Packers find comfort in Cobb returning punts

Ryan Wood
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GREEN BAY – The lobbying started early this season. Special-teams coordinator Ron Zook would ask coach Mike McCarthy for a little spark in the Green Bay Packers' punt-return game.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb (18) return a punt during the second quarter of their game Sunday, December 4, 2016 at Lambeau Field.

Zook wanted receiver Randall Cobb deep, fielding punts.

It might’ve happened earlier, too, if not for Cobb’s midseason hamstring injury. No sense having the Packers' slot receiver risk further injury playing outside the offense. As soon as Cobb healed, and with the Packers needing to do anything they could to get their season back on track, McCarthy finally gave the green light.

“I’ve been lobbying for Randall the whole year,” Zook said. “Obviously, I understand the importance of Randall and the offense. You’ve got to have him there. We’re in a situation where we’ve got to go play. We’ve got to play our best guys, and Randall was obviously one of those guys. He can make some people miss, and make things happen.”

Cobb’s play-making ability has carried to special teams the past three weeks.

He got his first punt return of the season at Washington — good for 10 yards — and muffed a punt in Philadelphia. On Sunday, Cobb returned a pair of punts for a total of 44 yards.

McCarthy has been pleased with how Cobb brought life to the punt-return unit, though he thinks it could be more.

“We need to do a better job blocking in the return game,” McCarthy said. “We had a couple opportunities. We just have to sustain our blocks better and keep that play alive. Because Randall is going to break tackles, and he’s going to give us a chance for a big play.”

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On his second return, Cobb made one Texans defender miss and broke two more tackles, while also running into blocker Kentrell Brice. Clear of the pack, he appeared to have a chance to break it all the way for a touchdown, if he followed Ty Montgomery’s block to the outside. Instead, he tucked up the middle and picked up 23 yards.

Zook said it wasn’t a problem with Cobb’s vision. He was simply running the play called.

“The type of return we had wasn’t a China return,” Zook said. “If we would’ve had a China return called, then he would’ve tried to get on the corner there. It was more of a cutoff, like a zone, outside zone. And offense was, stick your foot in the ground and get north.

“He did what he was supposed to do.”

Cobb initially burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2011 returning punts. He ranked seventh in the league that season averaging 11.3 yards on 26 returns, and had one touchdown punt return each of his first two seasons.

It has been a while since Cobb was used as a punt returner. As his role on offense grew, he didn’t return a single punt in 2014 or '15.

Cobb said he has enjoyed once again returning punts.

“It was nice,” he said. “I’m glad to be back there, help the team any way that I can. Find a way to get different touches and have an impact. I try to put us in the best field position we can whenever we get the ball on offense.”

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