'Multi-dimensional' WR Randall Cobb still a vital offensive component for the Packers

-- The Green Bay Packers may have drafted three new wide receivers this offseason, but that won't lift the responsibilities off the shoulders of the group's elder statesman.

Randall Cobb, only 27 years old and set to turn 28 during the preseason, finished the 2017 campaign -- his seventh -- with the lowest yards per reception average (9.9) of his career.

That was presumably due to not being able to mesh with backup quarterback Brett Hundley, who started in place of Aaron Rodgers after he broke his collarbone in October.

In an offense without Jordy Nelson, who now resides with Jon Gruden's Oakland Raiders, Cobb could potentially see a slightly inflated number of targets come his way in his eighth year. That could mean more plays designed to get Cobb the ball and fewer plays utilizing him in the backfield or as a 'decoy.'

"When he's healthy and playing for us, our offense is a lot different," Rodgers said on Monday after the Packers' final public OTA practice of the year. "I think we saw it a couple years ago against the Giants when he came off some injuries and a disappointing season filled with multiple injuries -- he had three touchdowns. Obviously, one was a Hail Mary but he had two other really nice plays for us in a big game.

"That's what he can do for us when he's out there."

David Raih, the Packers' new receivers coach, said last month that there's "a lot of football left" in Cobb, and also called him one of the most tenacious players he had ever been around. On top of being able to do a multitude of things on offense, he's also an experienced return man on punts -- and the emergency quarterback.

Cobb, who eclipsed 1,200 receiving yards in his breakout 2014 season, hasn't put up numbers remotely close since. However, if numbers were the be-all end-all in the NFL, a lot of guys would be either out of a job or seen in a much different light, i.e., Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones' inability to score touchdowns in the red zone.

Jones, who is widely regarded as one of the NFL's top players at his position, trails Cobb in receiving touchdowns since 2013.

Some numbers do matter when it comes to Cobb's abilities, such as his ability to create separation as one of the league's most dynamic slot receivers.

Since 2016, only Miami Dolphins receiver Albert Wilson has averaged more separation yardage (3.8) than Cobb (3.5), according to Next Gen Stats. That's it.

Of all receivers and tight ends with more than five targets last season, Cobb was the only player to lead the league in average separation yardage in multiple weeks. No player did it more than once.

"He's a tough guy to cover," Rodgers continued. "He really understands coverages, route concepts, soft spots and zones. Stuff you can't really teach."

"He's so multi-dimensional: we can put him out on punt returner, split him out, put him in the backfield and give him the rock.  He's done a number of things over the years and still, he's relatively young. First player born in the 90s, so he's not even 28 yet."

Cobb has been the exception of tight ends typically being the quarterback's security blanket. Of receivers with at least 60 catches in 2017, Cobb had the third-best catch percentage (71.74 percent), and eighth-best (71.4 percent) in 2016 when Rodgers started all 16 games.

"He's obviously a great friend of mine, but I look for a resurgence from him this year as long as he can stay healthy."

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (15)

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

June 05, 2018 at 09:31 am

I'd rather not see Cobb in too many roles this season. Focus on the slot.

He's little threat in the backfield, and we have a real threat in Aaron Jones, so don't get cute. Give Aaron the rock, and let Cobb work the slot, creating separation.

And please don't try working Cobb outside against elite corners. He's not built for that action, and frankly, it's painful to watch.

As for returns, NO WAY. Not Cobb, who is fragile enough without gunners targeting his knees, and not Jaire Alexander, who is far too valuable at CB.

We have a quality return man, and his name is Trevor Davis. He's gaining experience in when to catch and when to let it go, and he presents a scary threat on those incredibly rare occasions when one of our special teamers actually blocks.

Cobb is a quality Slot WR. Leave him there.

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Spock's picture

June 05, 2018 at 09:27 am

Aaron Nagler often points out on his chats when people point out that Cobb's numbers have dropped that the film shows him open and frequently says, "Cobb is open, but he can't throw the ball to himself." If you watch the film of last year you will see Cobb open for the first down with Rodgers throwing further downfield hoping for a bigger play (usually to the FA TE we will not name who then drops the ball). Nagler expects Cobb to have great year in 2018 and I tend to agree.

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TheVOR's picture

June 05, 2018 at 09:33 am

Dude needs to have a 12M dollar year, because if he doesn't, we're going to be screwed. He needs to prove he can stay available for the entire season, seems like he's not a terrifically durable player. Needs to play healthy, and play a big role this year.

I'm with others here, I don't care to see him taking hand offs out of the backfield to understand his value when he's playing well. We need him as a monster WR this season.

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dobber's picture

June 05, 2018 at 03:09 pm

They don't seem to NOT give him the ball often enough when he lines up deep or goes into motion at the snap to fool anyone.

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LambeauPlain's picture

June 05, 2018 at 11:43 am

I agree with previous comments that Cobb in the backfield is mostly a wasted play if he takes the handoff.

If Monty can stay healthy, let him play that role because as a RB/Receiver he's so much better than Cobb as a RB/Receiver.

Let Cobb play the slot where he can be incredibly dynamic...and with Graham, Lewis and Kendricks running routes over the middle, Cobb will be even more open...and he catches the ball to let him generate YAC.

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Arthur Jackson's picture

June 05, 2018 at 12:25 pm

He just needs to stay healthy, vor, the big year will follow. The guy is immensely talented. He can easily play in the slot or outside.

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Lare's picture

June 05, 2018 at 12:36 pm

Hopefully Cobb can be somewhat productive this season. Last year he had 66 receptions for 653 yards and 4 touchdowns. At a $12.7 million salary that figures out to $192,000 per catch, $19,000 per yard and $3,180,000 per touchdown.

For that amount of money (and percentage of the salary cap) the Packers need a WR that can rank higher than 56th in the NFL.

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Packer_Fan's picture

June 05, 2018 at 03:59 pm

Success will be a blend of talent, execution and scheme. When Nelson went down three years ago, scheme was also an issue along to some degree talent especially at the tight end position. I am glad that Philbin is back. I hope that they start applying better schemes (like Eagles do) to get people open. Graham and using Montgomery to provide better matchups will provide better success. Cobb will be part of this scenario. Not the guy that needs to play to $12 mil salary. No one can do it alone.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 05, 2018 at 06:05 pm

The last time I looked at the separation stat, there appeared to be only a very loose correlation between being a good WR and excelling at this stat.

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Spock's picture

June 06, 2018 at 11:15 am

TGR, Excellent point, but the one stat that is telling for Cobb is he darn near never drops a pass. I'll take a completion for a first down over an incomplete downfield throw every time.

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stockholder's picture

June 05, 2018 at 06:14 pm

The writing is on the wall here. Cobb will not be a packer next year. The packers drafted taller, and want bigger. He just doesn't fit in green bay. He's to expensive. Cobb is the only WR I would send over the middle. I still would rather have Cobb over Adams. But it's obvious the fan base is not on his side. I still hope to see positive things from Cobb. He needs to make his presence feared again. One that says he gave his best to us all. When others doubted him. Hopefully he gets his going away present. A 1000 yard year would be terrific.

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Minniman's picture

June 05, 2018 at 09:08 pm

Put me down as a Randall Cobb fan. He fills the slot role really well and this year will compliment the other receivers perfectly by being that small, shifty player that can work inside in traffic.

I think that his future at the Packers is going to be determined by his effectiveness and willingness to play that inside slot role, and the number that he agrees to come back at - maybe Rodgers' deal will affect what the ceiling of this number would be anyway.

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Bearmeat's picture

June 05, 2018 at 09:09 pm

Yeah. Barring Cobb having a tremendous year, he won't be a Packer in 2019. I guess it could happen, and he certainly is good at finding soft spots in zones, but he just isn't a great man-beater that I've seen since 2014. Admittedly, I haven't watched a bunch of tape.

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David Aures's picture

June 06, 2018 at 02:59 am

(NOT TO BE RUDE) "Rather have Cobb than Adams" thats CRAZY!!! IMO. Adams has proven he's better than Cobb. Dont get me wrong, I like Cobb cause he's done some nice things in GB, but after his leg injury hes been going downhill. I was so excited too after his rookie season i think we all were. But sorry im on the Tae train.

What I should say is, as long as the person is wearing green and gold im rooting for ya. Go Pack

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LayingTheLawe's picture

June 06, 2018 at 10:06 am

In addition to the statistic mentioned in the article, Matt Harmons reception perception has Cobb as a well above average receiver who succeeds in his routes whether it's against man or zone and over all the routes charted. Beating coverage and being open does not seem to be his problem, being healthy and part of the game plan appear to be his issues.

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