Rating the Rookies: Cobb Leads Packers 2011 Class Through 7 Games

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The rookies on the Green Bay Packers roster have yet to complete a half-season in 2011, but the bye week in Week 8 gave us an opportunity to gauge how the Packers’ first-year players look through seven games.

Snap-counts and statistics are courtesy of Pro Football Focus

T Derek Sherrod (R1)

The Packers wanted him to take hold of the left guard position coming into training camp, but that experiment died in a hurry when Sherrod couldn’t handle the switch. He’s a right or left tackle from this point on. The only major action Sherrod has seen this season came against the Falcons in Week 5. After Chad Clifton went down with a hamstring injury, Sherrod filled in at right tackle as Marshall Newhouse slid over to the left side. Of the 51 snaps he played, 36 came on passing plays, and Sherrod allowed just two quarterback pressures and no sacks or hits. That kind of snap distribution shows the confidence that the Packers have in their rookie at right tackle in pass protection. Sherrod also came in on seven snaps (five run, two pass) against the Broncos in Week 4.

WR/KR Randall Cobb (R2)

GM Ted Thompson drafted Cobb in the second round to be the Packers primary return man and a sub-package receiver that can make plays in space. So far, that’s exactly what Cobb has been. He has returned every punt and kick save one, which was a squib kick that Tom Crabtree got his hands on. Cobb has done his best work on kicks, where his 30.5-yard average (13 returns, 396 yards) ranks fifth in the NFL among players with eight or more returns. Of course, his 108-yard TD against the Saints on opening night is the highlight of the season. He also lost a fumble in Carolina that contributed to the Packers falling down by 13 points in the first quarter.

Cobb hasn’t had the same impact on punt returns, where his 12 returns have yielded just 97 yards (8.1 average). Cobb has 11 fair catches. His only muffed punt of the season in Minnesota gave the Vikings good field position to re-take the lead, 14-7.  In the same game, Cobb had a 42-yard punt return that set up a Packers touchdown.

As a receiver, Cobb displays the kind of electric ability that makes him such a weapon on returns. He has a catch in every game of 2011, with a total of 11 receptions for 187 yards (17.9). 120 of those yards have come after the catch. Cobb’s one and only touchdown catch came against the Saints in Week 1. He admittedly ran the wrong route on the play, but Rodgers found him on a drag route and Cobb did the rest, breaking several tackles and diving into the end zone for a 32-yard score. He also caught a 61-yard pass against the Broncos. There has been two drops, and his latest against the Vikings likely cost him his second touchdown.

There’s been ups and downs for Cobb, but the ups greatly outweigh the downs. He’s been everything the Packers wanted him to be as a rookie and likely more.

RB Alex Green (R3)

It’s difficult to determine what the Packers wanted out of Green as a rookie. He was active for just four of the seven games, and his three carries (for 11 yards) came in garbage time against the Broncos. Green got one snap in Atlanta and caught a six-yard pass on a third-and-2 to move the chains. His season ended in Minnesota when Cobb rolled up on the back of his legs during a kick return. Mike McCarthy announced the day after that Green had torn his ACL on the play and would be done for the 2011 season. You got the feeling that McCarthy was slowly becoming more comfortable with Green in the Packers offense. Potentially, he could have played a role in third down situations as that comfort level increased. Nevertheless, we’ll have to wait for 2012 to see anything more from the Packers third-round draft choice.

CB Davon House (R4)

House fought an ankle injury during training camp and lost valuable time in learning and playing in the Packers defense. Sam Shields’ concussion against the Rams opened the door for House to make his NFL debut in Minnesota. House saw zero time on defense but did see some action on punts and kicks. With Shields cleared to play coming out of the bye, House should stay buried on the Packers depth chart at cornerback.

TE D.J. Williams (R5)

In the shorts-and-helmets start to training camp, Williams looked like he could make an impact on the Packers already stacked offense. Once the pads came on and the hitting started, Williams cooled off and had to fight for his spot on the 53-man roster. He’s now been active in all seven regular season games. Williams has been targeted just two times, catching one pass for seven yards against the Falcons. But overall, the Packers haven’t used him as a receiving weapon so far in 2011. Of his 53 snaps, 34 have been runs and five others he stayed in to block. The pass protection has been just OK, as he blew a block in Atlanta that resulted in a sack.  More and more, McCarthy motions him into the backfield to be an H-back. That looks like his immediate future within the Packers offense.

LB D.J. Smith (R6)

Smith has been active in every game of 2011 because of his ability to play special teams. He’s impressed in that role, leading the Packers with six special teams tackles. In each of the last two weeks, Smith has made tackles on returns inside the opponents’ 25-yard line. The Packers are set at inside linebacker with Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk, but Smith will stick on this team for a long time because of his consistent contributions on special teams.

TE Ryan Taylor (R7)

Taylor was inactive for Week 1 but has suited up in every game since. While he hasn’t registered an offensive snap, Taylor is second on the team with three special teams tackles. His best stop came in Atlanta on a punt return. Taylor does have one special teams penalty, which came on a hold against the Rams in Week 6. Barring an injury, it might be a stretch to think he’ll play at all on offense this season.

DE Lawrence Guy (R7)

The Packers put Guy on season-ending IR on Sept. 3. He’ll stay with the team until 2012, when he can once again fight for a spot on the 53-man roster.

G/T Ray Dominguez (UDFA)

The Packers signed Dominguez to the 53-man roster after placing S Nick Collins on IR. Dominguez has been inactive in each of the two games since.

S M.D. Jennings (UDFA)

Jennings was inactive for Week 1 but has been on the gameday 46 in every game since. He failed to get his name in the stat sheet until the past two weeks, when Jennings was called for two penalties and contributed one assisted tackle. With Collins on the IR, it’s likely that Jennings will be active every week as an emergency safety.

LB Vic So’oto (UDFA)

After posting 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown in the preseason, So’oto hurt his back in the lead up to Week 1 and then saw his name drop on the depth chart as others showed more on special teams. So’oto has been active for just two games (vs. Broncos and Vikings) in 2011. Against Denver, So’oto saw one snap on defense and was swallowed up on a run play. He also missed a tackle in kick coverage. In Minnesota, many thought he’d get a crack at more snaps rushing the passer. No such development occurred. So’oto did help bring down Percy Harvin on one kick return.

LB Jamari Lattimore (UDFA)

Lattimore has been active in five of seven weeks, with his latest shelving in Minnesota a result of a shoulder injury that kept him out of practice. He played three snaps at LOLB against the Bears but didn’t record a tackle or pressure. Lattimore is tied with Taylor and Tom Crabtree for second in special teams tackles with three.

WR Shaky Smithson (UDFA)

Smithson was placed on IR and should be given the chance to make the roster in 2012.

RB Brandon Saine (UDFA)

Saine was signed to the Packers 53-man roster on Monday.

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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  • Mr. Bacon

    Randall Cobb, in my opinion, should be a lock for a potential Pro Bowl and maybe a more important All-Pro consideration in the years coming ahead because he is being given the Tramon Williams treatment. Getting playing time, while buried beneath the roster.

    With that in mind. I think as of right now, the most glaring needs when you look at the roster as a collective with the rookies is who, and how will the current roster pan out in the future with the most weakness at the Offensive Line and Defensive line in terms of a rotation or 2nd string backup. Clifton probably has no knee left for Tackle, but he is the best option we have.

    Sure Newhouse is doing is job enough to keep the Packers winning but we’ve never really had a stable and clear depth at that unit.

    As for the defensive line, we’ve been not consistent at that front unit since Kampmann and KGB. Sure Pickett, Raji, and Green are stable but the ends are always getting hurt.

    So we will see.

  • Mojo

    I guess to sum it up there hasn’t been a great deal of contributions by the rookie class. A decent start for Cobb and mostly ST play by the others. I think this is good in that it shows there aren’t too many glaring holes on the team. Plus at least with ST play the rooks are getting there feet wet.

    It will be interesting to see if So’oto gets a chance to fill the big area of need – pass rush, in the second half of the season.

    • Zach Kruse

      Yup, and that’s mostly what was expected coming into the season. I share your interest in So’oto. He needs to be better on ST to get a chance to show more as an OLB, but I like the untapped potential as a pass rusher. Packers need more of those.

  • Bearmeat

    It’s pretty tough for young guys to come in and compete on a relatively young, star studded roster. Give these guys a year or two – I’d bet the farm that at least half become decent level starters, and a couple probowlers.

    (Fist bump for TT)

    • Zach Kruse

      I’d be shocked if Randall Cobb doesn’t make a Pro Bowl or two once Devin Hester slows down.