Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb (18) runs on a pass reception for 28 yards in the second quarter of a preseason NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011, in Cleveland. / Mark Duncan/AP
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Early in training camp, Randall Cobb insisted he can be more than just a slot receiver, which was what many scouts had him pegged for coming out of the University of Kentucky.
Even if he’s limited to that role as a rookie this season, it looks like he might be able to do some damage.
In his first NFL preseason game on Saturday at Cleveland, Cobb caught three passes for 60 yards, and all of them came when he was lined up in the slot position. What’s more, two of them came on third downs and helped keep alive drives that resulted in points.
With a surplus of receiving talent on the Green Bay Packers’ roster, it may be difficult for coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin to devise many more ways to get Cobb the football this season. But if the first two weeks of training camp and one preseason game have told them anything about the 5-foot-10, 190-pound receiver, it’s that he has a chance to help them as a slot guy right away.
“They had me out there mostly in the slot,” Cobb said. “I enjoyed it. There’s still a lot of things to work on as far as being a receiver inside and outside. I’m just taking it day by day and trying to get better each day.”
All three of Cobb’s catches came with the second-string offense and off the hand of backup quarterback Matt Flynn. Cobb’s first catch came in the second quarter on a diving play for a 13-yard gain on third-and-5 from the Browns’ 30, which helped set up a field goal with 6:18 remaining. Cobb’s other two catches came on the final drive of the half, when Flynn directed a touchdown drive that began with 1:49 remaining.
Flynn got hit just after he fired to Cobb for an 18-yard gain on third-and-10 from their own 11. Two plays later, Cobb caught a crossing route and ran for a 28-yard into Browns’ territory.
“We saw a blitz and the safety came over the drop of me,” Cobb said of his longest reception. “I’m just trying to cross his face, and Matt threw a nice ball, and I was trying to make some yards after the catch.”
Cobb had two other chances for catches, both on slants, but couldn’t haul them in. He called them drops, although technically neither was. He also drew a pass interference penalty on Browns’ cornerback Buster Skrine early in the third quarter.
“He looks natural at the position, being in the slot,” Packers receiver Greg Jennings said. “He brings a lot to the table, so we’re excited to get him in there and get him more opportunities to make plays.”
Receiver was far down on the list of need positions when Packers general manager Ted Thompson picked him in the second round, at No. 64 overall, but Thompson and his scouts perhaps saw the second coming of Donald Driver, who throughout his 13-year NFL career has made his living catching balls over the middle and in traffic.
“I’ve very excited about Randall Cobb,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “You’ve got to trust Ted when he drafts a kid like that, and receiver was not a need for us. To bring in a guy like that, he made some big plays, he’s going to be a big part of our team. I’m looking forward to maybe getting some reps with him at some point.”
Cobb almost certainly will be the Packers’ punt returner and possibly their kickoff returner, too, although he did nothing spectacular in either role on Saturday. But his goal is to be a complete receiver. He has said he reminds himself regularly that some labeled him as a one-trick pony who wouldn’t be able to play on the perimeter in the NFL, and he uses that as motivation.
“That’s my goal,” Cobb said when asked if he can be another weapon in an already loaded offense. “I want to do all I can to help this team get back to the Super Bowl. We’re deep at receiver right now, but I’m going to keep battling every day and do all I can to help this team out.”
Practice reminder: After a day off on Sunday, the Packers return to the practice field today for an 11:15 a.m. padded workout. It is one of three practices this week that was originally scheduled for 7 p.m. Practice on Tuesday and Wednesday also will be at 11:15 a.m. and in pads. Thursday’s practice is at 11 a.m. and is not in pads.
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