Could Fewer Touches Lead to More Production for Packers WR Randall Cobb?

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Packers WR Randall Cobb
Packers WR Randall Cobb.

Breakout WR/HB/KR/PR Randall Cobb touched the ball 159 times and amassed a Packers franchise record 2,342 all-purpose yards in 2012.

It was quite the season for the second-year talent out of Kentucky, and very necessary. Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson all missed significant time with injuries. Cobb, along with James Jones, stepped up to fill the void left by Jennings and Nelson and helped negate the Packers struggles running the ball.

But 159 touches is a lot for a player who is 5-foot-10 and 191 pounds. Cobb injured his ankle and missed the season finale against the Vikings. He also managed just six catches for 31 yards in two playoff games and was taken off of punt returns against the 49ers, only to see rookie Jeremy Ross muff one deep in Green Bay territory that led to a San Francisco touchdown.

I was at the wild-card win over the Vikings and watched Cobb limp around on that ankle. He was hurting. The explosion wasn’t there.

With Jennings gone, it’s assumed Cobb will have an even bigger role in the offense. His role probably will be bigger, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll touch the ball 159 times again.

Cobb was targeted 104 times in 2012, the most since Jennings’ 125 targets in 2010. If Nelson stays healthy, and Jones repeats his stellar 2012 season, perhaps that number will come down a bit.

The addition of Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin — and the shuffling of the offensive line — could also lead to more success in the running game and fewer touches for Cobb.

Of those 159 touches, 10 came as a halfback. You have to figure he won’t carry the ball any more with Lacy and Franklin around.

As great as Cobb is, a little bit less of a workload might be good for him and ensure that he’s just as productive in the playoffs as he is in week eight.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the Packers should purposely look away from Cobb and reduce his role in the offense. He’s too talented to set off to the side.

All I’m saying is that other players stepping up might take some of the burden off the shoulders of the smallish Cobb, making him that much more explosive when he does get the ball.

A total of 69 touches came on kick and punt returns. If the Packers remove Cobb from special teams, that should also help keep him fresh. It’s unclear at the moment which way Mike McCarthy is leaning on that topic.

I’m fine with taking Cobb off of special teams as long as there’s a close-to-equal replacement. Having a talented return man is a major weapon and worth a bit of a tradeoff in wear and tear and production on offense.

Perhaps a reduced special teams role is in store for Cobb, one where he returns kicks only on certain occasions when the Packers need a spark.

The next step in Cobb’s bright young career is to stay healthy and be productive for an entire season. If that means carrying less of the load, then so be it. If the Packers aren’t ravaged by injuries again, they should be able to not lean so heavily on Cobb.

But if injuries do strike once again, or Jones/Nelson/Lacy/Franklin falter for whatever reason, it’s good to know that Cobb is able to touch the ball 159 times and do all he can to pick up the slack.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that. I think Cobb be just as productive, maybe even more productive, with 125 touches.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam\\\'s writing on the Packers here.

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  • FireMMNow

    MM says that he wants him off of special teams. So that will probably happen. I would still like to see him get 100+ touches from scrimmage though. 90 catches and 10-20 carries. he could be a guy that breaks the 100 catch mark.

  • Brooklyn81

    I just hope everyone can finally stay healthy for the course of the season. I know guys are gonna get nicked up but we need some good luck in the health column on both offense and defense. I don’t know for sure but there is probably a stat on it somewhere but it would seem that a team that can run the ball more has better health throughout the season so we are headed in that direction and i really hope it helps.

  • GBPDAN

    That fumble by Ross was devastating in the playoffs. Hopefully that never happens again, because ,he looks like he has the talent to be the full time punt returner. Hopefully, Franklin will be the answer on kick returns.

    Cobb getting drilled by linebacker’s on handoffs is not healthy, Lacey, Franklin and Harris should eliminate the need to use Cobb in that capacity. Im praying that Nelson and Jones (and Cobb) stay healthy for the most part, because there’s uncertainty behind them.

    Here’s to a healthy Packers 2013 campaign, its our turn to dodge the injury bug.

    • Dobber

      Sadly, I would argue that the fumble by Ross in the playoffs really didn’t make much difference in the outcome.

  • Dobber

    I am reminded of a young Brett Favre force-feeding the ball to Sterling Sharpe and think: diversity and using all of your weapons on offense is a very good thing.

    Granted, Sharpe was a different kind of talent and Rodgers is no wet-behind-the-ears QB, but if any one receiver is over 90 catches (unless there are significant injuries), that’s too many for this offense.

  • Tarynfor12

    For the good of the team…take the ball out of his hands on SPTs unless absolutely necessary to give it back.

    The offense thrives from the WR corps and Cobb will be the engine this year with a little help from a new run game..we hope!

  • Chad Toporski

    A balanced offense overall – with reduced touches for Cobb – should make everyone more efficient and effective, even if they produce less yards individually.

    • FireMMNow

      the reduction in touches will come from being removed from special teams. but cobb is one of the best players in the league after the catch. he is great working from the slot. i think 90 catches is a reasonable amount of catches for cobb. that is 5.5 catches per game. not unreasonable for someone playing in the slot in this offense.

      • PatMc

        With backs that get a yard on 3rd and 1’s will make cobb in the slot much more dangerous. 90 catches on an offense scoring 50 plus every game is doable.

  • Big T

    To the best of my knowledge we have not fired our strength and conditioning coaches so we will once again lead the league in injuries. Therefore Cobb may have to touch the ball over 300 times…

    • Dobber

      I’ve yet to see a concussion, torn ligament, or broken bone that is the fault of a strength & conditioning coach.

  • http://grizzlymitch@bresnan.net montanacheezhead

    We found out how important the punt game is against SF. Kickoffs can be delegated to someone else, but we need a threat in the punt game. Special teams contribute to championships. We learned that with Desmond Howard.

  • tjc

    Cobb was #12 in the NFL last year in kickoff return average and #14 in punt return average. With the exception of a few really good return men, return averages tend to fall in a narrow band. Losing 1-2 yards off your return average is not a huge deal in the overall scheme of things. Losing Cobb to injury is a big deal to the offense.

    In the years Before Cobb (BC), the Packers were more concerned about securing the ball than getting a good return average. Remember Woodson as a returner? This is not a bad approach. Getting a few more yards on the return is never going to outweigh a eventual fumble (I’m looking at you, Ross).

    • FireMMNow

      i agree with you up to a point. but having a great return man affects the punt game in a lot of ways. having someone dangerous back there forces teams to punt higher and shorter as well. just return yardage does not tell the whole story. but i agree overall, if they can find a worth replacement i am all for taking cobb off of punt returns. but no matter what he should be off of kick returns.

      • tjc

        Having someone dangerous back there would help. I’m hoping that will be Franklin. Apart from Desmond Howard in the Super Bowl, Cobb had one of the most memorable kick returns for a TD (the one where Kuhn helped him stay on his feet) that I can remember. But as a returner, Cobb doesn’t seem the demand the respect of a Hester, Weems, or Cribbs. But maybe that’s just me being afraid every time we punt vs. the Bears.

  • http://Yahoo DH57

    Removing RC from kickoffs would be a good thing. Punt returns only if the replacement is reliable. RC’s catches should increase with a more respected running game.

    I am so stoked to see the pack in action this year. We will no doubt be a much improved team this year, with all are new addition.

  • Ron LC

    Ah yes, the old less is more ploy! Cobb is a talented guy and will be used in any way to ensure the maximum O impact. Balance does have value but it can’t be forced. It has to be earned by on-field success.