Entering the 2011 season Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook was supposed to have a breakout campaign and in some ways you could argue that he delivered on that promise. However, for much of the year he was inconsistent and waited until the last three games of the season to show his true potential. Therefore, despite the very solid season he turned in, Cook has plenty of room for improvement in 2012.
In the first 13 games of the 2011 NFL season, Cook hauled in 28 passes for 424 yards and two touchdowns. Thats an average of just over two catches and 32 receiving yards per game, not exactly elite numbers.
Yet, in the last three games of the season Cook flashed superstar potential, putting on an exhibition as he totaled 21 receptions for 335 yards and a touchdown. That averages out to a whopping seven catches and 111.6 receiving yards per game.
Its not that anyone could expect Cook to produce those kinds of numbers over a 16-game season, that would be exceeding even Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. But there is no reason why Cook could not become the next tight end to have a 1,000 yard season.
The Titans have a solid quarterback situation and regardless if it is Jake Locker or Matt Hasselbeck under center, Cook should be the no.2 option in the passing game behind standout receiver Kenny Britt, who missed the majority of last season due to a knee injury.
Hasselbeck appears to have a leg up on Locker for the starting job right now and in truth probably gives the team the best chance to win now and with Peyton Manning out in Denver now, the AFC South is wide open. The Titans, who finished 9-7 in 2011 are definitely thinking playoffs this season and the emergence of Cook could help them get there.
Cook is an incredibly gifted receiver, who is entering his fourth season in the NFL from South Carolina was among the leaders at the tight end position in yards per reception and yards per target, a very telling advanced metric that helps to show productivity. Cook finished the season with a yards per target average of 9.4, which ranked third in the NFL behind Gronkowski and Giants tight end Jake Ballard.
Cook also posted a respectable catch percentage of 60.5 percent on the 81 passes thrown his way. However, this touchdowns per target were very low as he scored a touchdown once every 27 targets. Not a good number for a tight end that should dominante in the red zone. Yet, in his defense and Cook was inexplicably thrown the ball just six times in the red zone and just four times in goal-to-go situations.
Considering the way Cook finished the season and his productivity over the course of the 2011 season it would stand to reason that he would become a bigger part of the Titans passing game in 2012. If he is targeted just 1.2 times more per game in 2012, he will be pushing 100 targets and if he can match his advanced metrics from 2011, that number of targets would equate to roughly 60 catches for 930 yards and four touchdowns.
It would be wise for the Titans to make Cook a bigger part of their passing attack. It is clear the he is on the brink of a very big season, he just needs to be given more opportunities, particularly in the red zone. If that happens and Cook maintains his level of play from last season, he will be inline for a true breakout season in 2012 that will get him recognized as one of the 10 best tight
ends in the NFL.