Meet the Packers Newest Running Back: Randall Cobb

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Randall Cobb
Could we see Packers KR/WR Randall Cobb on the reverse in 2012?

Despite losing to the 49ers last weekend, several things jumped out at me about the Packers; their offense can be as powerful as it was last year but look like they are going to need some time to get “tuned up”, the defense isn’t as bad as it was last year, but it’s still the weakness of the team, and the Packers might have finally figured out their problems at running back.  Their solution: second year man Randall Cobb.

The Packers have taken a page from the Minnesota Vikings and have positioned Cobb in a very similar manner as Percy Harvin, another player who perhaps doesn’t have the traditional skill set of a wide receiver but makes up for it in diversity of ability.

During week 7 of the 2010 season, the Vikings and Harvin fooled the Packers with a deceptively simple formation, with a twist:

 

The Vikings start in a 311 formation (3 WR, 1TE, 1RB) on 1st and 10 with Randy Moss at the bottom of the screen split wide, Harvin in the slot next to Moss and Bernard Berrian at the top of the screen split wide.  Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe is inline outside the right tackle while fullback/tight end Jeff Dugan lines up offset on the strong set (much like where a fullback would be in the I-formation).  The Packers, seeing 4 receivers and a fullback in a position to block naturally suspect the pass and counter with their nickel package, with Tramon Williams lining up against Moss and Sam Shields lining up against Berrian.  Charles Woodson lines up in the slot and naturally is covering Harvin, who again is also in the slot.

 

Now here’s where the trickery comes in, right before the snap Favre motions Harvin from the slot to Farve’s right and then proceeds to execute a draw play.  The Packers defensive linemen and linebackers abandon their run gap assignments as they play the pass and are completely caught off guard by the draw. Harvin stutters at the line, which only causes more confusion with the Packers pass rush as they don’t immediately see that its a run play.

 

In the secondary, all the defensive backs are also expecting the pass and don’t peel off in time to get to Harvin who runs 17 yards clean to the endzone (Sorry for the terrible screen grab).  Woodson, who was assigned to Harvin, gets blocked out of the play by an offensive linemen; which despite Woodson’s acumen at run defense still is a tough match up.  In the end it’s a pretty ingenious play; the Vikings put the Packers in a pass defense formation with only two down linemen in what looks like an obvious passing play, and then motion into a running play with the obvious advantage going to the Vikings.  On top of that, I’m not entirely sure if the Packers had time to make sense of Harvin in the backfield, while I’m sure the Packers have seen a ton of running backs motioning out wide, the same can’t be said the other way around.

The key to this play is of course the versatility of Percy Harvin, as you need a player who can both threaten as a wide receiver and as a running back.  It just so happens that the Packers do possess this kind of weapon in Randall Cobb.

During the game against the 49ers, the Packers played a lot of the same concepts but in reverse.  Instead of coming out in a passing play and then motioning into a running play, the Packers often had Cobb align in the backfield as a running back and then motion into a passing play with Cobb moving to the slot.  With both teams, the idea is to motion into your stronger suit; the Vikings offensive line has always been a run first unit (as you would be if you had Adrian Peterson on your team) just as the Packers have always been a pass first unit (as you would be if you had Aaron Rodgers on your team).  With the Packers, the idea is that the 49ers see Cobb in the backfield and assign a linebacker on him, who then has to follow Cobb out of the core of the formation when Cobb moves to the slot, which is an obvious advantage for the Packers.

So why is Cobb the Packers newest running back?  Because he is the “running back” during these types of plays and essentially is motioning out wide (which is pretty common), the only difference is that Cobb is more of a wide receiver than a running back and when lined up against a linebacker gives the Packers a big edge.  On top of that, I wouldn’t be all too surprised to see Cobb actually get some rushing attempts just to give the defense more to think about, or even better yet to run some plays like the Harvin rushing touchdown.

Aaron Rodgers recently said with a smile that Randal Cobb would be a bigger focus in the Packers offense, what he didn’t say was that Cobb would be the Packers offensive all-terrain vehicle against the 49ers.

 

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Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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  • Chad Lundberg

    Randall Cobb was our MVP against the 40 winers, and I don’t know what you mean when you say “lacks traditional skill as a receiver” considering he caught every ball thrown his way. Ya hear me Jones and Finley?

    Should be really exciting to see what this young talented player can bring. At least one more return for a TD will happen, and it’s been a while since we’ve been able to say that.

    • Tarynfor12

      You’re upset with James Jones…give it a break already!

      • Chad Lundberg

        Why? Why should I give him a break?

        • Thomas Hobbes

          I would say that Jones drops the ball as many times as Ahman Green fumbled it. Statistically, they actually have very reasonable numbers; only they seem to happen at the absolute worst times, hence why fans remember them and why fans harp about it.

        • Big T

          Jones gets paid enough, so no we will not give him a break, or his fumblefinger brother Finley…

    • Thomas Hobbes

      I said he lacks the tradition skill set of a wide receiver, i.e. he isn’t the 6’3″ guy who runs a 4.3 and makes a living beating man coverage on a single cornerback out wide; he’s not someone who can probably beat an Revis or Asomugha-type corner one on one. Cobb is part of the newer breed of wide receiver where they can function as a runner or receiver and operate best in traffic in the middle of the field. I think people forget that slot receivers didn’t blow up until a couple years ago

  • Tim

    The other thing Cobb can do that Harvin can’t is throw the ball. Remember last year against the Giants when Cobb threw a pass on a reverse? It was incomplete it was a beautiful throw.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      I wonder if they actually have any plans for Cobb to throw the ball seriously, like not just to get something else out there for defenses to think about. On one hand, it definitely creates a new dimenson to the offense, but on the other hand Cobb can’t compete in passing with Aaron Rodgers and typically you want to give the ball to your best players.

      • Chad Lundberg

        I see what you mean. I was just getting my point across that he was the most productive receiver out there.

    • BubbaOne

      I believe he’s their emergency QB and we’ve seen him throw on a reverse so I wonder why MM didn’t have him in his QB school.
      His versatility renews my want of seeing him run a wildcat O. I know the “why would you want to take the ball out of AR’s hand” argument. The reason besides it may be successful and forcing teams to have to defense against it is I would like to potentially get an extra year or two out of AR’s HOF caliber career.

  • Dan

    Can Cobb play defense? Can he play CB or S? How about DL or LB? How about DB coach? At the very least, can he replace Capers and create his own scheme?

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Probably no to all those questions, unless he is the next coming of Troy Brown. Honestly, I don’t think we’ll ever see a dual football player ever again

  • Marquipooh

    How’s this any different than splitting out your 3rd down back? I mean in both cases you should end up with a LB covering your more versatile ‘receiver’ which should give you the advantage. Granted that Cobb is probably a much better receiving option than most RB’s it’s still the same mismatch. right?

    • Thomas Hobbes

      In concept it isn’t except that a running back split out wide covered by a linebacker is a pretty even matchup, Cobb split out against a linebacker is a huge mismatch. Imagine if Cobb motioned from the backfield all the way out wide and managed to bring a linebacker with him, wouldn’t that be a sight?

      • marquipooh

        Thomas, what would you say the most likely defensive response to this will be. Do opponents change the underneath coverage to zone when the see RC in the backfield? Thanks!

  • Dan

    I was being sarcastic…I’m still disappointed with the D’s lack of coaching, scheme and lack of playmakers

    • BubbaOne

      The D has a lot of new moving parts: new OLB and CB in base, new S and DL in nickel, Smith is essentially a rookie (3 starts). They were w/o Walden and Neal. They’ll need 4-6 games to gel as a unit.

      Capers is one of the most experienced and respected DC’s in the biz. Though his D’s have seen a falloff after the 1st couple years at his previous stops. This could be a pivotal year to see where his D ranks at the end of the year.

      It’s a long season and I want the team to be playing well come playoff time so I’m taking a wait and see as to how they come together.

  • Dan

    I hate that the DBs are still giving up a huge cushion, all it adds up to are open recievers and completions. DCs blitzing isn’t working again and covering WRs with Perry is stupid. DCs DBs have no clue who to cover, again, just like last year. Other teams have figured out his tendencies , DC is not making the adjustments and is not getting his unit ready to play.

  • PackersRS

    I really like this idea, I’ve been saying it since he was drafted.

    The problem is, he lined up in the backfield a bunch of times but didn’t carry it a single time.

    It was just odd for the sake of odd. He didn’t ran the ball even once…