CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 16: Johnny Knox #13 of the Chicago Bears goes up for the pass in the end zone as Chris Cook #31 of the Minnesota Vikings breaks up the play at Soldier Field on October 16, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
I think we all know that, prior to his stint in the Minnesota Penal League, Chris Cook was on track to have a very good 2011 season for the Minnesota Vikings. Unfortunately, his season went completely off the tracks after six weeks, and he was unable to fulfill that potential.
Now, with his legal troubles in the rear view mirror and with every opportunity to be the top dog in the Minnesota secondary, the opportunity for stardom is going to present itself again in 2012, and Pro Football Focus has identified Cook as a player that has that kind of potential.
According to Pro Football Focus, Cook managed to rack up a positive grade in coverage last season before he wound up missing the rest of the year. I can't imagine that too many other members of the Minnesota secondary from 2011 can make that claim. They point out one particular play against the Detroit Lions that shows the sort of potential that Cook possesses.
With the Vikings protecting a 20-17 lead deep in the fourth quarter, the Lions were driving into Minnesota territory. On 3rd-and-2 the Lions went 3-wide, with Johnson in the slot to the right covered by Winfield. Titus Young was lined up at RWR with Cook eight yards off the line in zone coverage. At the snap Young faked the bubble screen, causing Winfield to release Johnson up the seam and jump down on the fake. Stafford immediately looked for his top target heading upfield, but Cook read the play and undercut the route to make a diving breakup of the pass at full stretch.
There are only a hand full of players in the league that could make that play against that player, and it was for exactly that type of play that the Vikings drafted him. Cook's effort forced the Lions to kick a 50-yard field goal rather than continue an ominous-looking drive toward a touchdown. Cook ended up with a +2.4 coverage grade on the year before getting himself into major legal troubles.
Now, yes, Calvin Johnson did wind up with a touchdown in that game, but Cook still had outstanding coverage on that particular play. Hey, the guy is nicknamed "Megatron" for a reason. . .he's going to do that to people. But Cook is one of the few players in the division, and certainly the only one in Minnesota at this point, that has even the slightest chance against guys like Calvin Johnson and the newly-arrived Brandon Marshall.
If Cook can a) stay healthy and b) avoid the Hennepin County Jail, there's a good reason to think that he's going to have a huge impact for the Minnesota Vikings in 2012. He may not be a wonderful person by any stretch, but this isn't the National Congeniality League. Hopefully all of the talk about Chris Cook in 2012 will center on what he's done on the football field.