Matt Barrows put together an interesting article this morning, and while it's been pointed out in the Nuggets and other comments, I wanted to point it out for everyone to see. Barrows wrote about how Chris Cook is working after practice with quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, looking to improve his ball-tracking skills.
Cook has zero interceptions in his four-year career, and he is looking to improve his skills when it comes to tracking down the ball in the air. The drill involves McBLT throwing passes deep while Cook moves down field trying to track it. During minicamp, Vic Fangio discussed Cook's development, and he specifically pointed to the skill of finding the ball down the field:
What about Chris Cook? How does he look to you? He seems to be getting a lot of reps with the first team?
“He’s doing fine. Chris Cook is a guy that was at Minnesota, I believe, the last four years. And things didn’t pan out for him there like they had hoped and like he had hoped. And hopefully we can get him here and get that out of him what they were hoping for and what he was hoping for. And we’ll see. He’s definitely made progress. He still has a ways to go and he’s going to have to ultimately do it on the field, in practice, and ultimately in the games, to be considered one of the guys for either in the top four in the base, or the top five in the nickel.”
Can a guy with his I guess physical gifts, he’s tall, he’s fast. Is that a double-edged sword where he relied on that too much and doesn’t learn the technique that’s needed to play the position?
“Maybe, I think you’d have to ask him that what his feelings were in Minnesota. But, ultimately you’ve got to be able to find the ball down the field. No matter whether you pressed or started from off. When the ball’s thrown up you’ve got to be able to find the ball and make a play at the ball. And he’s struggled there in his past. So, whatever we can do to improve him in that area will go a long way in helping his career.”
How do you do that?
“Just repetitions and emphasis on tracking the ball, and repetitions.”
It remains to be seen if Cook will emerge as a viable cornerback option, but as Barrows pointed out, Carlos Rogers had his own skills to work on when he arrived in San Francisco. Rogers' big problem was his hands. He could break up passes, but he had hands of stone when it came to interceptions. He broke out in a big way in 2011 with six interceptions. This is a different skill issue than that which Cook faces, but hopefully some work with Ed Donatell, and the extra time working on drills like this can help Cook improve himself.
The 49ers secondary has talent, but question marks. If Chris Cook can improve, the team's outside depth improves dramatically. Tramaine Brock will start in one spot, and odds are still good that Chris Culliver starts on the other side. However, until we see how Culliver's knee deals with the consistent pounding of training camp and the preseason, we can't say for certain that he will be the starter when the 49ers open their season at Dallas. But even if he is good to go when Week 1 arrives, it would be nice having a strong backup option. It would certainly be a plus to be able to develop a solid rotation of guys to keep everyone fresh in a league that is becoming more and more pass-heavy.