A large segment of Bucs fans – many who wear garnet and gold on Saturdays – held their breath last April when the Bucs were on the draft clock. Former FSU standout and holder of virtually every rushing record in school history Dalvin Cook, was still available when the Bucs turn at the podium came up with the No. 20 overall pick.
When commissioner Roger Goodell announced the name O.J. Howard, many Seminole fans, who also share the same passion for the Buccaneers, were left disappointed.
Cook had to wait until the second round to hear his name eventually called, and according to Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings got a player who has been everything they expected.
“First of all, Dalvin has been a great kid since he has been here,” Zimmer said. “He has come in here and worked hard, studied hard and prepare hard. Our expectations were really high for him and he has at least met those expectations. Every week he does something … he has great speed and acceleration. You know I think he continues to get better every week. We are extremely happy and pleased with his progress so far.”
Cook’s 95.5 yards per game is fourth in the NFL after two games, and he leads the league in runs over 20 yards (3). The talented rookie is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and if quarterback Sam Bradford is unable to play on Sunday against the Buccaneers, expect to see a heavy dose of No. 33, after backup Case Keenum struggled last week in his start against the Steelers. The Vikings only managed 237 yards in that game and Cook only had 14 touches.
Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith thinks Cook will present an even bigger challenge than the Bears runnng back corps did last Sunday.
“No disrespect to the Bears back that we played last week, but I think he (Cook) is a different type of back,” Smith said. “He is a little bit bigger. I don’t know that he has the quicks that we faced last week, but he is a stronger running back. He runs well behind his pads. He has already had two runs of thirty yards or more. All you have to do is show that clip to the team and they have respect for him right away. He has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. They have moved him out and put him on the outside at the number one position, similar to what we saw last week. We consider him a game wrecker. It’s interesting, the first two weeks of the season we’ve had to face two good rookies that play the running back position.”
Head coach Dirk Koetter was also very complimentary of Cook.
“He is a really good player,” Koetter said. “He can run with power, he can run with speed, he can catch the ball out of the backfield, and he has demonstrated all of that in the first two weeks of the season- really good football player.”
All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy agreed with his bosses.
“Absolutely he is a game wrecker,” McCoy said in front of his locker on Wednesday. “He destroyed New Orleans and had some big runs last week. He’s not a run-and-get-out-of-bounds guy. He’s a get an extra couple yards guy. Anybody like that, you have to bring your big boy pads with. You have to bring an extra set of pads, because it is going to be a physical day.
“That’s the type of offense they have, a very physical offense that gets downhill in the run. Even when they stretch the ball out, he looks for the hole and gets downhill and when he gets downhill he is getting downhill in a hurry. He’s not getting downhill and avoiding contact. It’s not just that, because he can catch. He can wreck your game, just like coach said. He is a game wrecker. We have to be ready for him.”
The Bucs and most of their fans seem content with the selection of Howard over Cook. Howard was a nearly consensus Top 10 pick in most mock drafts but slipped all the way to No. 20 and the Buccaneers. The former Alabama standout also came with a squeaky clean image, something that many questioned about Cook. No one is seriously questioning the Bucs decision to take Howard over Cook, although a monster game and a Vikings win on Sunday could change that in the eyes of some fans.
As McCoy wrapped up his impromptu press conference in open locker room he smiled big when asked if Cook’s former Florida State teammate, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, would share some intel on his friend.
“No, not yet. He will. Jameis love the guy though, I’ll tell you that. Dalvin, just so you know, Jameis loves you, but he is probably going to tell us all your secrets buddy.”