The Broncos will have their hands full today as they try to slow down the Raiders biggest offensive weapon, who also happens to play a position Denver has historically struggled to stop - tight end Jared Cook.
Cook started off the year with a bang as he racked up nine catches on 12 targets for 180 yards in the Raiders’ loss to the Rams (As it turns out, Wade Phillips’ defenses haven’t gotten any better at stopping tight ends).
Normally, a performance like this would be enough on its own to make a defense pay attention, but add in the fact that Denver gave up a league-high 15 touchdowns to running backs and tight ends last year, and its first game of this year didn’t show a ton of improvement in that area. So I would be making this priority No. 1 if I were Joe Woods and Vance Joseph.
Coach Joseph talked about it on Wednesday:
“He’s going to be a true challenge. He had 190 yards on, I think, 10 targets. He’s 6-6, he has great ball skills, he runs a 4.5 [40-yard dash]. We have to have a great plan to get him contained. We can’t walk in here on Monday and say we didn’t contain him. If we don’t contain him, it’s going to be a long day for us. Obviously, they have [WR] Amari Cooper, [RB] Marshawn Lynch and [WR] Jordy Nelson. It’s an offense full of talent, so our plan has to obviously have answers for all of those skill guys. That’s always a tough deal when a quarterback is playing at a high level. We have a plan, and hopefully it works to a T on Sunday.”
I hope Denver’s plan mimics what it did in Week 12 of last year against Cook. While the Broncos would lose the game due to horrendous quarterbacking, Cook was held to one catch for two yards.
So what did Denver do? It did exactly what we have all been screaming at them to do - ‘sicced’ Justin Simmons on him.
It wasn’t quite at the level of Belichick having Talib shadow Jimmy Graham all game, as Simmons wasn’t on Cook 100 percent of the time, but for the most part where Cook went, Simmons followed.
On this one, Simmons gave him plenty of cushion, so they test the flat, but he breaks quickly on the route for a two yard gain.
This is excellent coverage by Simmons getting a great jam on Cook at the line, and staying in phase the entire route. Cook should have been flagged for pass interference as well, and he still stopped him.
Really good coverage here one-on-one at the goal line, which is where a guy like Cook can really do some damage. The play was initially called a catch but corrected after review. You can’t cover it much better than Simmons did here.
This one is my favorite, and doesn’t require much analysis other than “wow.” To be able to undercut a corner route and high point the ball like that for a PBU is so impressive.
Over two games in 2017, when Simmons lined up in direct coverage on Cook, the results were six targets, and one catch for two yards.
I expect he will be the primary part of the plan for Cook in today’s game. You may not see Simmons line up on Cook every play, but it would be a huge miss by the coaching staff to not utilize him 1 on 1 for a majority of the day.
We will see how it plays out and be here for review after the game as the “covering tight ends” saga continues!