GREEN BAY, Wis. – It’s been two seasons since Randall Cobb’s breakout year. In NFL years, that’s a lifetime ago.
The Green Bay Packers receiver might be the ultimate what-have-you-done-for-me-lately case.
A well-respected player around Lambeau Field and the league, Cobb hasn’t come close to his 2014 production – 91 catches, 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns – that led to the four-year, $40 million contract he signed in March 2015. Halfway through that contract, the Packers have to be wondering whether this will be a bounce-back year for the 26-year-old.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a bounce-back year,” Packers receivers coach Luke Getsy said. “He played really well for us when he was full-go.”
Getsy is right in that regard; injuries have slowed Cobb in the last two seasons. A preseason shoulder injury hampered him in 2015. Even though he never missed a game, the shoulder bothered him all season. His production dropped: 71 catches, 829 yards and six touchdowns.
Last year, an early season hamstring injury cost him one game and an ankle injury that kept him out of the final two regular-season games. In 13 games, he caught just 60 passes for 610 yards and four touchdowns – his lowest totals since 2013, when he missed 10 games with a broken bone in his leg.
Still, he showed a glimpse of what he once was in the wild-card playoff win over the New York Giants with five catches for 116 yards and three touchdowns.
“Shoot, that first playoff game, he wasn’t even healthy for that one,” Getsy said. “And he played his butt off.”
The Packers have been talking this offseason about finding more ways to get Cobb the ball. That’s no easy task given how many options Aaron Rodgers has – from Jordy Nelson to Davante Adams to Ty Montgomery to new tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks.
“It’s important to make sure you create opportunities for all these guys,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said earlier this offseason. “And how can you get Randall the ball a couple more times a game? Those are the things I think about at night – just making sure that our system has something for everybody, because you need everybody. You need to make sure the right guys are touching the ball as much as possible.”
Clearly, McCarthy and his staff think the Packers’ offense is better when Cobb has the ball in his hands.
They value Cobb’s versatility – he even lines up in the backfield and gets a few carries (10 last season, 50 for his career) – but they still have to remember he’s a 5-foot-10 slot receiver with limitations when he lines up outside. Most of Cobb's production has come from the slot, where he has lined up on 80.1 percent of his career receptions and all but two of his career touchdown catches, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“When you have a guy like him that’s so dynamic with the football in his hands, I think that’s where coach was going with it is you’ve got to get him the football,” Getsy said. “And it’s different when you have a 6-7 tight end or a 6-4 receiver outside, there’s probably a little bit easier direct line to get the guy the ball. But I don’t think anybody on this football team is as dynamic as that guy is with the football. So yeah, he’s an important part to our process and us having success for sure. So yeah, we’ve got to do that. We’ve got to get him the ball.”