By Cameron Buford, Whatsgoodinsports.com

This new version of the Los Angeles Chargers is intriguing for many reasons. Their coaching staff has notably brought a refreshing energy to the team, along with players meant to complement the returning veterans and youthful players currently on the team. Because the new Head Coach Brandon Staley stems from a defensive background, major focus has been placed on that side of the ball. They also brought in players to revamp their porous offensive line from a season ago, in addition to a veteran tight end to assist in the growth of their young quarterback. 

Honestly, I was surprised when I heard the Chargers were not going to counter the offer Hunter Henry received from the New England Patriots. Though Henry faced injury concerns in his young career, he did play in 14 of 16 games last season, as he recorded the most catches of his career. As they lost seven of eight games during a stretch last season, the Chargers were in the midst of their second consecutive losing season when Justin Herbert credited Hunter Henry for keeping the team loose in the locker room and helped them to remain positive

Although Henry signed a lucrative deal with the Patriots, they replaced him with a 12-year veteran of the NFL in Jared Cook. Not only has Cook caught over 500 balls in the league, but he also has a career average of 13.2 yards per catch, and only in his rookie season did he average less than double digits in yards per catch. This South Carolina Gamecock is also familiar with this new offense Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombard has installed, which he was familiar with from his time in New Orleans the past couple of seasons.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, he would move to Georgia in the sixth grade. As a wide receiver in High School, Cook would then head to the University of South Carolina, understanding that the “ole’ ball coach” Steve Spurrier was going there and “he’s known for throwing to his receivers. Especially in the SEC, where it’s predominately a lot of run offenses. I knew he was going to bring a different style to the game. at a time when the SEC was all about running the ball.” I’d say that decision worked out well for Jared.

As a rookie in the league, he played with the Titans when Vince Young and Chris Johnson starred in the backfield. That season Chris Johnson became the sixth running back to rush for over 2000 yards in the league’s history. That season he also set the record for the most yards gained from scrimmage. Cook would say, “that’s probably one of the best (running) back I’ve played with!”

This experience Cook has with multiple quarterbacks, which will be in the Hall of Fame one day, should assist in the evolution of Justin Herbert. Jared would say about playing in Green Bay, “My whole experience in Green Bay was full of rediscoveries and eye-opening experiences. And just playing with A-Rod, he is one of the best in the business! His accuracy, his wits about him as he is playing; his ability to create plays and extend play and find open receivers when they don’t even look open; Playing with him was full of ah-ha moments.”

After his stint in Green Bay, Cook would find himself in the same offense with another future Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees. He would say about Brees, “he is another guy that took the game to another level… it was a different level of studying, to a different level of commitment that he took to be able to be the best in the game.” 

When asked about the similarities that he sees in Justin Herbert, that he saw in those future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Jared told me, “Man, he’s able to extend plays. Strongarm, able to fit the ball into tight windows and get the ball to you fast; He continues to show and prove every day in camp and in practice!”

When the starters dressed for their Fan Fest at SoFi stadium earlier in Training Camp, Jared Cook went through a routine simulating running routes and catching passes, clearly working on his hand-eye coordination. I wanted to hear from this 12-year veteran what he got out of these drills. He would tell me, “You always have to work on your skills! That’s what you do the most; you got to be the best or try to be the best at what you do; Always be hungry to get better!”

Since being drafted into the NFL, Cook played with a bunch of talented players. So, before I concluded this interview, I wanted to hear what Jared Cook thought about a couple of playmakers on his new team in Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen. When asked about Austin, Cook asserted, “he’s going to be a good back for us! A strong runner able to find holes and hit gaps fast. Able to also catch the ball out the backfield, he’s versatile like AK (Alvin Kamara), which is what you need in this type of offense.” 

Because Keenan Allen largely seems to fly under the radar when people talk about the best receivers in the NFL, I thought it would be interesting to hear a veteran in this league share his thoughts as to why this may be. Jared wasted no time telling me, “I never thought Keenan was underrated! Not a lot of receivers have that type of feet that have that type of where with all to know where they are on the field and where to break and what open areas to break and catch the ball to get north. It’s amazing to watch him in practice and watch the things that he does first hand.”

When I asked Head Coach Brandon Staley about the experience Jared Cook brings to the offense and how it impacts their offense, he proudly stated, “Jared’s such a good resource. This guy got a lot of experience, not just years in the league. But he’s played with a lot of good quarterbacks; when you think about Brees and Rodgers, that guy has a lot of rich experience. He knows how to talk to the quarterback; he knows how to talk to his fellow tight ends and set that example. He’s such a consistent person; he’s such a consistent performer out there. I’m really thankful we have him.”

It was a pleasure to sit down with Jared Cook and recap his career with him, he has been fortunate to play with some great players, and there’s no doubt this will be a talented offense. Cook has shown throughout his career that he’s able to make big plays, and it will be interesting to see how he gets utilized in this offense this season. Kindly share your thoughts on how you think Jared Cook can impact this offense this season, or more importantly, what impact he will have on Justin Herbert’s development. You can reach out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or shoot me an email at info@whatsgoodinsports.com. I encourage you to forward any suggestions on what topics or angles about this new version of the Los Angeles Chargers you would like to see discussed this season. 

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