The North Carolina Panthers desperately need some help in their secondary, especially after losing both their starting safeties, Vonn Bell and Xavier Woods, to injuries in their last game against the Miami Dolphins.
The Panthers, currently 0-6 and last in the NFC South, have decided to sign rookie safety Alex Cook from the New York Giants practice squad.
Cook, who played college football at the University of Washington, is a former wide receiver who switched to defense in his sophomore year.
He was voted team captain and earned an All-Pac-12 Second Team nod in his senior season.
Cook is a versatile player who can play free and strong safety and contribute on special teams. He has good size (6-foot-1, 220 pounds), speed (4.54 seconds in the 40-yard dash), and athleticism (36-inch vertical jump) for the position.
He is also a smart, intuitive player who can quickly read and react to the offense. He has a knack for making plays on the ball, as he recorded 139 total tackles (4.5 for a loss), three passes defensed, and an interception in his college career.
How Cook fits in the Panthers defense
The Panthers defense, which Frank Reich coaches, runs a 4-3 base scheme that relies on zone coverage and pressure from the front four. The safeties are expected to be versatile and interchangeable, as they must cover deep, play in the box, blitz, and support the run.
The Panthers have struggled to find consistent and reliable safeties in recent years, as they have gone through several players at the position, such as Tre Boston, Eric Reid, Kurt Coleman, and Mike Adams.
Cook will have a chance to compete for playing time immediately, as the Panthers are thin at safety. Besides Bell and Woods, who are both out indefinitely, the Panthers only have Troy Hill, a veteran journeyman signed in free agency, and Jammie Robinson, a fifth-round rookie who has played mostly on special teams.
Cook will have to learn the playbook quickly and adapt to the speed and complexity of the NFL game, but he has the potential to be a valuable addition to the Panthers defense.
What Cook brings to the Panthers offense
Cook may not see much action on offense, as he is primarily a defensive player, but he has some wide receiver experience. He played one season as a receiver at Washington, where he caught one pass for 26 yards.
He also played receiver in high school, where he was a four-star recruit and ranked as the No. 28 wide receiver in the nation by Rivals.com. Cook could be an emergency receiver or a gadget player on offense, as he has good hands, route-running skills, and speed.
He could also be a threat on trick plays or fake punts, as he can also throw the ball. He completed two passes for 36 yards and a touchdown in his college career. Cook is a versatile and athletic player who can contribute in multiple ways on offense.
This could drastically change how the Panthers play and the fan’s perspective on how they play. This could encourage many locals to support their team and wager on their team using the North Carolina betting sites.
How Cook impacts the Panthers special teams
Cook is expected to immediately impact special teams, as he was a standout performer in that phase of the game at Washington. He was named the Huskies’ Special Teams Player of the Year in 2020 after leading the team with nine special teams tackles. He also blocked a punt and recovered a fumble on special teams in college.
Cook will likely play on all four core special teams units: kickoff coverage, kickoff return, punt coverage, and punt return. He has the speed, toughness, and tackling ability to excel on coverage units and the vision, agility, and ball security to be an effective returner.
He could also be used as a gunner or a personal protector on punts. Cook is a valuable asset on special teams who can help the Panthers win the field position battle.
How Cook compares to other safeties in the NFL
Cook is not a highly touted prospect or a household name in the NFL, but he does have some similarities to other safeties who have succeeded in the league. One player that Cook could be compared to is Micah Hyde, who plays for the Buffalo Bills.
Hyde was also a former college receiver who switched to safety at Iowa. The Green Bay Packers drafted him in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, and he has since become one of the best safeties in the league. He has made two Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team in his career.
Like Hyde, Cook is a versatile and intelligent player who can play multiple positions in the secondary. As Hyde has done in his career, he can also contribute on offense and special teams. Cook may not have the same level of production or recognition as Hyde, but he has the potential to be a similar type of player.
How Cook can help the Panthers turn their season around
The Panthers are off to a dismal start to the 2023 season, as they have lost all six of their games so far. Injuries, turnovers, penalties, and poor execution on both sides of the ball have plagued them.
They have also faced a tough schedule, as they have played against some of the best teams in the league, such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Los Angeles Rams, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Miami Dolphins.
Cook may not be a savior or a superstar, but he can be a spark plug and a difference-maker for the Panthers. He can provide depth, versatility, and energy to a depleted and demoralized team. He can also bring leadership and positivity to a young, inexperienced locker room.
The North Carolina Panthers have made a smart and savvy move by signing Alex Cook, a rookie safety from the New York Giants practice squad. Cook is a versatile and talented player who can play multiple positions in the secondary and contribute on offense and special teams.
He can potentially be a valuable addition to the Panther’s defense, which injuries and poor performance have decimated.
Cook may be unable to single-handedly turn the Panthers season around as they face a daunting challenge of overcoming a 0-6 start and competing in a tough NFC South division.
However, he can provide much-needed depth, energy, and leadership to a team needing positive momentum. Cook is a player that the Panthers and their fans can be excited about and hopeful for.