GREEN BAY, Wis. — It was the first 100-yard receiving game of Randall Cobb’s NFL career, but the Packers’ speedy second-year wide receiver hardly noticed. It wasn’t until several hours after Green Bay’s beatdown of the previously undefeated Houston Texans that someone finally told Cobb about his accomplishment.
But for the humble 22-year-old Cobb, he didn’t view it as a milestone. He wasn’t even that impressed with his performance.
“It didn’t feel like I had 100 yards,” Cobb said Wednesday. “The thing about it is, I still feel like I left some things out there. I had two drops. That could have been an even bigger game for me personally in the big win that we had.”
It’s that attitude and mindset from Cobb that quarterback Aaron Rodgers absolutely loves about his youngest target. Cobb is not the type of player to gloat about his own success, tending to point out areas in which he needs to improve rather than what he does well. Rodgers, who far more often than not analyzes himself in a similar manner, has noticed how much that approach has benefitted Cobb.
“It’s not going to be his last 100-yard game, I can tell you that much,” Rodgers said at his locker. “He’s a big-time player. He 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. He asks the right questions, he sees the game through a quarterback’s eyes.”
Cobb started four games at quarterback as a college freshman at Kentucky in 2008. Though he threw more interceptions than touchdowns, his versatility helped him to be named to the SEC’s all-freshman team as a quarterback.
“I think he understands soft spots in zones and kind of understands the timing that a quarterback has to have, when he’s got to get open,” Rodgers said. “Routes may be a little different than they’re drawn on the paper at times on the field. You have to make sure that you’re breaking at the proper time where the quarterback can deliver the ball on time, and he does a great job really understanding where he’s at in the progression and the time clock for me and when he’s got to get open by.”
Rodgers likened Cobb’s workmanlike style to the way wide receiver Greg Jennings carried himself in 2006. A rookie then, Jennings has gone on to be selected to two consecutive Pro Bowls and has become one of the NFL’s best wideouts.
“Just the mature route-running skills, the fact that he wasn’t arrogant in the locker room but you could tell that he belonged and he felt like he did,” Rodgers said. “He had a confidence about himself, and Randall has been that guy since he got here.
“We love having him here. He adds a lot to our offense. We’re just going to continue giving him more opportunities.”
Green Bay drafted Cobb in the second round in 2011 and immediately inserted him as the team’s kick and punt returner. But Cobb wasn’t given many opportunities on offense as a rookie, playing less than 20 snaps per game on average.
With Jennings injured throughout most of this season so far, Cobb has had a lot more chances to make his mark on offense, averaging nearly 32 snaps each game. Cobb has made the most of it, too. He’s currently ranked second on the team in catches and receiving yards while leading the group in yards-after-catch by a substantial margin.
“I think definitely whenever you get the opportunity and you start to show a little bit of who you could become, I think it adds a little bit to your self-confidence,” Cobb said. “And I think it adds a little bit to what you could become to your teammates and to the guys around the locker room as far as becoming a leader at some point too, as well.”
However, Cobb is also an elite return specialist, running back three touchdowns already in his short career. That might seem like a great thing for the Packers, but coach Mike McCarthy has to find balance between Cobb’s snaps on offense and the amount of energy needed for special teams.
“We’re conscious of how much he plays on offense,” McCarthy said last week. “He has a very demanding role, not only mentally, but physically. So it’s something that when we do the game plan we kind of hold a rep count on him and make sure there’s enough opportunities in there for him.
“But I’m always worried about the volume for him.”
Three days before the start of the regular season, Cobb expressed some reservations about remaining Green Bay’s return man for too long.
“Hopefully at some point I’ve validated myself as a receiver where a younger guy can take over that role,” Cobb said on Sept. 6.
Cobb apparently had somewhat of a change of heart recently, though.
“I don’t think it hinders me,” Cobb said Wednesday about being responsible in both areas. “Obviously I don’t get to put as much time into every little thing, but the way I look at it, if I’m getting better at the little details and every little thing that I do, at some point I’m going to continue stacking on success and become the player that I think I can be.”
Cobb added that he’s not worrying about whether he’ll continue to be the Packers’ kick returner in the future. Green Bay recently signed Jeremy Ross, who is ranked second all-time in the University of California’s record books in punt return average, to its practice squad. But if Ross is part of a plan to eventually transition Cobb away from special teams, it won’t happen anytime soon.
“I’m up for that challenge if it continues,” Cobb said. “If it takes me doing both this year, then that’s all I’m worried about right now. Right now I’m going to do everything I can to contribute and help this team.”