INDIANAPOLIS – Randall Cobb’s time as the Green Bay Packers’ primary returner may be drawing to a close.
After the 22-year-old wide receiver’s breakthrough offensive campaign in 2012, Packers coach Mike McCarthy suggested his preference for pulling the dynamic youngster off of the special-teams unit he’s been the focal point of for the past two seasons at the NFL scouting combine on Friday.
Since drafting Cobb in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the Packers have jumped from 29th to 12th in the Dallas Morning News’ special-teams rankings with Cobb contributing to a return unit that’s registered more than 24.0-yards per kickoff return average in each of the past two seasons, the first time the franchise has accomplished that feat since 1963-64.
Cobb (2,342) edged Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson (2,314) for the league lead in all-purpose yards while leading the Packers with 954 receiving yards with eight receiving touchdowns.
Cobb could’ve challenged for his first 1,000-yard receiving season, but injured his ankle on a punting play in Week 16 that called into question if he should stop returning with his growing value offensively.
McCarthy shied away from pulling Cobb off special teams in-season, but seemed receptive to the idea at the NFL scouting combine on Friday.
“Randall, extremely productive, obviously his statistics support that, and his ability to play all those positions I thought was a big part of our production, not only as an offense but on special teams,” McCarthy said. “Our special teams in a number of areas was about as good as we've played in our time there in Green Bay, and Randall is a big part of that. I hope he’s not playing next year. That’s really the responsibility of the rest of the skill players in the locker room.”
The Packers found a possible replacement for Cobb in first-year returner Jeremy Ross, who was signed to the practice squad in October before being promoted to the active roster on Dec. 1.
Ross, the second all-time leading punt returner in University of California program history, showed flashes of potential in part-time duty leading up to the Packers’ NFC divisional playoff game against San Francisco.
With Cobb coming off the ankle injury, the Packers tried to keep him solely on offense, but Ross muffed a punt on the Packers’ own 9-yard line and Cobb was quickly reinserted.
If McCarthy is to get his wish, the onus will be on the Packers to have his replacement.
“He’s someone who spent a lot of time this time last year developing packages for him, as far as putting him in the backfield and so forth,” McCarthy said. “I prefer not to play him on special teams. We’ll let time answer that.”
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