Cook, the brother of Vikings’ star Dalvin, was the mainly-utilized running back for the defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs. Here are three things you’ll need to know about James before he starts his career in Buffalo.
Cook’s College Experience And Upbringing
James Cook was selected 63rd overall by the Bills in the 2022 NFL Draft. The younger brother of Vikings’ star running back Dalvin Cook, James grew up in a football family, and took the game very seriously ever since he was little, along with Dalvin. Recruited heavily to play at the University of South Florida to come play with his brother in their home state, James committed, but later decommitted and decided to take his talents to Georgia instead.
Cook at Georgia, wearing the number 4 which his brother now dons in Minnesota
At Georgia, Cook played all but one game in his freshman year, totaling 284 yards and two touchdowns, and showed the coaches that he belonged and could be a real player for their powerhouse of a team. While there was heavy competition, Cook prevailed and became one of the most important pieces on the Bulldog offense. After a very successful 2020 in which he was the team’s second-leading rusher with 303 yards and three touchdowns, he earned the starting job in his senior year, and performed, totaling more than double his previous season’s numbers with 728 yards on the ground, and 284 through the air. (Sports Reference)
Cook’s Running Style And How He Fits In With Buffalo’s Scheme
Many running backs usually decide to lean on their ball carrying, quickness and strength to become successful, however Cook realized he could be a fantastic weapon out of the backfield, and also became one of the Bulldogs’ leading receivers, which was incredible considering he was taking most of the handoffs as well.
Receiving running backs always have a place in the NFL, and fans should not be surprised to see Cook spread out wide on numerous occasions, as the Bills have gotten a reputation to have four or five wideouts at a time, leaving Josh Allen in the backfield by himself. In those types of situations, Cook could be a viable option for Allen to find over the middle of the field, or in the flats for a checkdown route.
Bills GM Brandon Beane had this to say about his new potential starting running back. “This was a guy that really stood out to us with the ball in his hands. You can split him out, he can run routes similar to a receiver, obviously he’s a good guy to hand the ball to in the backfield.” It seems to be a perfect fit for Cook in Buffalo, as he creates opportunities to take the pressure off of Allen and make plays in short yardage when the team is up against second and three’s or third and twos.
After the first fourteen weeks of last season, offensive coordinator at the time Brian Daboll finally decided to switch up things and run the ball more proficiently with Devin Singletary leading the way. Here’s an interesting stat I found. In those first fourteen weeks, Singletary carried the ball 112 times for just 547 yards. After Daboll made the offensive switch, he carried it 76 times in just the last four weeks. He totaled 323 yards in just four weeks, which would be on pace for far north of 1,500 for the year. (Sports Reference)
The Bills were just one game over .500 after fourteen weeks, and barely hanging on in their division, however after weeks fifteen through eighteen, they were eleven and six, winners of four straight and sought to be one of the most dangerous teams in the league. Running the football effectively helps this team succeed, and the addition of James Cook was an astounding find for Beane and company.
Dalvin’s Comments About His Brother And Expectations For James In Year One
Cook’s brother Dalvin was recently on Rich Eisen’s show explaining that he expects James to excel early with his new team. “I think he’s gonna do good”, Dalvin said. “Just being around him and spending more time with him because, you know obviously I didn’t get to spend as much time with him because he was in college, and I was doing my thing, but now we have an offseason under our belts, and he understands what he’s trying to get done and how he’s trying to get it done.”
Additionally, Dalvin explained that he has talked to his brother about his own running style and how he can develop those into his game. “Also, me implementing a lot of things that I do to his game, and just letting him be him.” (Cook) (The Rich Eisen Show)
The 1,012 total yards from scrimmage in his senior year was what really stood out to me, and my personal prediction is that he lands on the All-Rookie First Team in 2022-23. The competition with other backs such as Devin Singletary, Zack Moss and Duke Johnson will be interesting to watch out for in training camp, but many including myself believe when the season starts in early September, Singletary and Cook will be the two guys running the show from out of the backfield.
The former Bulldog could be exactly what this offense needed to create the perfect mix between passing and rushing, as in the past two years, Buffalo has certainly been very dependent on the play of their quarterback, so the pairing of Singletary and Cook should help the offense flourish with more ease and efficiency.