Great Expecations for Cobb After Big Year

Randall Cobb led the NFL in total yards, among other categories, despite missing a game-and-a-half last season. Now, without Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, the Packers need even more from their do-it-all star.

Aaron Rodgers said Randall Cobb could catch 100 passes this season.

James Jones said Cobb should be good for 1,000 yards.

Cobb, on the other hand, isn't saying a word about any of that stuff.

"No, I keep them all to myself," he said of his goals for 2013.

After excelling on kick returns as a second-round pick in 2011, Cobb was one of the NFL's breakout stars last season. Despite missing a game-and-a-half with an ankle injury, he set the franchise's single-season record and led the NFL with 2,343 total yards. He paced the team with 80 receptions and 954 receiving yards, provided a major new wrinkle on offense by lining up in the backfield, and remained one of the league's top returners.

In 2012, Cobb blew past Donald Driver on the depth chart and picked up the slack when Greg Jennings missed half of the season. In 2013, with Driver retired and Jennings playing for Minnesota, even more will be expected from Cobb.

The mature-beyond-his-years Cobb is up for the challenge.

"Definitely," Cobb, 22, said after Wednesday's minicamp practice. "I've always talked about making the most of our opportunities, and it's not going to be as many guys in the rotation this year. Me, Jordy (Nelson) and James really look forward to being the primary guys and really are looking forward to taking on the challenge of being the three guys that are the primary targets."

Cobb is blessed with physical talent but he's also a tireless worker and a keen observer. Like a sponge, he soaked up the knowledge offered by Driver and Jennings. Plus, receivers coach Edgar Bennett has his pupils watch other players around the league.

"I've learned so much," Cobb said. "I really think a lot of my success has come from being able to watch those two guys in practice over the last couple of years and really learn about route-running principles, about leverage, about getting off the line of scrimmage, about coming in and out of your cuts. Being able to watch them in practice and learn from them daily has been a big help to me."

Bennett said Cobb's biggest strides came with the little things.

"You look at a lot of different things," Bennett said. "It's not just one thing in particular. Maybe it's the release. Maybe it's the step off the release. It's multiple things. It's not just one thing I can say, it's multiple things. It's maybe the top of the route. It's using your hands. Maybe it's the techniques that we use as far as creating separation. Maybe it's footwork."

"(Cobb made) tremendous strides, but he can do so much more."

That's a dangerous proposition for the rest of the league.

According to ProFootballFocus.com, Cobb ranked second among NFL receivers by catching 78.4 percent of passes thrown his way. He was fourth by forcing 15 missed tackles and ninth with 467 yards after the catch. Rodgers had a 119.5 passer rating when throwing to Cobb, which tied for fourth.

In the slot, Cobb led NFL receivers with 2.35 yards per pass route, was second with 63 receptions and a catch rate of 77.8 percent, and was third with 835 yards and six touchdowns.

"You can always improve," Cobb said. "I've always said you can never really reach your full potential, so I always try to continue to climb that mountain. In the offseason, definitely I've worked a lot on my route running and trying to perfect my craft."

While Cobb figures to have an even bigger impact on offense, his role on special teams is in limbo. Cobb was injured returning a punt in the Week 16 game against Tennessee, missed the finale against Minnesota and didn't seem up to speed in either of the two playoff games. With little proven depth in the passing game, the Packers can't afford to lose Cob.

Other than receiver Jeremy Ross, however, there are no obvious return candidates.

"We look for him to be a part of our primary focus as far as our approach to game planning, particularly in the passing game," coach Mike McCarthy said on Wednesday. "Really, his special teams responsibility is really up to his teammates. There's opportunity there for others to compete and perform. And we won't know that until training camp. And hopefully take Randall's place.

"Now, we've been very productive on special teams; Randall is a big part of that. It's really the approach that I like to play the football game. Field position is an important statistic and it is an important component of winning football games. We're definitely a different team when Randall is a returner."

Cobb, as is his way, said he didn't care.

"It doesn't matter to me as long as we're getting wins," he said. "Whatever it's going to take ... is what I'm down to do. If that's returning, great. If not, great. Whatever it's going to take for us.

"I love playing football, I just love being on the field. It (doesn't) matter to me where I'm at."


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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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