This is becoming an impromptu Chris Cooley week, what with his hot pants and contract talks, though I ask that reader(s) bear with me. A very good friend of mine has on occasion told me that he's impressed with Chris Cooley, but the guy just doesn't appear all that fast. I've always maintained that he's fast enough, I mean he isn't a WR, he's not Santana Moss, but by TE standards he isn't slow. To wit:
Check it out around 1:56 remaining (or try 1:28 remaining -- better yet: 1:00 remaining), and you'll see a guy who is absolutely fast enough.
"The thing Chris has done a terrific job of doing in terms of elevating his play is the speed he plays at and his ability to run routes," Saunders said. "His route running ability and ability to separate from defenders has gotten better and better. ... He has mastered [the route running] at this point and does it in a proficient fashion."
The way Cooley runs routes is different than how he ran them at Utah State and in his first two seasons with the Redskins. On a 10-yard in route, he used to run to the spot, shuffle his feet, make a head and/or shoulder fake and then turn inside. Now, he runs to the spot and turns inside instantly without losing any momentum.
"He has the intelligence to adapt to anything and has good instincts and awareness," tight ends coach Rennie Simmons said. "Everything now with our routes are speed cuts instead of teaching the receiver to set the defender up with fakes and movement. It's become more critical that the receiver and the quarterback are on the same timing."
This is a learning experience for all involved, as it isn't merely the tight end who has to get used to new routes, but the quarterback throwing him the ball. And as the article notes, Jason Campbell and Chris Cooley seem to have it figured out. The two connected multiple times at practice and I thank the Times for this interesting contrast of Cooley's production with Jason vs. with Mark Brunell:
We found out that Chris Cooley was dangerous in short yardage in 2005. We found out that he was dangerous on big plays last year. I predict opposing defenses will continue to have fits trying to cover Chris, especially as he builds rapport with quarterback Jason Campbell in Year 2 of the Al Saunders offense.