Explosive Cobb must learn not to hurry

Because what makes him explosive is also causing him to make

potential game-turning mistakes, Green Bay Packers rookie returner

Randall Cobb plans on taking a page out of John Wooden’s

playbook.

Be quick, but don’t hurry.

For the second time in three games, Cobb muffed a punt against

the Minnesota Vikings, a miscue that led to the Vikings’ lone

points Monday night in a 45-7 Packers victory. Cobb made the same

mistake Oct. 23 against the Vikings in Minneapolis, and that fumble

also led to a Minnesota touchdown. Cobb also lost a fumble on a

kickoff at Carolina on Sept. 18, helping the Panthers to a 13-0

first-half lead.

So while Cobb had two explosive plays on Monday night – his

80-yard punt return for a touchdown to give the Packers’ their

first points of the game, and a 55-yard kickoff return immediately

after the touchdown he’d gift-wrapped for the Vikings – Cobb plans

on slowing himself down just a tiny bit Sunday against the Tampa

Bay Buccaneers.

”It comes down to just the focus on my part,” said Cobb, who

burst onto the scene with a franchise-record 108-yard kickoff

return for a touchdown in the Packers’ season-opening win over New

Orleans on Sept. 8. It’s not my technique. I catch the ball fine; I

get off the spot fine. It’s looking to the return before I actually

catch the ball. It’s something that I have to focus more on – and

if that slows me down as far as getting off the spot, then that’s

something I just have to take.”

The Packers, who hadn’t returned a kickoff for a touchdown since

2000 and hadn’t returned a punt for a TD since 2008 before Cobb’s

returns, are thrilled with the new dimension Cobb has brought them.

Improving in the return game had been among coach Mike McCarthy’s

goals in the wake of the team’s Super Bowl championship in

February, and Cobb has delivered.

But on a team that emphasizes ball security – the Packers

entered Week 11 tied for second in the NFL with a plus-11 turnover

differential – fumbles cannot be tolerated, special teams

coordinator Shawn Slocum said.

”He is a dynamic player, a very talented young man. (But) the

two muffed punts and turnover on the kickoff return, we’re going to

remove that from his game,” Slocum said. ”He has to get that

done. (On Monday night), he made a big play and he was anxious to

do it again. He lost sight of one of the core fundamentals – making

sure that ball is caught before you take off. One of the things he

does very well is catch the ball and move immediately off the spot.

He didn’t do that well on that particular play.

”The guy is determined to be good. He’s diligent in his work

habits. He’s accountable. I expect him to improve.”

That much was evident from the way Cobb ran on the kickoff

following his gaffe, but he acknowledged it didn’t make up for his

fumble.

”I beat up on myself and I’m my biggest critic. It’s not like

I’m out there trying to make mistakes. But when I do, I want to

come back stronger and better,” said Cobb, who ranked second in

the NFL in kickoff return average (30.0) and 11th in punt return

average (11.1) entering this week’s games. ”It’s like a

quarterback having a bad pass, a receiver having a couple drops, a

lineman not setting as far back in pass protection as they usually

do – it’s not something that happens every single time, it’s just

something that I have to eliminate as many as I’ve had.”

What makes Cobb dangerous as a punt returner is how quickly he

transitions from catching the ball to exploding upfield. According

to Cobb, because other returners pause longer after catching the

ball, he is able to use that split-second advantage to find open

running lanes before they close.

”The advantage of catching the ball and getting off the spot

and moving is, I mess up every single person that’s trying to cover

– their angles,” Cobb said. ”That’s one thing I’m pretty good at.

Because when they’re covering, they’re covering where the ball’s

coming (down) and where they see me set up and catch the ball. So

the faster I can move off that angle, the easier it is to create

windows.

”Taking that extra .2 seconds to secure the catch, it’s not

going to change that much. It’s just a matter of me practicing

focusing a little bit more to make the catch and secure the catch

first.”