FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — He witnessed the development first hand.

“I had him as a rookie, so I think his jump from rookie year to his second year was monumental,” New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees said of Saints-turned-Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks. “Just in regards to his understanding of the game and how defenders played him and his technique and how he could better utilize his speed.

“And here he got hurt midseason his rookie year, so he missed the last, what, six, seven games, something like that. He broke his hand. So he made a huge jump from Year 1 to Year 2 and then progressively got better after that as well.”

After 53 catches for 550 yards and three touchdowns as a first-round draft pick out of Oregon State in 2014, Cooks improved to 84 catches for 1,138 yards and nine TDs his second year with the Saints and caught 78 passes for 1,173 yards and eight TDs last season – all before his 24th birthday, which will be Sept. 25.

In March, the 5-foot-10, 189-pound speedster was traded to New England in a deal involving draft picks, including a first-rounder the Saints turned into Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk, who started at left tackle in their 29-19 season-opening loss at Minnesota on Monday night.

This Sunday, Cooks heads back to his first NFL home for a game with the Saints after catching three passes for 88 yards while drawing four defensive penalties in his debut with the Patriots, a 42-27 loss to Kansas City in the season opener last Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.

“I just look at it as another game,” Cooks said Wednesday. “I feel like when you start to get hyped too much, you psyche yourself out. So I’m just looking forward to … playing some football.”

That’s a task, his former coach said, Cooks performed well during his time in New Orleans.

“He’s a great competitor,” Saints Coach Sean Payton said during a conference call with the media. “He comes to work every day with intensity. Each rep, there’s not really an off-speed rep for him. The way he prepares, I know he’s a good teammate, well respected.

“For us, you’re constantly trying to improve some of the areas where you feel like you’re lean. We just felt like that was going to be one of the assets possibly that we could utilize. But his personality, I mean, each day you know exactly what you’re getting and that’s a good thing. He’s got a great smile on his face. He’s got a lot of things to like.”

Which has pretty much been the impression Cooks has made in New England.

“Brandin works extremely hard, (is a) very detail-oriented kid, practices hard, is here every day, really tries to do things exactly the way you want him to do them and (is) coachable, dependable,” Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said. “He has a very good skill set. He’s been great to work with. He’s great to coach.”

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels concurred, saying: “He’s a guy that is a very intelligent football player, certainly has a lot of skill. We’re still getting used to all of the things that we could do with our entire group this year, but I think Brandin’s really done everything we’ve asked him to do.”

Payton said he has noticed one difference in the way the Patriots are using Cooks.

“There’s one difference in I think he’s simply playing more X (weak side) and he played more Z (strong side) in New Orleans,” he said. “Now, that’s left or right or weak or strong (side). He’s playing in the same spots he played here, and so that would be the only thing.

“You see him get down the field. You see him stretching the defense, and (he’s) obviously someone you have to really pay attention to where he’s at and stay on top of. He can run extremely well.”

He’ll be doing that again Sunday in New Orleans, only this time he’ll be on the visitors’ side.

“I loved Brandin, loved playing with him for three years,” said Brees. “I felt like we had some great years together. I felt like he had a lot of success in this offense.

“I wish him nothing but the best. We’re still good friends off the field. It just happens that he’s on the other side of the field this week coming back here to New Orleans. But I’ve got nothing but great respect for him.”