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New Raiders TE Jared Cook in comfort zone with QB Carr

OAKLAND, Calif. — The list is not pretty.

It starts with Kerry Collins and Vince Young, the first quarterbacks from whom Jared Cook caught an NFL pass. Both came in his 2009 rookie season with the Titans. The list goes on with Rusty Smith, a 36-year-old Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker, Sam Bradford, Kellen Clemens, Austin Davis, Shaun Hill, Nick Foles and Case Keenum.

Last year, Cook played with a proven franchise quarterback for the first time in his career.

He then made sure to play with another one.

Signed in March, the new Raiders tight end predictably has turned heads this spring. But generating offseason notice never has been a challenge for Cook, given the combination of his speed and 6-foot-5, 254-pound frame. More meaningful, his performance during organized team activities ought to foreshadow a significant role. That is partly because this offense features an important quality.

A quarterback leads it.

Cook, 30, teamed up with the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers in 2016. He caught 30 passes for 377 yards and a touchdown in 10 games before coming alive in the final two playoff games. He recorded six receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown, including a sideline grab to set-up the game-winning field goal, in an upset win over Dallas. During the NFC Championship Game, he had seven catches for 78 yards and a score in a loss against the Falcons.

The experience gave Cook a taste.

He went seven seasons between the Titans and Rams without elite quarterback play. Likewise, he went seven years without a playoff appearance. Cook sees similarities between Derek Carr and Rodgers, whose feel for the game often brought out the best of him.

Perhaps the 2017 season, too, will feature a deep playoff run.

“They know the offense, and that’s really important for a quarterback, especially a young quarterback,” Cook said. “Know the moving pieces of what’s going on around you. Number two would probably be ball placement and the way that the pass comes out. It’s also imperative for your receivers to have that rapport with (the quarterback) and know how you’re going to throw the ball in certain situations away from a defender.

“And (Carr) does a really good job with that, especially being such a young quarterback. I’ve played with older guys, and they don’t … have that right touch to get the ball to the position where the receiver needs it. D.C. has that down.”

Cook affords the Raiders more versatility.

They can do more from a personnel standpoint when he’s on the field, as Cook is considered an adequate blocker as well as a speedy receiving target. The combination creates dynamic play-calling options between the running and passing game.

Cook can run block on five straight plays. On the sixth, he may sprint down a seam in the defense.

“With a guy like Jared that can stretch the field vertically like that, it’s going to lead to more single coverage outside for ‘Coop’ (wide receiver Amari Cooper) and ‘Crab’ (wide receiver Michael Crabtree),” Carr said. “It’s going to lead to more one-on-ones for (wide receiver) Seth (Roberts). The possibilities are endless when you add a guy at that position (who) has that much speed vertically. The things you can do with him really put a lot of stress on the defense.”

Said offensive coordinator Todd Downing: “We’re excited to see the volume he can handle.”

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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