The numbers are pretty distressing. In 2014, Randall Cobb, playing in all 16 regular season games, hauled in 91 passes for 1,287 yards. In 2015, again playing every game and assuming the top receiver role in Jordy Nelson’s absence, his production fell to 79 catches for 829 yards. Last year, he managed only 60 catches for 610 yards.
Injuries certainly account for some of Cobb’s meager production in 2016. He missed three games, including the two final wins against Minnesota and Detroit, which got Green Bay into the playoffs. He was also clearly not at full strength in other games. Even so, in the last three games he played during the regular season, Cobb appeared to be an afterthought in the team’s offensive attack. In those games, against the Texans, Seahawks and Bears, Cobb was targeted only seven times, catching six of them for only 52 yards.
By late in the season, the go-to guys for Aaron Rodgers were Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson and Jared Cook, not six-year veteran Cobb.
Nearly all of Cobb’s statistical measures have dropped off since his great 2014 performance: touchdowns, from 12, to six, to four; first downs, 71 to 42 to 36; average yards per catch, 14.1 to 10.5 to 10.2.
Cobb was once the team’s do-everything player. In 2012 and 2013, he rushed 14 times, for a sensational average of 15 yards per carry. In 2015 and 2016, however, he rushed 23 times, but only averaged 3.6 yards.
In 2011 and 2012, Cobb returned 56 punts for two touchdowns and a 10.3 average. In the four years since, he’s only returned 25 punts, for just under an 8-yard average — and not one for more than 24 yards.
Signs of a Turnaround?
The recent postseason, however, offers some reasons to be optimistic that Cobb will get back to his early-career form in 2017. In those three postseason games, he caught 18 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns. In the regular season, in comparison, Cobb only reached the end zone four times. He definitely returned to being Aaron Rodgers’ primary target – if only because of injuries to Nelson, Adams, and others.
Though in his seventh season, Randall won’t turn 27 until later this month. He appears to keep himself in excellent condition at all times and his speed should not have dropped off yet. Could it be that Rodgers has directed more of his attention to others and that Davante Adams is now getting many of the throws that had been going Cobb’s way? Adams was targeted 121 times last year, whereas Cobb got only 84 looks.
There’s widespread agreement that NFL teams can’t maintain three wide receivers who each earn $10 million or so. That’s what Cobb is making, Nelson is making about the same, and it is speculated that Adams will want at least $10 million per year when his current contract runs out at season’s end.
Incentive-wise, both Cobb and Adams should be very motivated to have an impressive year. Due to financial reasons, only one of them is likely to be wearing the green and gold at this time next year, and it’s likely to be the one who performs best this season. Or who’s the least greedy?
Aaron Rodgers will control much of this outcome, depending on who he has the most confidence in. Both receivers are among the quarterback’s favorite teammates.
My money is on Randall Cobb, who I can’t believe will have three mediocre years in a row. But if he does, I doubt that there’s enough receiving talent on the rest of the roster for the Packers to go deep into the playoffs. I think that Cobb having a bounce-back season will be crucial to the team’s 2017 prospects.