It would seem the Vikings have always seen more potential in Ryan Cook than most others. Many draft onlookers groaned when the Vikings selected Cook with the second-round pick they received from the Miami Dolphins in exchange for quarterback Daunte Culpepper in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Despite a productive college career at New Mexico, most thought the Vikings reached badly when they drafted Cook. For the first 10 games of his rookie season, they appeared to be correct as he was inactive. However, he then began rotating with veteran Mike Rosenthal and Johnson at right tackle and ended up starting the final three games of the 2006 season.
During the offseason, Cook worked hard to bring a little better body definition with him to training camp. He lost some weight but improved his overall strength.
While Johnson continues to show flashes of dominant ability, he continues to show lapses like being beaten badly on pass protection by the Jets’ Shaun Ellis in last Friday night’s game, leading to a Brooks Bollinger sack, subsequent fumble and eventual turnover.
Cook has not dominated, but he has probably been more consistent.
“Ryan is doing fine,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “He has a little bit of experience under his belt from last year, game-tested. It is just continually with really every position at this point, it is continually working on their technique and doing it the way that we are asking them to do it. When he works the technique correctly, he does an excellent job. When he has those moments of mental lapses you see a guy get by him, so he just needs to keep working on that technique.”
Cook himself acknowledges that technique is the key to his continued improvement, which the coaches hope will come as he continues the transition from being primarily a center in college to playing tackle in the pros.
The footwork at center was second nature to Cook, but at tackle he still has to think.
Bevell consistently preaches the importance of fundamentals and technique so that players can let their natural ability take over. And that’s what they see in Cook.
“One, he is very athletic,” Bevell said. “He has very good feet. Two, he has size to play that position, and then out of necessity a little bit we needed to move him out there. You are trying to get the best five guys that you can across the board at those five positions, and we felt like at the end of last year that he was one of those five guys, that he progressed that far and now he is in there competing for that spot again.”
Anytime a big man like Cook, who is 6-foot-6, 320-plus pounds, is described as being athletic with very good feet, you have something to work with. The Vikings are hoping their patience with Cook will eventually pay dividends as he clearly establishes himself as one of those five guys.