The speed is real, but Brandin Cooks’ impact on Dallas Cowboys is more than moving fast

Michael Ainsworth //AP

For those who wondered if newly-acquired Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Brandin Cooks still had 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash heading into a 2023 season when he will turn 30 in September, it took two plays in minicamp to silence all doubters.

Cooks, who came to the Cowboys in a trade with the Houston Texans in March, twice ran by a secondary already in trail position. The first time quarterback Dak Prescott over threw him. The second time he connected in a perfect deep ball behind the Cowboys defense.

“The speed is real. Yes, the speed is real,” receivers coach Robert Prince said. “He is a fast human being.”

Prescott was downright giddy when asked about Cooks’ speed and his ability to take the top offense defense, an element the the Cowboys haven’t had in their offense in years.

“You saw it. It’s great. It’s beautiful,” Prescott said. “Yeah, real speed. Runs the same way every time. I think that’s the most important thing. When you have speed like that, for him to be able to do it ever play, every route, the start of every route, the cornerbacks, defense, they don’t know what they’re getting. It all looks the same. I’m thankful he’s here.”

A Cowboys team that was abject at the receiver position in 2022 behind No. 1 wideout CeeDee Lamb, thanks to the decision to trade Amari Cooper and fail to adequately replace him, is certainly thankful to have a player of Cooks’ caliber on the roster.

Cooks has been a success wherever he’s been with six 1,000-yard season for four different franchises, including the New Orleans Saints, the New England Patriots, the Los Angeles Rams and Texans.

And his speed has always been his calling card.

But what the Cowboys are swiftly finding out is Cooks is more than a road runner. He is. a completel receiver who is having a fast impact on rest of the receiver room in terms of leadership, mentorship and guidance.

Every time you bring up Cooks’ speed, the Cowboys bring up what he has meant to the development of the team’s young receivers, especially Jalen Tolbert, a third-round pick in 2022 who was a bust as a rookie.

“He’s been on Brandon’s hip and you know, learning from him and you definitely see the improvement,” Prince said of the Tolbert.

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer doubled down on Cooks’ impact on Tolbert.

“I’m a big fan of Brandon. And the speed is evident, but just watch the watch the way he works in practice,” Schottenheimer said. “And if you talk to Jalen, what Jalen is going to tell you is he has spent a ton of time with Brandin. And so here’s a guy that’s been there and done that and what Brandon wants to do, in addition to come and learn a system, is he wants to encourage and invest in the younger guys. And so those guys spend a lot of time together. I see him before practice in the weight room working together. So what Brandin brings us is way more than just speed.

“And it’s really fun to watch him run. Whether it’s deep route short routes, it really doesn’t matter. But what I love is the competitor and the way he is encouraging that entire room of receivers. It’s been awesome.”

None of this is a surprise to the Cowboys.

Prince coached Cooks in Houston in 2021.

And Schottenheimer got a call from from legendary Saints quarterback Drew Brews, who sung Cooks’ praises as soon as the Cowboys made the trade in March.

“Drew Brees and I are very close,” Schottenheimer said. “The very first text I got was from Drew and Drew was like ‘you are going to love this guy’. And Drew, he’s a hard guy to get to give out a lot of a positive reinforcement but he said ‘you’re gonna love this guy.’ So I was not surprised.

“But again until you see it yourself. You don’t realize that. He doesn’t have to do that. But he wants to do that. And he goes out of his way to do it. And that’s why again, I just again, it’s worth pointing that out. I think he’s been a big influence on Jalen as well.”

In addition to work with the young guys, Coach Mike McCarthy has been impressed with his entire package as a receiver.

“I think he’s an exceptionally route runner,” McCarthy said. “He has a great understanding of the routes, the time clocks, the specifics of an action release vs. a vertical release. He’s played a number of different systems. I’ve actually liked how he approaches the game. The ability to go deep and get on top of it and I think the biggest compliment you can give a receiver is his ability to go vertical when the corner is in a press bail technique and you still view him as a viable No. 1.

“That’s why he’s been he’s been a great fit for us just the way he’s come in here and he’s made everyone so much better. He has made our offense better.”

Still, the speed can’t be ignored. Cowboys teammates are already taking sides who is the fastest player on the team between Cooks and returner KaVontae Turpin.

Cooks is beyond having to prove his speed at this point his career. He has no interest in getting a foot race after practice. It is beneath him.

His focus is play speed and football speed. You can just cut on the tape for that.

Or take a review of Wednesday practice when Cooks gave them a little taste of the afterburners.

“You really never know until you know, so yeah give him a little taste just to be like, it’s still there,” Cooks said. “And then, you know, we just we go from here, and just keep building on that.”