Expanded Role Has Cobb on Record-Setting Pace

Randall Cobb has taken his new role and run with it, developing into the NFL's top all-around threat in just his second season in the league. With the injuries to Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, where would the Packers be without Cobb chasing franchise and NFL history?

Unless someone steals his helmet and cape, Randall Cobb will shatter Ahman Green's franchise record for all-purpose yards.

It should happen on Sunday, when the Green Bay Packers' young, do-it-all star takes on the defense-impaired Tennessee Titans. In 14 games, Cobb has a league-leading 2,241 all-purpose yards. Green holds the club record with 2,250 yards during his colossal 2003 season.

Not that Cobb is keeping count, but he also has an outside shot at Darren Sproles' NFL record, though those chances took a hit with "only" 150 yards at Chicago. Last season, the Saints' mighty mite piled up 2,696 total yards. Cobb would need 455 yards over the last two games to get there – an average of 227.5 per game. He's had games of 230 yards against San Francisco and 227 against the Giants.

"Not right now," Cobb said last week when asked if the franchise and league records matter to him. "Maybe at the end of my career I'll look back at it, but right now, I'm just focused on this season and getting to a Super Bowl."

The coaching staff expanded Cobb's role as a new wrinkle to last year's record-setting offense. In retrospect, it might have been a season-saving decision, because Cobb has had to carry the load at times. Greg Jennings has missed eight games. After 1,000-yard seasons in 2008, 2009 and 2010, he has just 201. Jordy Nelson missed his third game this week and barely played in two others. After a season of 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, Nelson's got just 658 yards and six scores this year. Combined, they've got seven touchdowns — as many as C'obb.

"Any time you're approaching a record, that's obviously an accomplishment," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. "We knew he was a talented guy and we were just trying to find ways to get him the ball."

Lining up in the slot, out wide and at running back while taking back kickoffs and punts, Cobb is the only player in the NFL with at least 900 yards on kickoff returns (964), 800 receiving yards (892), 200 yards on punt returns (253) and 100 rushing yards (132). He's got a good chance at becoming the first player in NFL history with 1,000 yards on receptions and kickoff returns.

"I'm really not (surprised)," coach Mike McCarthy said. "Just from the day that Randall Cobb walked through our doors, you knew he was going to be a multiple-dimension type player. He had played quarterback in college. He understands the football intricacies, getting in and out of concepts. Football, in my opinion, comes very easy to him mentally. We've always based it on doing as much as we can with him."

Cobb was drafted to upgrade a long-dormant return game and eventually replace Donald Driver's production in the slot. He's certainly done that. Based solely on production in the slot, he's first in the NFL with a catch percentage of 78.9, second with 60 receptions and third with 773 yards and five touchdowns, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

Cobb is more than just a slot receiver, though. With 77 catches, 892 yards and seven touchdowns, he ranks 13th in receptions, 20th in yards and is tied for 17th in touchdowns. According to data on the league's media stats site, Cobb leads all NFL receivers with a 77.8 catch percentage.

"Foundation-wise, it always starts the man, the attitude, the work ethic, his passion, his love for this game. That's the starting point," receivers coach Edgar 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."

On Sunday, Cobb had his worst day of the season with minus-2 yards on three punt returns and 37 yards on two kickoff returns. However, he caught six passes for 115 yards, giving him three consecutive games with at least six receptions and back-to-back 100-yard games. He's become a go-to receiver for Aaron Rodgers. Last week alone, he had a 31-yard gain on third-and-6 to set up the first touchdown, a 13-yard gain on third-and-7 to set up the second touchdown, a 12-yard gain on fourth-and-6 to set up a third touchdown and a 27-yard gain on third-and-10 on the third-quarter drive that ended on Ryan Grant's fumble.

McCarthy, Clements and Bennett all said there are more wrinkles in the offense to showcase Cobb's evolving role.

Along with the yardage record, Cobb needs 13 receptions for just the seventh 90-catch season in team history. He's also one of seven players in the league averaging 9.0 yards per punt return and 25.0 yards per kickoff return.

"I did the same things that I'm doing now in college," Cobb said. "It's nothing new to me. It may be new to a lot of people but I've been there. I've been versatile since I've been playing."

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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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