Packers need Cobb to eliminate drops

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It was the first play of the no-huddle period in Thursday’s training camp practice, and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a matchup he loves: Speedy receiver Randall Cobb down the seam against a defense that was spread out to cover a multiple-receiver set.

Cobb, as he often does, blew by the defender. Rodgers, as he often does, put the ball on the money so that Cobb could catch it in stride.

But Cobb, as he too often does, watched the ball bounce off his hands and hit the ground. Or maybe the problem was that he didn’t watch the ball.

Either way, dropped passes have continued to plague the third-year receiver this summer. That was his second drop of that practice. The first came on a simple out route during a one-on-one drill.

If the Packers are concerned about Cobb’s hands, they’re not letting on.

“It’s not an issue,” receivers coach Edgar Bennett said. “It won’t be an issue.”

By most measures, Cobb had a breakout season in 2012. The 5-foot-10, 192-pound receiver caught a career-high 80 passes, and narrowly missed his first 1,000-yard receiving season. He had 954, but missed the last game and a half of the regular season because of an ankle injury suffered while returning a punt.

But Cobb also dropped a team-high nine passes, which according to STATS was tied for sixth most in the NFL. Cobb dropped 8.7 percent of the balls thrown his way.

“I think Randall Cobb catches the football very well,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “He might drop a ball. I don’t know if there’s a concern, but it’s something we spend a lot of time on. We need to catch the football better.”

McCarthy insisted Cobb has “very good hands,” and that surely is one of the reasons McCarthy is so hesitant to take Cobb off kick return duties.

Anyone who has hung around Ray Nitschke Field, where the Packers hold training camp practices, can see just how involved in the offense Cobb will be this season. His development last season made it easier for general manager Ted Thompson to let receiver Greg Jennings leave in free agency this offseason.

That’s why it’s especially important for Cobb to reduce his drop percentage. And that is where Bennett comes in. The former NFL running back takes ball security seriously, and is heavily involved in designing and running the drills that teach players to focus on the ball. Without admitting he thinks Cobb has a problem with his hands, Bennett said he will continue to drill him in the fundamentals, just like he will with the rest of his position group.

“We’re just continuing to make that the primary emphasis as far as catching the football, how we’re catching the football, attacking the ball, not allowing the ball to cross our eyes, looking it in all the way -- just being fundamentally sound,” Bennett said. “But he did have two (drops on Thursday) that he definitely shouldn’t have had.”