Offense looks to capitalize on Cobb's return
PHOENIX – The Green Bay Packers have utilized Randall Cobb in practically every way imaginable in his first four NFL seasons.
He's lined up on the outside, the slot and even developed into a legitimate threat out of the backfield as a ball carrier and receiver. It's enabled him to amass nearly 6,000 all-purpose yards in his first 52 regular-season games.
The 5-foot-10, 192-pound receiver took things to another level last season. In a contract year, Cobb caught a career-high 91 passes for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. It would have been a hot commodity on the market if the Packers hadn't re-signed him days before the start of free agency. His four-year, $40 million deal will pay him $21 million in the first two years.
With Cobb back in the fold, the only question is what's next for the fifth-year receiver? From coach Mike McCarthy's perspective, the offense must continue to feed its booming playmaker.
"He needs to see the ball," McCarthy said Sunday at the NFL annual meetings. "I mean you get into games, particularly the key games and as you build toward the season, you've got to make sure Randall touches the ball. And it's a credit to him and he gives you a number of different ways to get him the football."
Cobb, who'll turn 25 in August, was an important cog in the Packers' offseason plans. After re-signing right tackle Bryan Bulaga, the Packers now have all the key contributors of the NFL's highest-scoring offense under contract through the 2016 season.
The offense leaned heavily on the productivity of Cobb and Jordy Nelson last season. Together, the receivers became the first duo in NFL history to both register 90-plus receptions, 1,200-plus receiving yards and 12-plus touchdowns in the same season.
Cobb's ability to line up out of the backfield sparked the offense late in the season with his ability to run out of the formation keeping opposing linebackers and defensive backs off balance. It also afforded him his first Pro Bowl appearance as an alternate.
If the Packers are planning any new concoctions for Cobb next season, McCarthy isn't letting on.
"I don't think there's really any more that we can do with him out of the backfield because he's done everything," McCarthy said. "He's run it inside. He's run it outside. He's run wide routes. He's run vertical routes. He's run crossing routes. He's run double-move routes. He's run wheel routes.
"I don't know if there's anything left on the route stem or the running back footwork tree for him to be utilized. So he gives you that ability. So I'm not looking for, we don't really need more ideas or scheme. It's really more about matchups and opportunities."
Cobb's signing was vital given the amount of receiving threats the Packers have lost in recent years, including Greg Jennings (Minnesota), James Jones (Oakland) and Jermichael Finley (neck injury).
In case of Cobb's exit, general manager Ted Thompson restocked the receiver position in last year's draft with the addition of rookies Davante Adams (second round), Jared Abbrederis (fifth round) and Jeff Janis (seventh round).
With Cobb back, the Packers like their holdings. The offense still lacks a dynamic tight end like Finley, but Cobb's presence in the middle of the field helps compensate for that. In providing quarterback Aaron Rodgers with a full array of weapons and protection, the Packers hope it's enough to keep the offense on its upward trajectory.
The Packers had some difficult choices to make in recent years with Jennings' and Jones' departures. Although McCarthy wouldn't get into how high Cobb's ceiling runs, it's obvious the offense retained a central component of its long-term success
"I think Randall and Jordy kind of mirror each other," McCarthy said. "I think they're guys that they're given more opportunities and have taken full advantage of it. I'm not saying all of a sudden they played great this year, but I think the absence of having Jermichael Finley obviously created more opportunities for Jordy in the middle of the field than you probably had the prior years."
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