Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger said he has coached one other player who had a similar size to third-round tight end Jared Cook. But the player Cook’s frame reminded Heimerdinger of wasn’t Shannon Sharpe or even more recently, former Titans Ben Troupe.
It was instead Ed McCaffrey, who was a star receiver when Heimerdinger coached that position with the Denver Broncos.
McCaffrey teamed with Rod Smith to form the nucleus of the Broncos’ receiving corps in the mid to late 1990s when quarterback John Elway and running back Terrell Davis led them to back-to-back Super Bowl titles.
However, there is just one problem with that comparison. McCaffrey was a wide out. Cook, at 6-5, 246, is a tight end.
“Ed McCaffrey was that big. I don’t know if there are many tight ends that big. I can’t remember any tight ends like that, because he’s so big,” Heimerdinger said.
Heimerdinger’s eventual goal with Cook is to use him in mismatch situations as his size and athletic ability should be able to terrorize opposing linebackers and safeties.
Cook made several athletic plays during the rookie orientation and a couple of times ran away from coverage with his 4.5 speed much more like a wideout than a tight end. Even Titans coach Jeff Fisher admits it is tempting to use Cook as a wide receiver, simply because of his size and speed combination. But he and Heimerdinger will resist that urge because of what Cook could eventually bring to the tight end spot.
“He’s got real natural soft hands, and he adjusts very well,” Fisher said. “One can make the case that maybe he is a wide receiver after what we saw today, but he’s got a lot of work to do. He’s a very smart kid. He runs good routes and understands them well, and I think he’ll be pretty good for us.”
Fisher envisions Cook at somewhere around 255 to 260 pounds eventually without losing any of his speed or shiftiness.
“I think he’s got growth potential. I think he could add another 15 to 20 pounds,” Fisher said.
As for Cook, he is soaking everything in slowly in trying to acclimate himself into the Titans system along with his 2009 rookie classmates.
“There’s a lot more and different formations. In college, I only had five or six, so it’s a lot different,” Cook said. “I think I did pretty well. You go from being in a college atmosphere and now you’re in the NFL, so it’s a big step up.”
Heimerdinger hopes that when Cook and his other rookie pupils return in a couple of weeks to work with the veterans that they will be far enough along to contribute something in the offense.
“I’d like them to be able to get in the huddle. Jeff always sets up a practice schedule so that we have a rookie period, and that they get out there with the other rookies with a full group,” Heimerdinger said. “I really hope they can jump out in the huddle and know where to line up and have a clue on what the routes are that we want to run.
“We’ll kind of spoon feed them accordingly on what they’re going to do. But I’m hoping they can get in the huddle and go against some good competition and rotate in there.”
Cook did get to meet a few veterans who were in for workouts, and already has gotten an encouraging word from veteran tight end Alge Crumpler. Cook remembered seeing Crumpler with the Falcons when he was growing up in the Atlanta area.
“It’s kind of surreal, but Alge is a great guy. He is very encouraging, and told me if I ever needed anything that he would definitely be a resource,” Cook said.
WAITING TO SEE: Rookie running back Javon Ringer said he met LenDale White on Friday as the running back was working out during the time rookie orientation was under way. He said he also can’t wait to see quarterback Vince Young, among his other new teammates.
“I’ve already met LenDale White, and it’ll be crazy just to meet Vince Young and look at him and say, ‘Wow, that’s Vince Young,’” said Ringer, a fifth-round pick from Michigan State.
Ringer said he felt right at home with the Titans, who were one of just two teams to host him for a visit. And though he was a bit disappointed to fall into the fifth round before hearing his name called draft weekend, he got over that when he found out he would be coming to Nashville again.
“I definitely felt like I wasn’t going into a whole new environment,” Ringer said. “I was able to come here a little bit and visit with the coaches and see the whole organization here. When they picked me, I was like, ‘Great. I’ll just go back to where I was.’ I only went to two. I went here and the San Diego Chargers.”