Death, taxes, and Brandin Cooks churning out 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
This has (mostly) been life in the NFL since 2014 when the New Orleans Saints drafted Cooks out of Oregon State. In his nine seasons prior to being traded for by the Cowboys, Brandin Cooks reached four digits in yards six different times, and with four different teams.
Of course, Cooks began his 10th NFL season with the Cowboys in 2023 so it stood to reason that perhaps there would be a teeny bit of regression; however, we are halfway through the regular season and things have gone about as poorly as they possibly could have in terms of incorporating him into the Dallas offense.
What is going on?
Brandin Cooks is not producing so far with the Dallas Cowboys
We are halfway through the regular season although the Cowboys technically have more games in front of them than they do behind them. Such is life with 17 games in the regular season.
To this point though, Cooks has been just about a non-factor. He has 17 catches on the season for a measly 165 yards (there are two scores in there to be fair) and it is by far his lowest level of production through seven games of a season.
Brandin Cooks’ first 7 games of each of his 10 NFL seasons:
- 2014 (Saints): 51 targets, 40 receptions, 372 yards, 2 TDs
- 2015 (Saints): 58 targets, 35 receptions, 444 yards, 1 TD
- 2016 (Saints): 56 targets, 36 receptions, 530 yards, 5 TDs
- 2017 (Patriots): 46 targets, 28 receptions, 537 yards, 3 TDs
- 2018 (Rams): 44 targets, 32 receptions, 569 yards, 2 TDs
- 2019 (Rams): 44 targets, 27 receptions, 402 yards, 1 TD
- 2020 (Texans): 51 targets, 34 receptions, 427 yards, 2 TDs
- 2021 (Texans): 64 targets, 45 receptions, 502 yards, 1 TD
- 2022 (Texans): 53 targets, 32 receptions, 354 yards, 1 TD
- 2023 (Cowboys): 29 targets, 17 receptions, 165 yards, 2 TDs
Our thanks to Stathead for making finding this information easy, but it is a bit troubling to look at.
The first thing that comes to mind is that Cooks has never had a CeeDee Lamb (let alone the 2023 version of Lamb) in front of him on any of these teams to absorb attention and targets. You can certainly throw Jake Ferguson in there as well given his offensive production.
But even though Cooks may be a third “option” in the passing game for the Cowboys, that he only has 29 targets to this point on the year is really difficult to wrap your brain around. Some of this is certainly that Dallas has been a part of so many blowouts (both good and bad) but we can only excuse things to a certain degree.
Consider that Brandin Cooks is fifth on the team in targets through Week 9:
- CeeDee Lamb, 72
- Jake Ferguson, 43
- Michael Gallup, 38
- Tony Pollard, 35
- Brandin Cooks, 29
- Jalen Tolbert, 15
- KaVontae Turpin, 9
- Rico Dowdle and Luke Schoonmaker, 8
- Deuce Vaughn, 5
- Hunter Luepke, 3
- Peyton Hendershot and Sean McKeon, 2
For full context, Cooks has missed a game this season, but there is still no reason why he should be this low from a workload standpoint. If it isn’t obvious he is currently experiencing career-lows in targets, receptions, and receiving yards through seven games of a season.
Another area where Cooks is experiencing a career-low to this point is catch percentage. He is sitting on 58.6% so far which outdoes his previous career-low from his second season in the NFL, but trailing that was his performance last season with the Texans for even more perspective. Cooks is also riding a career-low in yards per target at 5.7 which is worse than his previous low of 6.7 from last season’s performance with Houston.
So what does this tell us? The usage for Cooks is definitely suspect but he is not exactly making lemonade with the lemons (however few) that he is given. It is the worst possible combination of efforts from the offensive design and player.
No one is advocating prioritizing Cooks over the likes of Lamb or Ferguson as noted, but he was brought in to contribute and is not really helping much. The Cowboys offense is flowing right now so nobody wants to mess up a good thing, but it is a long season and it is not sustainable to expect Lamb to go supernova every single week. Another wide receiver needs to start producing and Cooks was supposed to be that person.