|Randall Cobb could be the next star on the Packers, according to QB Aaron Rodgers. (US Presswire)|
In the span of three weeks, Randall Cobb's offensive talent has morphed from tantalizing potential to bonafide weapon.
Cobb, an ever-dangerous returner, has taken advantage of an enhanced role on the offense to prove he's just as much a threat to score from the line of scrimmage as he is on special teams.
Over the past three games, Cobb has caught 19 passes for 273 yards (15.4 average) and three touchdowns. In Sunday's 30-20 victory over St. Louis, his 5-yard touchdown reception capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive to open the third quarter that put Green Bay firmly in the driver's seat. And later, in the fourth quarter, his 39-yard score was a thing of beauty, a precise connection with QB Aaron Rodgers over the middle and between two defenders that clinched the victory for the Packers (4-3).
"I went inside and I was open on the inside and I saw him scrambling back to the left, so I reversed getting back to the left and just tried to get in his vision and give him a target," Cobb said. "You have to make the play. That's the only thing in my head is catch the ball."
Cobb's increased opportunities on offense have partially been the result of a groin injury to WR Greg Jennings, which has kept him out the past three weeks. But it's also the result of Cobb's growing chemistry with Rodgers and his own preparation and efforts to improve.
"It's a lot of fun," Cobb said after catching eight passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns in the Packers' win against the Rams. "I am loving the game. Just being on the field is a blast, and when you have great players around you that are making it a lot easier for you to get open and you have a quarterback like Aaron that is feeding you the ball and giving you opportunities, it is a blessing."
After the game, Rodgers offered glowing praise of Cobb, a second-year player who was the quarterback at Kentucky for one season before switching to receiver.
"He's a star in the making," Rodgers said. "He's a big-time player. He has the right approach for being a professional. He takes his job very seriously. He sees the game through the eyes of a quarterback. He's played quarterback before, but he asks the right questions.
"He wants to be on the same page with me, he wants to know what I'm thinking. He's always in tune to second-reaction plays. He's a lot of fun to play with and he's a good human being, which makes it even easier.”
Last Wednesday, Rodgers was similarly effusive in discussing the play and professionalism of Cobb, who'd gone over 100 yards receiving for the first time in his career in the Packers' Week 6 win at Houston.
“That's not going to be his last 100-yard game, I can tell you that much,” Rodgers said. “He's a big-time player. Really conducts himself the right way; you've got to appreciate his maturity, his class, the professionalism that he exudes. He really takes his job seriously.
“I've mentioned the comparison to Greg Jennings when Greg came in, the mature route running skills, the fact that he wasn't arrogant but in the locker room you could tell he belonged. He felt like he did, had a confidence in himself, and Randall has been that guy since he got here. We love having him here, he adds a lot to our offense and we're going to continue giving him more opportunities.”
The Packers drafted Cobb in the second round last year knowing he was a dynamic playmaker with the potential to score from anywhere at any time. Despite the lockout limiting his ability to learn the offense, Cobb showed his potential in his NFL debut last season against the Saints, when he returned a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown and then scored on a 32-yard reception in which he ran the wrong route.
Five touchdowns later (including a 75-yard punt return this year), the diligent and thorough Cobb isn't running the wrong route anymore. He's mastered the playbook and said the main area in which he improved in the offseason was his understanding of the offseason and chemistry with Rodgers.
“I feel it's come a long way. He trusts me a lot more,” Cobb said. “Even on the free plays, like you saw at the end of the game, just trusting me and me being able to make the plays for him. I'm just trying to be consistent with that and do all I can to help him and this offense and this team.
“It's just a feel thing – understanding which way he's moving and moving with him, seeing that he's always got his eyes downfield. If you throw your hand up, he's going to find you.”
Coach Mike McCarthy said Cobb's value is in his versatility.
“Randall is a unique player. He can play the 1, 2 3 spot in the wide receiver position, also he can play out of the backfield. And obviously we know what he can do as a returner,” McCarthy said.
“We're focused on trying to make sure he gets some opportunities each game, and I thought Aaron did a good job with that of getting him the ball in those particular situations. I thought he was exceptional on a couple of those third-down plays in the second half to keep the sticks going. He's a young, dynamic player.”