A trend has begun to emerge at training camp for the Green Bay Packers and if it carries over into September, the team’s high powered offense could be in trouble.
No, Aaron Rodgers has not suddenly started throwing passes into the bleachers at Ray Nitschke Field. One of his favorite targets however seems to be having difficulty hanging onto the football.
Randall Cobb led the team in drops in 2012 with 10 and the habit has carried over to this season thus far in training camp. According to Ty Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Cobb has dropped at least four passes in competitive drills and the Packers are barely a week into camp. Many were concerned about tight end Jermichael Finley, but so far it’s Cobb with the bad case of butterfingers.
With the loss of wide receiver Greg Jennings to the Minnesota Vikings via free agency, Cobb was expected to become Green Bay’s number one receiver thanks to his versatility to line up all over the field. He very well may be on his way to becoming a perennial All-Pro player, but Cobb needs to cut down on the drops to get there.
Cobb has been pegged by some to have a 100+ catch and 1000+ yard season. It’s definitely not outside the realm of possibility, even with the way Rodgers like to spread the ball around to his receivers. With such high expectations on him despite having issues catching the ball, Cobb could be a prime candidate to have a bit of a letdown season in 2013.
This is not to say Cobb is doomed as receiver. It’s far from it. Cobb had a fantastic 2012 despite the dropped passes. The Packers on paper have enough talent at the position to overcome occasional drops. However, with the amount of weight Cobb is expected to carry on the offense it’s unclear whether Jordy Nelson and/or James Jones can overcome a slumping Cobb.
It’s also possible Cobb may still be returning kicks as well. It’s not a situation many prefer, but coach Mike McCarthy has by no means ruled it out yet. Everyone has been focused on the one muff Jeremy Ross had but could Cobb’s case of the drops carry over to special teams? It might sound crazy but you can’t rule it out especially if the problem is between the ears of the receiver.
The good news for Cobb is that the Packers as a whole have faced multiple drop epidemics over the past several years and have been able to overcome them. Some of that perhaps is the depth Green Bay has had at the position but a lot of it also is the faith Rodgers has in his receivers. The team struggled during Super Bowl XLV with drops but Rodgers hung in there and the receivers recovered nicely.
If Cobb does have a rough 2013, that is not a condemnation of his potential in the NFL. He made his presence known last year and the sky is still the limit for him. One “down” season does not define an NFL career.
That said, fans should not turn a blind eye to the drop issue Cobb has continued to show. Just because he isn’t as loud and talkative as Finley doesn’t mean the drop issue for Cobb is any less severe. It’s a real reason for concern and something the team needs to watch as 2013 continues to unfold.
It’s hard to draw conclusions from training camp alone, but again looking at 2012 has made this more than just a coincidence. That’s why when some people shrug this off it’s actually just wishful thinking.
Hopefully Cobb will be able to work through this before the games start to count in September. That’s the beauty of the preseason—players can work through whatever funk they were in during camp and not have it affect the team’s 2013 standings despite being in four game environments.
This isn’t meant to sound the alarm on Cobb for 2013. Rather it’s to make sure that expectations are not getting out of hand for the third year player out of Kentucky. Cobb is going to be a great weapon for Rodgers, there is little doubt about that anymore. That said, fans need to avoid putting Cobb on a pedestal too early.
His time will come, but he is still learning the game. Don’t forget Cobb is only entering his third season. The Packers and their fans can afford to be patient. That patience will be rewarded. In a way, it already has begun to be.
Greatness will come for Cobb. It just may not fully arrive in 2013.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke