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.——————