Where would the Green Bay Packers have been without Randall Cobb?
Receivers coach Edgar Bennett again and again says that it's all about making the most of opportunities. Cobb did just that en route to posting team-leading figures of 80 catches for 954 yards. Among receivers with more than 45 receptions, Cobb led the NFL by catching 78.4 percent of the passes thrown his way, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Philadelphia's Jason Avant was a distant second with 74.6 percent.
Based on 50 percent playing time, Cobb finished eighth among receivers with 468 yards after the catch, 11th with 5.8 YAC per reception, third with 15 missed tackles and ninth with 2.26 yards per pass route run. Based only on slot production, Cobb led the league with 2.35 yards per pass route run, was second with 63 catches and third with six touchdowns.
"Foundation-wise, it always starts the man, the attitude, the work ethic, his passion, his love for this game. That's the starting point," Bennett said. "Obviously, he's been given some tools and he's put them to good use. That's all you can ask for for a young man coming into this environment. He embraces that. He doesn't want to be average. It's wanting to be excellent, wanting to be great. Is it a surprise? Not really. You pick up on that when you're around him. When he first came into the building, you could see his mind-set, his wanting to be great and wanting to do his part in helping this organization win another world title."
About the only knock on Cobb is he ranked among the league leaders with 11 drops.
Rest of the depth chart
After fielding one of the great offenses in NFL history with 560 points – only the 2007 Patriots scored more – Green Bay scored merely 433 points this season. That's a difference of almost eight points per game.
What happened? Look no further than the production of receivers Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings. Last season, they combined for 135 receptions, 2,212 yards, 16.4 yards per reception and 24 touchdowns. Incredibly, only Dallas (27) and Detroit (25) got more combined touchdowns from their entire receiving corps as the Packers got from their dynamic duo. This season, they combined for 85 receptions, 1,111 yards, 13.1 yards per reception and 11 touchdowns.
Nelson finished with 49 receptions for 745 yards (15.2 average) and seven touchdowns. He missed four games and most of two others. Between his injuries and Jennings' prolonged absence, Nelson simply wasn't the same player as he was in 2011.
Jennings missed eight games after what was diagnosed as a groin injury actually was an abdominal injury that required surgery. He settled for 36 receptions, 366 yards (10.2 average) and four touchdowns. He had one touchdown in his first six games and three in his last two. From 2007 through 2011, Jennings had a league-high 30 receptions of at least 40 yards. This season, he didn't have any until the regular-season finale at Minnesota.
Cobb and James Jones tried to pick up the slack. Jones went from 38 catches for 635 yards (16.7 average) and seven touchdowns to career highs of 64 receptions, 784 yards and a league-leading 14 touchdowns. He dropped just three passes. About the only thing he didn't do well was pile up yards after the catch, with his YAC per catch falling from 7.7 to 3.6.
Donald Driver, the team's all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards, had a forgettable swan song with eight catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns. In the final six games, he was inactive three times and didn't catch a pass in the three others. The Packers instead chose undrafted rookie Jarrett Boykin (five catches, 27 yards) and Jeremy Ross (no catches) because of special teams. Boykin is slow but he's big, smart and has excellent hands. That Jacksonville cut Boykin at the end of its rookie camp speaks volumes to the direction of the Jaguars and Packers. Ross showed some flash as a returner but had two enormous gaffes with the dropped lateral at Chicago and the game-turning muffed punt at San Francisco.
C-plus: Hailed as the best receiving corps in the NFL, this group simply didn't perform to its lofty standard. While the touchdowns and receptions were there (dipping from 38 touchdowns and 242 catches in 2011 to 35 touchdowns and 235 receptions in 2012), the receivers lacked an explosive element. The yards tumbled from 3,667 to 2,953 and the yards per catch plunged from 15.2 to 12.6. A lot of that was due to defenses turning to Cover-2 schemes to take away the big play. However, too few yards were manufactured after the catch. In 2011, among receivers with at least 25 catches, Jones and Cobb tied for third, Nelson tied for 12th and Jennings was 40th in YAC per reception. In 2012, Cobb (17th) was the only Packers receiver in the top 20.
Unless Jennings attracts little interest on the free-agent market, he'll be playing elsewhere in 2013. That doesn't seem likely but it's possible. His 10.4 yards per catch not only was the worst of his career by 3.6 yards, but it marked a steep decline from 16.6 yards in 2010 and 14.2 in 2011.
"I believe so. I believe so," Bennett said when asked if Jennings remains a premier playmaker. "The type of player that he is, I think he's still dynamic, I think he's still an impact-type player and he's certainly a playmaker for us."
If Jennings is gone, can a healthy Nelson emerge as a true No. 1 receiver? Or, as some in the game believe, is Nelson a No. 1 receiver only when he's paired with a No. 1-A receiver? Cobb is an outstanding slot receiver but he isn't a big-time down-the-field threat. It's hard to imagine Jones can duplicate his off-the-charts production due to his limited speed.
That means the Packers almost certainly will use an early draft pick on a receiver. After all, how good is this offense with Nelson, Cobb, Jones, Boykin, Jermichael Finley and an average running game?
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.