TAMPA – Football folks have a name they give to only the best of players, those rare few who have displayed the ability to change a game anytime they’re on the field.
Those players are called “game wreckers’’ and despite the fact his game Sunday against the Buccaneers will only be his third in the NFL, former FSU running back Dalvin Cook has already earned that moniker.
He has from Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith, whose notion was seconded by five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy this week as the Bucs prepared to take on Cook and the Vikings.
“He is a game-wrecker,’’ McCoy said of Cook. “I mean, he destroyed New Orleans (22 carries, 127 yards) and he had some big runs last week (against Pittsburgh, 12 carries, 64 yards).
“The thing about him is, he’s not a ‘run-and-get-out-of-bounds’ kind of guy. He’s a ‘get-that-extra-couple-yards’ kind of guy. Anybody like that, you’ve got to bring your big-boy pants with you.’’
The Bucs had to bring their big-boy pants to their season opener against the Bears last week, too, and they did. They limited Jordan Howard and (9 carries, 7 yards) and Tarik Cohen (7, 13) to just 20 yards on 16 carries.
That effort included six tackles for a loss on a day in which the Bucs allowed the Bears to produce just one first down via the run. The challenge Cook presents, though, is much different, Smith said.
“No disrespect to the Bears back that we played last week, but I think (Cook) is a different type of back,’’ Smith said of the Vikings 5-foot-10, 210-pound rookie second-round draft pick. “He’s a little bit bigger.
“And I don’t know that (Cook) 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 30 yards or more.
“I mean, all you’ve got to do is show that clip to the team and they’ve got respect for him right away. That’s how good he is. So yeah, we consider him a game-wrecker.’’
Cook can wreck a game in more ways than one. Though he has only caught five passes for 10 yards so far, the Bucs appear to have as much respect for his ability to hurt them as a pass catcher as they do a runner.
“Yeah, he can catch, too, so you’ve got that to worry about,’’ McCoy said. “And when they stretch the ball out, he looks for that hole and once he gets downhill, I mean he’s getting downhill in a hurry.
“And he’s not getting downhill and avoiding contact. When he gets going he really gets going, so yeah, he can wreck your game, just like Coach said. He’s a game-wrecker and we’ve got to be ready for him.’’