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Read Between the Lines: Randall Cobb Is the New Packers Kick Returner

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Read Between the Lines: Randall Cobb Is the New Packers Kick Returner

Randall Cobb by Chris Humphreys—USA TODAY Sports.

Randall Cobb by Chris Humphreys—USA TODAY Sports.

It became clear this past Sunday the that the Green Bay Packers could no longer endure the status quo on special teams.

The oft-ignored phase of the game was a big part of the reason the Packers lost to the Buffalo Bills, suffering a punt return for a touchdown and a blocked field goal, their sixth kick allowed this season.

Something had to change, and perhaps the Packers provided a glimpse when they unveiled their special teams captains this week.

Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson were named the offensive captains, same as last year. 

Morgan Burnett was recognized as a captain for a second consecutive season, joined by Julius Peppers on defense. No surprise there with Peppers being perhaps a future Hall of Famer.

A respected veteran, Jarrett Bush was named a postseason captain on special teams captain for a fifth consecutive year.

The sixth and final player representing special teams, however, came as an eye-opener: Randall Cobb.

Cobb has barely played on special teams this season. He played just one snap against the Bills, a solitary punt return, sharing duties with Micah Hyde.

The Packers starting wide receiver didn't play a single down on special teams the two previous games against the Atlanta Falcons or New England Patriots.

On the season Cobb has a mere 12 punt returns total, an obvious attempt to keep him healthy for a bigger role on offense.

But with just two weeks remaining and the Packers yet to clinch a playoff spot, let alone the division, a bye or home-field advantage, the stakes have been raised.

Cobb is about play a whole lot bigger role on special teams, almost assuredly taking over kick return duties from an ineffective DuJuan Harris.

The Packers rank 31st in the NFL out of 32 teams on kick returns, averaging 19.8 yards per return. Harris alone ranks dead last among qualified kick returners, averaging 20.7 yards per attempt.

And so with everything still on the line, it wouldn't appear the Packers are about to turn to an inexperienced if dangerous rookie like Jeff Janis. The last thing they want is Janis to fumble in a critical moment like Jeremy Ross did two seasons ago in a playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

The Packers will instead turn to a proven commodity like Cobb, a player that formerly held the record for the longest kick return in NFL history, streaking for 108 yards in his professional debut against the New Orleans Saints back in 2011.

Cobb's career kick return average is 26.2 yards, more than five yards better than Harris' average this season.

It's possible Cobb could provide the spark the Packers need. And he should be highly motivated, becoming a free agent at season's end.

There's a degree of risk involved. An injury on special teams would render one of the Packers' biggest weapons useless on offense.

But there's also potential reward. One big return can mean the difference between winning and losing, or advancing to the next round of the playoffs, possibly winning it all.

Just ask Desmond Howard.

 

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (20) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Tarynfor12's picture

Should of had Janis getting the jitters out weeks ago...Harris may be liked by many as a RB but his return ability was as exciting as a kneel down could ever be.

Ibleedgreenmore's picture

I also think Janis could have been good here, next year is wide open.

denniseckersley's picture

Pardon my french, but fuck this.

FITZCORE1252's picture

Why? Earl Thomas isn't too special to field punts... when the sole focus is winning, you put your best players in a position to succeed. Can't worry about injuries.

denniseckersley's picture

Personally, I've been quite pleased with Micah Hyde back there. Is Micah Hyde an important piece elsewhere? Yes, but he's at a position where we have more depth.Cobb hurt himself fielding a punt in week 16 of 2012. He missed the Week 17 trip to Minnesota where we were edged out and lost a first round bye. Perhaps it's the symmetry that is nagging at me...

TommyG's picture

I see this as no different than shiftin CMIII to ILB. We have a glaring deficiency at a key posisition. This is a good move.

4thand1's picture

GOPACKGO! Win the next 2 and go on deep playoff run. Favored by 10.5 on the road. If this game was in Lambeau, it would be 15.

LAS VEGAS-TOM's picture

Just like Buffalo, GB does not have the Greatest track record in Tampa bay, & It's their 2ond game in a row on the road. That's never a good thing. TB doesn't have anything to play for, & are fighting it out, I think with Oakland for the #1 pick. Why would TB do anything to win this game?? Lovey Smith. He HATES GB. I think he'd do anything to beat GB I hope GB isn't looking past TB for Detroit. What is the latest on Bulaga? Does anyone know ? LVT

FITZCORE1252's picture

Great move.

denniseckersley's picture

If we're not concerned about risking the health of starters by trotting them out on specials (which this move would suggest), why did we pull lang and sitton from FG duty? Is it because they are already ailing (if they were healthy they'd still be out there)?

I ask this because it's FG duty that is our main problem right now, not kick returns. And this move seems a little inconsistent.

FITZCORE1252's picture

To Sitton and Lang, that was my understanding. They were pulled due to injury.

FITZCORE1252's picture

To Sitton and Lang, that was my understanding. They were pulled due to injury.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

So do the Packers rank in the bottom bracket in every special teams stat or just most of them?

Bearmeat's picture

If my memory serves me, they are average at PR. But they suck at everything else.

Slocumb must go.

Clay the 1st's picture

I don't mind that they save Cobb for playoffs or late season necessity.

By the way once in the playoffs, or deep in the playoffs let Rodgers RUN HIS BUTT OFF!!

Hard to defend a triple threat.

JimTaylor31's picture

I support the decision to use Cobb as a PR and KR. You gotta get your best players in the best position to win games. Can't play afraid of injuries unless we are willing admit that STs aren't that important anyhow. If that's the case then quit bitching about the crappy STs. Can't have it both ways.

egbertsouse's picture

I don't care about the return man, I just hope between Slocum and Zook they can get together and figure out the blocking. One blocked punt can screw you in the playoffs. And I hope that Masthay is all done with the 31 yd. punts. May have to play field position against good defenses like Seattle.

lou's picture

To return kick offs or punts you have to be able to make the first defender miss, you either have that ability or you don't, Harris does not have it and Cobb does have it. As much as the coaching staff would like Harris to succeed, being last means he has not produced and needs to be replaced. The same thing with Boykin, McCarthy loves the kids and has given him too many chances like Harris this year with NO results. I agree that Janis should have had some opportunities in mid season but he did not, going with Cobb is the best possible move t this point.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Exactly. Move Cobb to KR/PR, since we failed to find a back-up player who can handle these responsibilities. Agree again that MM is too loyal to "his guys" and we should have tried Janis at KR. Since it is going to be fairly warm in Tamba Bay, unless it is really windy, most of the kick offs will probably not be returnable.

While this is an overdue move, it doesn't fix the blocking problems.

Tundraboy's picture

Only thing I'm amazed at is that they waited so long. But then again MM had to hope he could get by until the end of year saving Cobb for playoffs. But now it has to be all hands on deck. ST blocking has been horrible across the board and only chance is for Cobb to break one. Is ST that bad or is Mathsay just having a bad year. Real bad year. That has shocked me the most.

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