Green 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:
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.)
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.——————Follow @ChadToporski