The Green Bay Packers’ Randall Cobb has been a hot topic this season with his spectacular and versatile play. In the absence of wide receiver number one, Greg Jennings, and the occasional absence of the number two receiver in Jordy Nelson, Cobb has caught the attention of the NFL. I’ve talked a good deal about him this season so far and wasn’t planning on writing another post about him, but I simply cannot ignore his stellar performance Sunday versus the Arizona Cardinals.
Cobb scored two of the Packers’ four touchdowns and amassed 202 all-purpose yards: 37 yards receiving, 29 yards rushing, 90 yards kick returning, and 46 yards punt returning. Even more impressive are his averages for those categories: 12.3 yards per catch, 9.7 yards per rush, 30 yards per kick return, and 15.3 yards per punt return. That’s a guy who makes the most of his opportunities. All that while playing with a shoulder injury, too. It doesn’t seem to matter how the Packers utilize Cobb, he manages to make something happen.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has positively gushed about Cobb. Rodgers has made a point to praise Cobb’s practice habits and attitude. He compared Cobb favorably to Jennings in their demeanors as rookies, saying that both were notably confident in their skills and abilities, but never cocky or complacent in their talent. Rodgers also said he believes that Cobb will go down as “one of the best, if not the best, pick” of general manager Ted Thompson’s tenure. That’s quite a distinction, considering the fact that Thompson’s draft decisions include Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, and Nelson, as well as Rodgers himself, of course. Rodgers is always quick to praise his receivers and teammates, but he has gone out of his way several times to note Cobb’s work ethic and talent. More than his words, the fact that Rodgers’ increasingly is throwing to Cobb, particularly in the endzone and on third downs, shows just how much faith he has in the young player.
Aside from his mesmerizing green eyes, there’s nothing physically remarkable about this 5’10”, 192-pound receiver/returner/running back that screams mismatch for opposing defenses. But Cobb’s speed, agility, versatility, and good looks have continually caused problems for opponents. Furthermore, he and Rodgers are really beginning to develop a strong connection on the field. On one of his touchdowns on Sunday, for example, Rodgers lobbed the ball deep into the corner of the endzone – the only place he could have put the ball where the defender had no chance at it – and Cobb made an incredible effort to stretch out and pull the ball in.
Cobb’s prominence in the offense has led to the question of whether or not he should continue to play on special teams and risk injury. In 2010, Tramon Williams was returning punts and kicks for the Packers and I hated it. I didn’t care if the team had to start on their own 2-yard line every series, I was just paranoid that Williams would get hurt. The difference here is that Williams wasn’t that great a returner. He was decent, but not a game-changer. I felt that a non-starter could have been as serviceable at the position as Williams. Cobb is different; he is a threat to run for a touchdown every time he returns. On Sunday, he had a 28-yard punt return and a 44-yard kick return. That’s huge for the field position battle. If he were returning for more mediocre numbers, I’d advocate removing him from special teams.
The other problem is that the Packers don’t have anyone else on the team who is very good at returning. On the depth chart, Williams and Nelson are behind Cobb for punt returns and Sam Shields and Nelson for kick returns. I love and adore Jordy to stalker levels, but he was not terribly skilled at returning, and fumbled returns multiple times. Shields is very fast but does not have good field vision. He spends more time running from sideline to sideline than north and south. I think it would be wise for the Packers to try to develop a non-starter or two behind Cobb, but until then, they have to make do with what they have. It’s high risk-high reward, but I believe that the risk is paying off and Cobb should maintain the returner position.
Just please, please, please don’t get hurt.