Packing the Stats: Randall Cobb and Other Movers of the Chain Gang

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Packing the StatsGreen Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy wasn’t kidding when he called second-round pick Randall Cobb “very talented,” “multidimensional,” and “a matchup player” after the 2011 NFL Draft. We didn’t see a whole lot outside of kick returns last year, but this season has really seen Cobb explode on the offense. From his role in the slot to his special place in the “Cobra” formation, he has been a dynamic force that tilts the field.

We could talk about his best-in-league 131.0 wide receiver rating from ProFootballFocus.com. We could also look at his 45 receptions (tied for 13th in the league) or six receiving touchdowns (tied for 7th). But what I really want to focus on in this issue is a measure of production not often looked at: first down conversions.

What I have charted below is the number of conversions made by each individual player on the offense through the first nine weeks of 2012. From there, I’ve broken that number down into passes, runs, conversions by down, and touchdowns. (Note that a touchdown is considered part of the total number of conversions. Also note that the trick special teams plays are not included, since they are not produced by the offense.)

Let’s take a look at the numbers before we go any further:

 

Conversions by Player, 2012, Wks. 1-9

 

As is always the case, we can glean a few different things from this information. What I want to focus on first, however, is the fact that Cobb, Nelson, and Jones are the biggest “movers of the chain gang.” They’ve accounted for a combined 85 conversions, which is slightly more than half of the entire offense’s total.

We can also note that both Randall Cobb and James Jones are at their best on second and third downs. Jordy Nelson, on the other hand, seems to be equally productive across downs. Furthermore, these three players have accounted for 19 of the Packers’ 27 touchdowns, with Jones currently holding the lead at 8 touchdowns.

But let’s dig a little deeper. The Packers’ receiving corps has been hit by some unfortunate injuries to Greg Jennings (groin/abdomen), Jordy Nelson (hamstring/ankle), and even Jermichael Finley (shoulder). This means that straight-up numbers don’t mean a whole lot without a little more context.

The following table now considers the number of passing routes run, as provided by ProFootballFocus.com. By dividing the number of routes run by the total number of conversions, we can see how often these players are moving the chains with regard to their playing time. (Note that only conversions by receptions have been included.)

 

Routes Run per Conversion, 2012, Wks. 1-9

 

Here we see the same three names on the top of the list, and Cobb reigns supreme. When it comes to the passing game – the strength of the Packers offense – it’s clear who the big dogs are.

What actually surprised me a little bit is the ranking of the tight ends among the receivers. D.J. Williams has seen less action than anyone in the passing game, but he’s taken advantage of his opportunities. Unfortunately, we also see some more evidence that Jermichael Finley isn’t producing as much as we have come to expect.

From here, it will be interesting to chart how things change as players return to the fold, especially Greg Jennings. The best part about Jennings returning is that he is versatile enough to play the slot or be split wide, meaning Cobb doesn’t necessarily have to lose a lot of snaps from his primary slot position.

Whatever happens, though, it’s clear that this offense is currently running through Randall Cobb, with Aaron Rodgers driving the ship. Oh, and by the way, for those wondering about Cobb’s five running conversions . . . he did it on six running attempts. Just some more icing on the cake.

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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  • Turophile

    Thanks for the stats Chad. Benson and Green were productive 2nd down players and Green did some damage on 3rd down. Surprising to see no Benson on 3rd down. Maybe that was MM’s philosophy changing. He kept saying early in the regular season how he had been getting away from the run and he wanted to run the ball more.

    I do wonder how much longer MM will keep Cobb as punt and kick returner. As his importance as a receiver increases I would imagine the coaches having an escalating worry in continuing to put him at risk as a returner. Trouble is, no-one else on the team is close to him in return ability – perhaps we get a dedicated returner in the 2013 draft.

    • FireMMNow

      I think you have to keep Cobb returning punts and kicks. His return ability is a major reason they drafted him and he has made a big impact on that facet of the team.

      In the past I have said that certain players should not be returning punts, such as tramon williams. The reason I did not want him back there was the risk was not worth the reward. He was not a very good punt returner, so why risk getting him hurt when he is not that productive anyway.

      On the flip side, Cobb is so good back there that I think the risk is worth the reward. He changes field position, whether it is teams punting shorter and higher to force a fair catch, or breaking a big return he has just as much impact returning the ball as he does as WR.

      I think they will definitely question his role on special teams at some point, but right now he should stay in my opinion.

      • Chad Toporski

        I think I have to agree more with FireMMNow here… He makes a good point with the risk/reward aspect. Big returns can be a factor in a team’s momentum, whether its helping to turn it around or simply helping to keep it moving forward.

      • Rick Racic

        With all the injuries that we have to our star players, I am not sure that we want the brightest light on offense subject to the punishment of kick or punt returns. We did pick up Johnny White from Buffalo who does have return talents. Good time to test those skills and get him involved in the season.

  • Tarynfor12

    AS Turophile mentions above as to the high efficiency of Cobb as a WR and the risk of injury increasing with his snap count and return duties on both KR/PR. What becomes the more acceptable loss in production.His play at WR or Returner?I would say returns as we can make up the yardage loss…is there any insight to this Johnny White getting a shot to do returns.

    • Chad Toporski

      I don’t really see it as an either/or thing. If we lose Cobb, we lose both the offensive and return production. Really, how many times have we seen a returner get seriously injured on a special teams play? By playing smart, they can do some things to help minimize big hits.

  • FireMMNow

    Good article Chad. Crabtree and Williams should be getting more snaps. It may be a possibility that Finley is holding the offense back more than he is helping right now. MM is a big believer in the self scout over the bye week, hopefully they take a long look at the TE position and make decisions based on pay and not salary.

  • http://googlechrome madtowne

    Randall Cobb was a multi-dimensional
    talent coming out of Kentucky.He reminds
    me of Russell Wilson from Wisconsin.
    TT & MM knew what a weapon he could be
    when they drafted him.

    Cobb also has QB skills. Just think of
    him getting the ball on an option play and throwing a TD pass.It will happen and it will surprise the opposing team!
    I have a hunch MM is saving the play for the right situation!

  • toolkien

    1) From the department of picayune, Rodgers and Nelson do not add across in the conversions by down.

    2) MM is apparently a pretty deep stat guy, so I’m sure he’s analyzed just how often a return touch leads to injury. He must find the risk reasonable compared to someone else returning kicks.

    • Chad Toporski

      Thanks, I’ll check to see where I made the error.

  • alex parkhurst

    Does anyone else think that this year is beginning to look like the Super Bowl year, 2 years ago. Way too many injuries but others stepping up. Grind it out in games, probably not finish first in the division (Bears again), beat top ranked teams: Houston and Chicago and then become a Wild Card team, etc?

    • Rick Racic

      Shhhhhhhh!

  • Barutan Seijin

    This team is only superficially like the 2010 team. The 2010 team had a much better defense. This year’s defense may be better than last year’s, but i don’t think it can stop people the way the 2010 team did.

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