ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Rams expected big things this season from free agent tight end Jared Cook.
And for the most part, he has delivered.
The 26-year-old Cook is leading the Rams this season in both catches (40) and yards receiving (557).
The 6-foot-5, 254-pound Cook has plenty of speed. He's been timed at 4.49 in the 40 and he can leap like a hurdler. The versatile Cook can line up at tight end, in the slot, at wide receiver and in the backfield as an H-back.
The Rams coveted that ability when they signed him as a free agent from Tennessee. St. Louis gave Cook a $35.1 million deal for five years to be another option for an offense that was lacking big plays in 2012.
St. Louis wanted him to be used in the offense similar to some of the talented tight ends in the league such as Tony Gonzalez and Vernon Davis.
In the season opener at home against Arizona, where the Rams (5-7) will play Sunday, Cook caught seven passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
He would have had three touchdowns, but he was stripped of the ball a couple of yards shy of the goal line. Three of catches netted 25 yards or more.
The 141 yards were the most by a tight end in a single game in franchise history. Cook broke the record previously held by Pete Holohan, who had 126 yards on Dec. 11, 1988, against Atlanta.
Cook downplayed the performance.
"The way their secondary played, I just so happened to be open," Cook said.
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said the Rams took advantage of what Arizona (7-5) was giving them.
"Obviously, he played well," Schottenheimer said about Cook. "They played a lot of man to man and Cookie's got that type of ability that when people want to play him one on one, he can certainly match up and make plays."
Cook's numbers opened eyes around the league. The defenses adjusted. The big game totals from Week 1 have not happened in the 11 games that have followed.
After that debut, Cook's numbers quieted down. Cook has scored just two more touchdowns. He has just one game where he topped last week's 49 yards against San Francisco. He gained 80 on five catches against Chicago. Cook has just three receptions of 25 yards or more in the past 11 games.
"It's tough," Cook said. "They get paid to stop us and they get paid to put in schemes for their players to stop us. Some games you feel like you could have played better. A lot of times, there's nothing you can do about it, (you) just keep pushing forward.
"It's going to be hard to put up numbers like that every week, just in terms of how defenses play against you. You just have to be as prepared as you can and take advantage of the opportunities you get."
Last week's 49 yards gave Cook the most yards receiving by a Rams tight end since the franchise moved to St. Louis. Teammate Lance Kendricks set the previous mark last year with 519 yards. Cook bested that total with 557 yards.
With four games to play, Cook is likely to challenge the all-time franchise record held by Mike Barber, who had 657 yards in 1983.
Cook was unaware he is close to any records.
"That's all good, but ... I still have things I have to improve upon," Cook said. "That doesn't make me satisfied at all. I just have to improve in areas of play. I feel like I could help this team some more."
The Rams like what they are getting from Cook, Schottenheimer said.
"We're very, very pleased with what he's doing," Schottenheimer said. "In general, he's had a really, really good year."
NOTES: LT Jake Long practiced for the first time this week. He left Sunday's game with concussion-like symptoms. ... LB Daren Bates (concussion) and CB Brandon McGee (foot) also returned to practice after not working out Wednesday.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org