Why Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb is primed for a major resurgence.
While Jordy Nelson was the one whose season ended even before it began, in some respects, it was his wingman, Randall Cobb, who endured a greater amount of frustration in 2015, as he had a number of obstacles conspire against him all at once.
Packers fans and fantasy football enthusiasts were practically holding hands and lighting candles following Cobb’s injury-inducing tumble in a meaningless preseason tilt versus the Eagles.
The prognosis on No. 18’s shoulder was a sprained AC joint, which would only require rest and rehabilitation. Hope for shifty wideout was restored as it soon was announced that he would be ready to suit up for the Week 1 opener at Chicago.
Cobb did end up starting that game and went on, in fact, to play in all 16 regular season games and two playoff contests, but the results for what was expected from the sixth-year veteran were underwhelming.
In addition to his yards-per-reception total going down by nearly four yards from the previous year (10.5 versus 14.1), the one-time SEC quarterback went through a stretch of four games where he failed to gain 50 yards or score a touchdown (from Week 4 through Week 8) followed by another series of games where he accomplished the same feat (from Week 15 through Week 17).
Frustrated fantasy pundits far and wide could be heard disparaging Cobb as a “B” receiver, who can only shine with a healthy Nelson on the field acting as Aaron Rodgers’ primary vertical threat.
There’s no doubt that Nelson’s absence put a ton more pressure on Cobb, who was burdened with facing constant double coverages.
Opposing teams had little respect for the likes of Richard Rodgers, Davante Adams and James Jones. To further complicate matters, a season-ending ankle injury to promising rookie Ty Montgomery also took the wind out of Green Bay’s sails.
But the one thing that hardly anyone spoke about in relation to Cobb was his shoulder. In the minds of many observers, his sprained wing was all healed up and no longer a debilitating factor.
Whereas shoulder sprains or any sort of injury to that part of the body set off alarm bells for quarterbacks or baseball pitchers, they don’t quite carry the same gravity for people who catch footballs for a living.
One of Cobb’s best attributes is his ability to point is shoulders and eyes one way and break out of his route in the opposite direction as a short-area target. The fact that he wasn’t as flexible as he normally is was a product of insufficient recovery time between games, which also partially explains some uncommon drops we saw from Rodgers’ go-to slot man.
Like most athletes, Cobb chose not to highlight his physical trials, although he did acknowledge the suffocating double teams he encountered following Green Bay’s 24-10 win over the Rams in October.
The man was flustered after his three catch, 23-yard performance. Commenting on the way defenses were zeroing in on him was his way of probably releasing his angst over the fact that he just wasn’t physically able to make the plays he was accustomed to.
Yet some members of the media chose to solely harp on Cobb’s difficulties in creating separation without mentioning his shoulder, but only the ghost of Nelson.
There’s no reason to doubt that the Kentucky product will be able to twist, turn and evade defensive backs as he did in 2014 and years prior with all the rest he’s getting in the offseason.
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He is still that same weapon who Pro Football Focus proclaimed as a “top five or top 10” receiver in 2014 when he led all receivers with 10 scores out of the slot position. PFF’s findings also concluded that the 5-foot-10 pass catcher makes Rodgers a better passer by not allowing defenders to get between him and the ball.
Moreover, Rodgers posted an NFL-best 136 passer rating when targeting Cobb two seasons ago, which went down to 112 when distributing the ball to others.
At 25-years-old, Cobb is entering his prime and while his shoulder is on the mend, there’s nothing ailing his legs. His elusiveness and speed after the catch remain intact. Those sudden sharp cuts he makes when running in a straight line will once again astound and confound opponents.
The return of Nelson will improve Rodgers, Cobb and the entire offense just as Cobb helps Rodgers immeasurably when he’s healthy. That’s why they call football the ultimate team sport.
One player doesn’t carry an entire organization to the promised land. Trade Nelson to the Cleveland Browns and watch his production go down.
Skeptics who have now labeled Cobb as a character actor in Green Bay’s offensive machine can thank me later when I tell them he’ll be back to being that fantasy stud we all thought we were getting in drafts last August.
Now all that’s left is for Mike McCarthy to keep his reps down during a five-game preseason slate that all Packers fans are dreading.