Raiders

Jared Cook's rare size-speed combination unleashed in Raiders scheme

Jared Cook's rare size-speed combination unleashed in Raiders scheme

DENVER – Jared Cook loved the Raiders game plan heading into Monday night’s season opener. Head coach Jon Gruden wanted to utilize Jared Cook’s rare combination of size and speed to exploit mismatches with L.A. Rams defenders.

Want to cover him with a linebacker? Cook’s gonna win that race. Want to cover him with a cornerback? Cook's superior size will win out. Even safeties struggle with the combination of size and speed that left Rams safety John Johnson to do most of the work against Cook. Gruden believed his man would dominate that battle and others when matched up in single coverage.

Gruden was certainly right. Cook had nine catches for 180 yards. That’s a franchise record for receiving yards by a tight end.

“I was excited about my role in the game plan, but you never expect to go for 180,” Cook said Friday. “It felt good to produce and get all those targets, but the stats don’t matter when you lose.”

Raiders coaches have said Jared Cook and running back Jalen Richard were primary targets against the Rams based upon matchups and areas of Rams defensive deficiencies. Other skill players will be featured in other games.

He was heavily featured in some contests last season, and was a relative nonfactor in others. Cook wants to consistently contribute to the passing game, and run roughshod over defenses if too much attention is paid to Amari Cooper or Jordy Nelson.

“That’s the goal, to find matchups you can exploit,” Cook said. “I feel comfortable with what I have been asked to do by the coaching staff.”

Gruden’s moving Cook around the formation, using him as a roving chess piece. He played 64 snaps against the Rams and, per analytics site Pro Football Focus, he spend 30 as an in-line tight end, 20 in the slot and 14 out wide as a receiver.

He’s fast enough to play a pure receiver position, tough enough to block for the run and pass.

“We can put him anywhere we want,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “The great thing about Jared is that he is so tough and physical that he can get in and block also. So, we are not one-dimensional when he is in the game. That’s a big point for us because if he’s in and every time it’s a pass that would be easy for coordinators. For him to be able to play tight end and then go play receiver in the slot or out wide is big time for us.”

Gruden can move him around, making it tough for opponents to cover him to their liking. The Broncos have made a point to slow him down during Sunday’s AFC West clash with the Silver and Black.

“He has size, he can run and he has great hands,” Denver defensive coordinator Joe Woods said. “He’s basically a receiver playing tight end. He’s hard to matchup – a linebacker, safety of a corner – because of all his attributes. We’re going to do a little bit of everything against him. Hopefully it’s successful.”

Cook would prefer it isn’t. He has enjoyed working with Gruden since the spring, and remains excited about his role in the offense. He believes steadily making a significant impact is possible working with Gruden’s creative offensive mind.

“I’ve been moved around a lot in my career,” Cook said. “It’s something we’ll continue to do here as we move forward. I’ll do anything to help the team win, but I love the role and the opportunities I have been given in this system.”

How Raiders' Nick Kwiatkoski showed his value with Bears last season

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USATSI

How Raiders' Nick Kwiatkoski showed his value with Bears last season

When opportunity knocked last year for Nick Kwiatkoski, the Chicago Bears’ four-year reserve linebacker, he answered.

With free agency looming, he was put in position to show the rest of the NFL what the Bears privately knew about the high-motor, highly athletic 26-year-old: It wasn’t a lack of ability that prevented Kwiatkoski from being a full-time starter, it was that the Bears had some of the best players in football at his position.

In Kwiatkoski, the Bears’ depth chart was hiding a starting caliber linebacker. And not just a situational one, but the highly coveted three-down kind who can play the run and the pass.

All of which he showed in an eight-game stint at the end of the 2019 season. He had 50 tackles, two sacks, four tackles for loss and four pass breakups to firmly establish himself as a valuable free agent target.

READ ABOUT KWIATKOSKI AT REVIEW-JOURNAL

 

Raiders' Zay Jones shares heartwarming story amid racial tensions

Raiders' Zay Jones shares heartwarming story amid racial tensions

The death of George Floyd while in police custody Monday in Minnesota has re-ignited racial tensions in the United States.

Protests are occurring in cities all over the country, and professional athletes are speaking up about their experiences.

On Saturday, Raiders wide receiver Zay Jones shared a heartwarming story on Twitter about an encounter he had with an woman at a home goods store.

That's powerful.

Jones, a Dallas, Texas native, was acquired by the Raiders in a trade with the Buffalo Bills last October.

In 10 games for the Raiders, Jones caught 20 passes for 147 yards.

[RELATED: Jones, Carr building chemistry]

But receiving this unnamed woman into his arms is the biggest catch of Jones' career.

[RAIDERS TALK: Listen to the latest episode]