Saints rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks adjusting well to NFL

So much for the rookie wall.

Rookie receiver Brandin Cooks said Friday he’s avoided a mental or physical slump during his initial NFL experience.

Neither two-a-days during training camp in West Virginia and Saints headquarters nor the Saints offense’s thick playbook has dampened his summer of professional football, despite missing all of OTAs and minicamp because of school obligations at Oregon State.

Cooks, known as much for his shiftiness as his speed, has vaulted into a top receiving option for quarterback Drew Brees — something that could make last season’s second-ranked passing attack even better.

“I’m young,” Cooks said. “I’ve got those fresh legs ... I’m only 20. So I was able to see the older guys get through it, so I felt like I could do the same.”

Cooks, in a short period of time, has not only gotten through, he’s gotten past the Saints defense during practices, showing glimpses of his potential before the season starts Sept. 7 at Atlanta.

Cooks ended the preseason with nine catches for 101 yards and one touchdown, along with a growing legion of Saints supporters. Including teammates.

Two-a-days with the Saints ended up being one and a walkthrough.

“In college, the two-a-days are real,” he said. “The second practice, you’re in pads. This one is a walkthrough. So it’s kind of a cutback from college.”

Cooks said he also followed rehabilitation examples set by veteran receiver Marques Colston and others, including the ice tub.

“I’m in there every day,” Cooks said.

Taking their picks

Sure, it’s just the preseason.

But the Saints defense’s four interceptions marks a drastic improvement from 2013, when the unit had 12 in 16 regular-season games.

Payton tempered enthusiasm over the numbers, saying the overall defensive effort is still a work in progress.

“There’s snaps still in practice where a ball might be on the ground and you want all 11 getting to it quicker,” Payton said. “That would be a specific that I just talked about with regards to improvement — constantly really paying attention to the details and what will make a difference in winning and losing.”

Searching for gems

In the coming weeks, Payton said, the Saints will create a list of 100 “good” NFL players who began on NFL practice squads. The list helps Saints players realize their potential, if they can reach it.

“We’ll do that study for them, and when you look at the list, every one of us would look at it — and myself right now included — where you would see five or six names that you would not even have known were on a practice squad at one time,” Payton said. “I think it’s important that there is a vision a player has when he gets to that position and honestly ... that is a designation, but at that point, they are on this team.”

New number

Veteran center Jonathan Goodwin switched his uniform number from 51 to 59.