FOXBORO -- There's only so much to take away from OTAs.
That's a line that we in the media -- myself included -- tend to hammer in May and June. But for players and coaches there are benefits. Obviously. Otherwise why have them?
Brandin Cooks is someone who appears to have made the most of his time at the facility this spring. On the field he was impressive in the only practice that has been open to members of the media thus far. He caught a touchdown from Tom Brady with Malcolm Butler in coverage during 11-on-11s, and he looked quick running through drills.
Off the field, though, away from the cameras, he's garnered attention from his coaches and teammates for his diligence.
"I've seen somebody that works extremely hard, who is very professional, who has come in and earned the respect of his teammates because of the way he's worked," receivers coach Chad O'Shea said. "That's the thing, the first impression I have of him is those strong traits that he has, and it's gonna be great that he's brought that to our football team.
"I think any time you add competition to the position, it's beneficial, and I think our players have seen that -- specifically the receivers have seen that -- as something that's positive and it's a challenge that's very positive for them to strengthen our football team through bringing in compeition. Brandin's been very impressive in what he's done as far as approach."
Cooks will be pushing teammates in a group that makes up perhaps the deepest position on the Patriots roster. With Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola all back from last year's club, there's a bevy of experienced and trusted sets of hands for Brady to throw to. Newcomers like Andrew Hawkins and undrafted receiver Austin Carr are intriguing talents who could push for roster spots as well.
Like many of the names included in that group, Cooks proved during his time in New Orleans that he can be deployed in a variety of ways. He'll have to learn the concepts necessary to compete at multiple spots in the Patriots offense if he wants to do the same in New England, but that's what OTAs are for, O'Shea explained.
He said figuring out the best ways to use someone like Cooks is part of what makes his job enjoyable.
"I think it's the fun part of what we do as coaches," O'Shea said. "When you have talented players that can do a lot of things well, like a lot of our players can . . . That's the good thing about our receivers this year, we have a lot of guys that have strengths that all complement each other. But when you have a player like [Cooks], it's our job as coaches to maximize their production by doing a lot of different things with them.
"We ask our guys to do a lot of things, especially this time of the year. We don't put them in specific positions yet. We just ask them to do a lot of things well. He's really no different at this point than any of our other guys as far as his flexibility. We're asking everybody to have some type of flexibility at our position. The more they can do, the better."
Cooks lined up out wide as well as in the slot for New Orleans. There were occasions when he was used out of the backfield, or in the screen game, and he was a threat as a jet-sweep option from time to time. Before he takes on a variety of roles for O'Shea and McDaniels, though, not only will he have to put in time. His teachers will put in a little extra work themselves in order to make sure he's up to speed as quickly as possible.
"I think there's definitely additional investment that you have with a new player, and that's our job as coaches is to make sure that player is transitioned in our system and knows what to do so they can use their ability on the field," O'Shea said. "But it definitely helps when you have players like Brandin and you have players like we have in our receiver room that work so extremely hard on their own, and it really kind of helps that whole process.
"That's really one of the strengths of our group I believe is our strong work ethic, and Brandin sure has been one to fall right along with being a very good worker."