Cory’s Corner: Randall Cobb is too valuable to return kicks

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Aaron Rodgers has said that Randall Cobb has the tools to be a 100-catch receiver.
Aaron Rodgers has said that Randall Cobb has the tools to be a 100-catch receiver.

In everything you do, there’s a certain element of risk.

I’ve seen numerous pedestrians nearly get hit by cars or walk into street signs because they’re too busy texting. The water we drink is becoming more and more flammable thanks to your home’s proximity to fracking wells and returning kicks and punts is and has always has been hazardous to your health.

I’m not sure coach Mike McCarthy and special teams coach Shawn Slocum understand the last portion. The kickoff is a bull rush where 11 guys run full blast at the ball carrier in attempt to decleat him.

For the last several years, the NFL has been looking at ways to make the game safer and one of the topics that popped up was eliminating the kickoff entirely. Just have the receiving team take the ball at their own 20 every time has been discussed. The number of injuries that result from the returner getting pulverized and the kicking team getting plowed under in the wedge by the receiving team would go down dramatically.

Yet, Slocum is still going to put Cobb back there. He said he won’t use him all the time, but will insert him when the time is right. I didn’t know there was a right time to put the team’s most dynamic weapon in harm’s way?

Cobb opened the season with back-to-back games with over 100 yards receiving and last week had two carries for 72 yards thanks to an impressive 67-yard run where he kicked in the afterburners down the left sideline and nearly scored.

Let’s also not forget about Cobb’s hidden value. He was a quarterback at Kentucky and if there’s ever a time where the Packers need a gadget play to kick-start the offense or to quickly put some points on the board, he would be a great person to start with.

I realize that Cobb has averaged over 25 yards a return in 72 kick returns the last two years and has gotten over 9 yards a return in 57 punt returns the last two seasons. Those are decent numbers. And in today’s NFL where parity is the new buzzword, an extra 10-15 yards of field position each time out could mean the difference between winning the division and starting your own “Terrible for Teddy” campaign that Jacksonville unfortunately has already started.

But it also comes down to a risk/reward scenario. Is the reward of a potential NFC North crown with the opportunity to host a playoff game worth more than the possibility of losing Cobb for multiple games and quite possibly the season?

I would vehemently say no. Take a peek at the wide receiver depth chart behind Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Cobb. We’ve seen glimpses of Jarrett Boykin and most of the time it’s been a forgettable experience. I haven’t seen enough of Sederrik Cunningham and Kevin Dorsey, who are on injured reserve with a dislocated wrist and toe injury, to make a valid judgment on either. The only one with legitimate upside is Dorsey who electrified fans with a vibrant junior campaign in college that earned him comparisons to Baltimore’s top wide receiver Torrey Smith.

Aaron Rodgers has said that Cobb has the tools to be 100-catch receiver. The last time that happened for the Packers was when Robert Brooks snagged 102 passes on a 1995 team that didn’t have a lot of receiving threats outside of Mark Chmura, who was third on the team in receptions. Nelson and Cobb could be No. 1 wideouts for 14 other teams this year and Jones is the best complementary wide receiver in the league.

Which gives even more worth to Rodgers’ statement. If Cobb can get 100 receptions on a loaded receiving corps like this one, just imagine the numbers he could put up as the consistent go-to receiver?

But Cobb isn’t just a wide receiver. Saying as much is doing him a vast disservice. He’s arguably one of the most valuable tools in the game next to Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy.

So why throw all of that away just to gain a few extra yards of field position?

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Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn

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  • http://jersyal.com tim

    It would be a huge plus to have a playmaker on returns, look at the difference Hester, Harvin or Cobb make. However, I agree Cobb is too valuable to risk, and losing him would really hurt the offense. I would like to see them get someone who can at least do a steady job of returning. They’ve had too many blunders putting them deep in a hole, or giving up the ball. I’m sensing that guy isn’t on the active squad right now. By the way, thanks for the update on Dorsey, I didn’t realize he was still with the team, it sounded like he had some potential when they drafted him.

  • Curley

    A couple years ago there was a study done by “Advanced Football Stats” that took all plays where the clock was stopped to attend to an injured player and determined what percentage of those types of plays caused injury. Pass, run, and kickoff were all between 1.5 and 2%, with punts not far behind.

    I’m all for Cobb sticking to offense and reducing his opportunities for injury, but there’s really no greater frequency of injury in a kickoff than there is in a running or passing play.

  • http://allpackers.com nick perry

    If this team lost Cobb because of a injury returning a kick or punt they’d be in a world of hurt. No longer do they have any depth at wide receiver with Jennings or Driver. Returners get hit at high speed from a lot of different angles and when it comes to the Packers, injuries is not where they have any luck.

    What happened to bring in Joe McKnight or some other return specialist that were being named heading into the bye week? I know McKnight had some legal issues with his drivers license or something, but to continue to risk Cobb IMO is reckless.

    • Ed Schoenfeld

      They have been trying out returners every week since they cut Ross.

      Any returner they eventually sign needs to be:

      A) Good enough to make the team (McKnight wasn’t)

      B) Not get trumped by a higher priority due to injury, like losing 3 linebackers in the same game.

      • http://allpackers.com nick perry

        Ed, are you really implying that McKnight wasn’t good enough to replace Ross or the guys they just brought up from the practice squad, Hill or Nixon I believe? We didn’t do anything about the LB either. Their doing exactly what they always do, use UDFA or low round draft choices that are special team players. Personally I could care less that Hill was the runner up or the winner, whatever it was for the equivalent to the Heisman Trophy in D II ball. I’d rather have Joe McKnight and his 29.7 YPR average throughout his career, but that’s just my opinion.

        • Robert Patreus

          Why has no one else picked-up McKnight? Maybe because his skills have eroded and he’s lost a step or two? Why was Josh Cribbs on the market until this past Wednesday (signed by Oakland)? He was a superior return man than McKnight. The answer to both questions is the operative word ‘past’ or ‘was’.

    • Stroh

      Woodson returned punts when he was a starter. So did Tramon when he was a nickel player. The coaches take ST a lot more seriously than you do. They want to WIN and if they have a better chance of winning w/ a starter being a return man they will put them back there.

      Good/Great returners = better field position. Better field position = better opportunity to score points. Better scoring opportunities = more points. More points = more Wins!

    • Stroh

      Bottom line if your that afraid of Cobb taking hits, don’t let him have any plays at RB. That’s the most abusive position in the NFL! Take him out of any RB snaps and let him return kicks/punts.

      Cobb was drafted for him multidimensional playmaking ability not only on offense but as a return man too. Taking him off returns reduces his multi-dimensional playmaking.

      I’m all for taking him off returns if you have someone of comparable ability, but at the moment we don’t have anyone even close. Not from a playmaking or decision making standpoint.

  • bigbill992001

    Im not a big fan of using Cobb to return kicks, but the Packers have got to realize that special teams can win/lose games. Just ask Desmond Howard. Without his day, we dont win that SB. Urban Meyer says that ST is NOT a play off, its an OPPORTUNITY to MAKE a play and get points.
    Some folks think that lets just get a guy that can catch the ball and take a knee, but thats very shortsighted. We need to take kick returns as seriously as we take any other part of the game.

  • Chad Lundberg

    Totally disagree with this. Cobb isn’t just any kick returner, he’s a difference maker there. His very first return went for a touchdown, and without that play we may have lost that game.

    The “right time” might be a reference to just a having a gut feeling. Don’t tell me that that is ludicrous because Jerry Kramer himself talks about how Vince Lombardi would make a decision based solely on a gut feeling. We also will occasionally face another team that has a terrible kick return coverage unit, or maybe we might be behind in a game and we will need a big play by Cobb then. Those all sound like the “right time” to me.

    Aaron Rodgers is your quarterback. Unless he has to suddenly work UFA’s or something like that, you can have faith that he will be able to work with whatever receiving corps that he has if Cobb is somehow ineffective or injured.

  • Wayne Crannell

    I really think this is not on the coaches. As much credit as Ted Thompson deserves for so much of what he does, he has a pathological aversion to spending money. While this has made us solvent, it has also made us overly delicate and forces our coaches into situations where they use Cobb on punts and spend their days working out DIII players to try to find the next bargain basement guy.

    I’m not suggesting we go all Redskins on the free agent market, but TT is like the guy who will only buy meat from the expired bin and shoes from Goodwill. It might be serviceable, but occasionally you want to eat a really good steak wearing a really nice pair of shoes.

    At the risk of another bad metaphor, we’ve got an amazing house of cards, but it is still a house of cards, and a little wind means you have nothing.

  • Big T

    Lets face it we have the worst strength and conditioning coaches in the league. We are going to have the highest rate of injuries in the league. Doesn’t matter who you put where, we are going to have injuries.

    • http://allpackers.com nick perry

      I don’t understand the “Thumbs Down” for Big T comment. Common guys, you have to begin to wonder with the number of hamstrings, groins, and muscle pulls the Pack has had over the last few years. As Vince said, “What the hell is going around here”!

    • Robert Patreus

      Big T, I’ve read many of your posts and agreed with a number of them in the past. However, this one does not appear to be based upon anything, no logic, no statistics, no valid comparisons. Other teams, all 31 of them also have injuries, just ask the Bears, Steelers, etc.
      Quite frankly, I have as of yet, never seen anyone compare strength and conditioning coaches in the NFL. Upon what standards would you compare them? Therefore, I disagree with your premise.

      • http://allpackers.com nick perry

        Are you F’ing serious???? The Packers do lead the NFL in one category, HAMSTRING INJURIES!! To the point where announcers are actually asking questions about it.

  • Two Bears, One Cup

    I don’t think the league wants to get rid of kickoffs altogether. Each kickoff is an added commercial break. Each commercial break is added revenue.

  • James K

    mean to tell me the coaches do not know that with his talent, putting Cobb back to do some returns? Think about that one again, buddy. What else can you 01t do when you have guys back there on the 6 yard line fielding kicks they should have let go, others back there making the catch, stutter-stepping twice then take off rather slowly, for a 2 yard gain. Or, making the catch almost and taking off, only to fumble it! Or, hav 01ting the longest return of 6 yards after 20-some take backs.
    So, the team thought they had a returner that could handle it, or another,and one more to get the job done with respectable results, Cobb had it all, and was on his way to an MVP award. Whi 01tle they search for a respectable addition that can do the job well, they put him in there, hoping for the best, but even Cobb screwed up a return. THey will get their man back there as soon as he arrives and Cobb, well he’s excused when he made so many beyond-human pla 01tys. I watch him turn on the after-burners, I am amazed he plays the game at the speed he flys at. He is beyond comparison the fastest receiver I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen them all. But don’t think the staff is so brainless budd. That is bad for moral and the biggest problem 01ts the Pack as a team has is this: Bad comments from fans. Putting blame on a receiver who goes out and tries to grab a ball coming at him (no exaggeration) just short of 100 mph while two d-backs are screaming & racing for you just as fast and they want to tear your off torso from your legs, but you were moving too fast and couldn’t adjust to the pass that hit one hand and bounce off your shoulder-pad for an almost tragic interception. Do you call for this guy to get chewed out? for missing” for not making a catch? Just don’t knock Mike McCarthy or Ted Thompson for arranging players and talent judgements. Make that the top 3 in the league, they just got a little better. Who is better? Do not talk Cowboys.

    • http://allgbp.com Charlie

      Don’t hold back, tell us how you really feel.

    • Robert Patreus

      James K, I love your enthusiasm, but, your exaggeration is truly a bit much. The fastest receiver (Randall Cobb) you’ve ever seen? You cannot be serious…Did you ever see Willie Gault, Bob Hayes, or more recently, Randy Moss? I think not, because if you did, you would not have made that statement.

    • Archie

      The real question Packer fans should be asking is why can’t TT find a quality return-man to replace Cobb with. There are plenty out there every year come draft time. many don’t get drafted and/or get cut – see Trindad Martin, Denver. TT has been Packer GM for 9 years and Cobb is the first decent return man he has come up with. That tells you something.

  • Wkupackfan

    Field position is vitally important, therefore it is critical that GB find an explosive KR and PR. Cobb solved this problem until he was deemed too important in other areas. Before Cobb, GB had not a decent returner since Allen Rossum. The ghost of Antonio Chatman still looms. The Packers field position game suffered for years with Chatman along with Longwell’s inability to kickoff past the 10 yard line.

    Cobb may indeed be too valuable to risk on returns. He’s the second most important player on offense. However, if that “other guy” can’t be found then it could be appropriate to use Cobb in certain situations.

    There comes a point when you have to use your personnel in the best way to win without regard to injury. Some have argued that Cobb shouldn’t be used as a rusher because of a higher injury likelihood. That is ludicrous. Play smart, not scared.

  • ZeroTolerance

    Sorry Cory, I disagree. Play your best players at each position. That’s the best formula to win games. Every play is a dice roll, and any player can be hurt on any play. But play your best – in my opinion.

    • http://allgbp.com Charlie

      Like most things, I believe it’s a matter of degree. If your second best returner is just a hair behind the top guy and is the 6th DB, you take the slight drop in return capability to preserve your position player.

  • Shavager

    I’m with Charley, Cobb doesn’t need to be returning kickoffs at this point. Packers just activated James Nixon from PS, he’s supposed to get work at KR’s. No point in putting Cobb in position to get hurt on returns, using him as RB and WR during the game can be tiring, increasing danger for injury on KR’s. A playoff game would be different, time to let it all hang out. He’s more important in this offense right now.