Despite catching only three passes — tying his lowest total in a game since Nov. 22 at Minnesota — Randall Cobb was at his do-everything best for the Green Bay Packers’ offense last Sunday at Washington. The 5-foot-10, 192-pound receiver spent time in the backfield (a career-high five carries) and at slot receiver plus one other more unfamiliar spot in the Packers’ offense.
With an injury to receiver Davante Adams, Cobb took over as an outside receiver in the Packers’ base three-receiver set. He spent the majority of this season on the inside in that formation, as he had the previous four years of his career.
“It was fine,” said Cobb of moving outside. “We were making plays. That’s what it comes down to. It’s about making plays, not where you line up.”
But for the Redskins’ defense last week and the Arizona Cardinals’ defense this week, it will matter where Cobb lines up. With Jordy Nelson on season-ending injured reserve, Cobb is the one player opposing defenses have tried to take away this season. And in some ways, it has worked.
While Cobb led the team with 79 receptions in the regular season, he was nearly 3 yards per catch below his career average (13.4 coming into 2015). His six receiving touchdowns (three in one game) were half of his 2014 total.
In the Wild Card playoff game, the Packers had one of their better offensive performances of the season from the second quarter on. They scored on six of seven possessions to turn an 11-point deficit into a 17-point lead. Adams, who had four catches including a touchdown, played his part before leaving on the first offensive series of the third quarter with a knee injury. From there, the Packers used Cobb in the backfield and as an outside receiver or isolated to one side.
“I just like being on the field. I like moving around playing different spots,” said Cobb. “If they want me to line up in the backfield, I’ll line up in the backfield. If it’s in the slot or out wide, I just like being versatile and doing whatever.”
Cobb tallied his longest reception of the day, 15 yards, when he lined up wide with two receivers to the left and beat cornerback Will Blackmon on a deep crossing route to end the third quarter. Rodgers took a deep drop and the play was executed as designed, eliciting a cheer and a smile from Rodgers. Even Fox broadcaster Troy Aikman noted how the ball came out on time and how Cobb created separation, both problems for the Packers’ passing game this season.
What the Packers may give up in size and certain throws without Adams, they might gain with Cobb’s quickness and route running along the sideline. Adams did not participate in Wednesday’s practice and may not play Saturday night. That could put Cobb outside again in the Packers’ favorite three-receiver set with James Jones on the other side and Jared Abbrederis in the slot. Jeff Janis is also an option on the outside, but the Packers have been unwilling to give him a long look this season even through Adams’ struggles.
Abbrederis, who Rodgers has singled out for more playing time, played a season-high 28 snaps against the Redskins with the shift necessitated by Adams’ absence. He caught just two passes for 14 yards but shook Blackmon badly on a route from the slot for an easy two-point conversion catch in the fourth quarter.
“You look at the tape and he’s open a lot of times even when the ball doesn’t go his way,” said Rodgers. “We’ve got to find a way to put him in a position to do what he does best and find a way to get him the ball.”
The same goes for Cobb who said Wednesday that he had taken snaps as an outside receiver prior to the Washington game even though he could not recall when. Inside or outside, he will be ready for whatever the game plan calls.
“Same concepts we always run,” said Cobb. “I’m preparing to play all over the field like I always have.”
Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org