Connection with Chargers new coaches made Jared Cook deal come to pass
He has been an NFL coordinator one other time and for just 23 games.
So there’s still uncertainty about what exactly Joe Lombardi will bring to the Chargers’ offense in 2021.
There is no question, however, that he helped deliver the team’s new tight end.
Jared Cook explained Monday that he signed with the Chargers in large part because of his relationships with Lombardi and offensive line coach Frank Smith.
“I think it’s important to have coaches who understand what type of player you are; who you are as a person,” Cook said. “Being with those guys was huge.”
Cook, who turns 34 in April, is entering his 13th season. He replaces Hunter Henry, who departed via free agency for New England, and represents an experienced inside threat for young quarterback Justin Herbert.
The Chargers made some extensions and additions during free agency so far but also lost key contributors.
For the last two seasons, Cook was with New Orleans, where Lombardi was the longtime quarterbacks coach.
Cook spent 2017 and 2018 with the then-Oakland Raiders. During the latter season, Smith was his position coach.
The two have kept in touch since, Cook saying Smith made a lasting impression because of his coaching style, particularly his willingness to listen to players and “not be a dictator but actually be a coach.”
In 2018, Cook had a career year, finishing with 68 receptions for 896 yards and six touchdowns. He also made his first Pro Bowl, an achievement he duplicated in 2019 with the Saints.
The Chargers will need production from Cook coming off a season in which Henry emerged as one of Herbert’s most-trusted targets.
With Keenan Allen and Mike Williams at receiver and Austin Ekeler coming out of the backfield, Cook will be a big body — 6 foot 5, 254 pounds — roaming along the seams.
Bolstering their offensive line remains the Chargers’ top positional need this offseason, and Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater could be a good fit.
He has 22 touchdown catches over the last three seasons, including a career-high nine in 2019. The Chargers haven’t had a tight end produce as many as nine touchdowns in a season since 2014, when Antonio Gates had 12.
Asked what he’ll bring to his new team, Cook said “a chance to kind of open up the offense a little bit more, spread the field … exploit the mismatches when you’re given them.”
Along with spending two seasons with Drew Brees, Cook also played for one season — 2016 — with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. Having watched Herbert from afar in 2020, he said he appreciates all the potential.
“Justin Herbert also was a huge reason that I came here,” Cook said. “He can sling the ball.”
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco is in the process of rebuilding the line to better protect Herbert, overhauling 80% of the offensive front. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga likely will be the only returnee.
The Chargers are counting on newly signed center Corey Linsley to lead a revamped offensive line in front of rising quarterback star Justin Herbert.
The team also has a new coaching staff headed by Brandon Staley, who hired Lombardi in January to be the offensive coordinator.
His only previous experience in that role was unspectacular, Lombardi fired by Detroit in October 2015 as the Lions failed to adapt to the scheme he was attempting to employ.
“I know what Joe brings to the table,” Cook said. “He’s a grinder. Joe will stay till four or five in the morning making sure your offense is ready to go. He puts in the time and he puts in the effort. I’ve seen it firsthand.”
The Chargers re-signed tight end Stephen Anderson, who was a restricted free agent. He joins Donald Parham on the depth chart behind Cook. Telesco figures to add another tight end, likely in the draft, as the Chargers also have to replace Virgil Green, who is an unrestricted free agent. ... Tackle Sam Tevi has agreed to terms with the Indianapolis Colts. Tevi, a sixth-round pick by the Chargers in 2017, started 43 games over the past three seasons.
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