot of plays out there. He did a good job on the basic route on third down that I hit him on. He made some contested catches tonight which was nice to see. He did a good job with the ball in his hands.
"He’s a big body who has some athleticism. He did a good job with the stiff arm on the catch on the sideline. That was impressive to watch. It’s going to be fun for us to grow that chemistry over the season. We need him to stay healthy, but he made some really nice plays tonight.”
In his second series with Rodgers, the offense went 87 yards on 14 plays for a touchdown. Rodgers hit receiver Randall Cobb three times for 30 yards, including a 6-yard score, connected once for nine yards with rookie receiver Trevor Davis and handed off to Lacy four times for 34 yards.
“That’s kind of how offenses are built, we kind of help each other,” Cook said. “We can pull coverages in different directions and open it up for the next guy behind you. So, I feel like I can definitely help this offense with that.”
Cook did not stretch the field the way he might be asked to do later in the season, but once Rodgers left he showed he can be a guy who can keep drives going. Callahan went to Cook when he really needed him, once on a third and 5 at the San Francisco 48 and once on fourth and four at the San Francisco 32.
On the third-down play, Callahan hit Cook over the middle right at the sticks and Cook turned his 6-5, 254-pound body around and gained another five yards as multiple tacklers tried to bring him down.
On the fourth-down play, Cook got matched up with a cornerback on the left side and ran a slant. Callahan hit him seven yards down the field and Cook dragged Marcus Cromartie another five yards.
“He’s a big target,” Callahan said. “He’s athletic. He kept making catches that kept drives going. It’s not surprising. We see it in practice. He comes off the ball so well. He’s going to be a big weapon in this offense.”
Cook said this game was just another step in the progression he is making in learning the offense and how to play with Rodgers.
His night was hardly perfect. The most questionable part of his game is blocking and that was evident when on the first series he had a one-on-one block with linebacker Tank Carradine and wound up holding him in order to keep him from decking Rodgers.
The Packers overcame the penalty, but unless Cook shows he can regularly make blocks like that, he’s not going to be on the field every down. Of course, starter Richard Rodgers also had a whiff on a one-on-one pass block, so at this point Cook is not that much more of a liability.
“I felt like things went all right,” Cook said. “But I’m still growing, I’m still getting better. There’s always plays you wish you could have back. You have to learn from them and move forward.”
The biggest thing for Cook is to get used to the fast tempo the Packers run and the way Rodgers manages the line of scrimmage. After that, he has to get a feel for how Rodgers wants various routes to be run and where are the spots he can be most effective.
Cook has lined up outside as a receiver, in the slot, flexed off the line and with his hand down thus far. McCarthy likes to also use his tight ends in the backfield and Cook even had to lead block for running back James Stark in a formation where he and Cobb were stacked in front of Starks.
“I think it went really well,” Cook said. “Still some things to improve on, but I feel like the timing and the tempo went pretty good. It was definitely uptempo and a little faster paced, but I think everybody did a pretty good job of playing together.
“The chemistry was pretty good.”