Cobb's Breakout Season Limited by Rep Count

WR Randall Cobb (Brian Spurlock/USP)

After a relatively quiet rookie season, Randall Cobb has been as good as any receiver in the NFL. Why has he made such big strides? Despite his production, why has he received less than half the snaps of Jordy Nelson and James Jones. And what prominent player would like Cobb to have a bigger role?

Randall Cobb has been arguably the Green Bay Packers' best offensive weapon this season.

Cobb routinely is getting open, routinely catching the ball and routinely making something happen with the ball in his hands.

However, because of Cobb's role as kickoff and punt returner – a role of vital importance considering he's one of the best in the NFL and special teams has been the Packers' best phase – the coaching staff has to walk a fine line.

"He's our returner, so that's a given," coach Mike McCarthy said on Thursday. "And we're also conscious of how much he plays on offense, too. He has a very demanding role, not only mentally, but physically. So, it's something that when we do the game plan we kind of hold a rep count on him and make sure there's enough opportunities in there for him. But I'm always worried about the volume for him."

Cobb, who was Kentucky's do-it-all star as one of the most explosive and versatile players in college football, says he's ready for whatever the coaches throw at him.

"It's just playing ball," Cobb said. "When it comes down to it, I study my assignments, I know what I'm supposed to be doing and everything they ask of me I'm trying to do, and I think I'm doing the best I can do at it. Hopefully, I can continue to improve in all areas."

Cobb has improved by leaps and bounds. A second-round draft pick in 2011, Cobb was deprived of the entire offseason program because of the lockout. So, while Cobb made a dramatic impact on special teams, his role on offense was limited. Cobb, who finished with 25 catches, said he felt he had never completely won quarterback Aaron Rodgers' trust. While Cobb was solid with the playbook, it was the line-of-scrimmage adjustments where he felt he wasn't quite on the same page.

That's no longer the case, and Cobb is having a tremendous season. Cobb's caught 22 passes, tied with Jermichael Finley for second on the team behind Jordy Nelson (23). His 244 receiving yards trail only Nelson's 289.

"I think that's the biggest thing was having that offseason and being around him and building chemistry with him and getting an understanding of what checks he might make in certain situations," Cobb said. "The more you're around somebody, the better relationship you have with him."

Among NFL receivers, he's sixth in yards after the catch (169), according to ProFootballFocus.com. Among receivers with at least 20 receptions, Cobb is fourth in yards after the catch per catch (7.7). He's caught 22 of 25 passes, a catch percentage of 88.0.

According to the league, Cobb is the only player in the NFL with 300-plus yards on kickoff returns, 200-plus yards receiving, 100-plus yards on punt returns and 25-plus rushing yards.

Cobb was outstanding against the Colts last week with four catches for 82 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown in which he blew past the safety after making the catch.

"He's made the most of his opportunities," receivers coach Edgar Bennett said. "I thought last week, he played extremely well. Did a lot of good things as a route runner. Catching the football, we always talk about yards after the catch and he excelled in the area. It's about being aggressive, putting your foot in the ground and going north and south. I thought he played well."

Still, even with Greg Jennings limited to two-and-a-quarter games because of a groin injury, Cobb has had to be content in a part-time role. Last week, according to the NFL's official snap counts, Cobb played in 44-of-67 snaps, a season-high 65.7 percent. He played 34.5 percent in the first four games — 35-of-68 against San Francisco, 20-of-68 against Chicago, 9-of-75 against Seattle and 33-of-70 against New Orleans.

Cobb ranks third among the Packers' receivers in snaps wirth 141, behind Jordy Nelson's 310 and James Jones' 287 but ahead of Jennings' 130 and Donald Driver's 45.

With Jennings out again and the rest of the passing game spinning its wheels, the Packers must decide if they want to raise Cobb's pitch count and give him more touches on offense. Through five games, Cobb has 22 catches and two rushes. Rodgers would like to see those opportunities increased.

"I've got a lot of confidence in him," Rodgers said. "In my opinion, he's a go-to guy. He's a guy you've got to find ways to get the ball to. He's done a great job for us. He's an excellent route-runner. He's been very good at getting himself open and making plays. You've seen, when he's got the ball in his hands in space, great things happen. We're trying to find ways to get him the ball in space more. Last week, there wasn't many opportunities for him but we'd love to get him at least 10 touches a game, whether that's run game or in the passing game."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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