When the 49ers signed free agent Chris Cook in March, they were filling a position of need.
Starting cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers were on their way out as free agents, and the 49ers needed candidates to fill the void. And Cook, 27, was a four-year veteran from the Minnesota Vikings who has good speed and good size at 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds. And, he has the long arms (32½ inches) GM Trent Baalke loves.
But Cook struggled in his four seasons with the Vikings. He had zero interceptions over four seasons and, according to Pro Football Focus, allowed a league-leading nine touchdowns in coverage in 2013 and a quarterback rating of 140.3 on throws to his area.
So, earning a starting job in San Francisco would mean Cook will have to perform a complete turnaround.
However, it’s believed Cook may fit the 49ers’ press-coverage scheme a bit better than the system in Minnesota that involves more zone. In man-to-man coverage, Cook’s long arms and size may prove more beneficial. In addition, 49ers’ secondary coach Ed Donatell is considered an excellent teacher.
In the 49ers’ organized team activities this week, Cook has been getting plenty of playing time and performing very well.
“I like this defense a lot and feel it fits my style of play,” Cook told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. “I like to man up, and a lot of things we do ends up being man coverage.”
With Chris Culliver and Jimmie Ward out in OTAs this week, Cook has been starting opposite Tramaine Brock, reports Inman, and has made several strong plays, including a near interception of quarterback Colin Kaepernick near the end of practice Tuesday.
Cook says Donatell has spent extra time working with him, and believes he has a chance to succeed in San Francisco.
“I’m doing everything I can to put myself in the position to be out there with the starters, whether it be in nickel or base,” Cook told Inman.
In addition to his troubles on the field, Cook also had some off-the-field issues in Minnesota.
But, as Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk noted when the Niners signed Cook, San Francisco could get a low-cost gem if Cook – a former second-round pick – prospers with a new team and new coaches.
“The Niners are obviously betting that Cook’s physical gifts can be turned into something more valuable on the field,” wrote Alper.