Green Bay Packers: 5 Reasons Why Randall Cobb Will Break Out in 2012
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Randall Cobb gave the world a glimpse of what he's capable of in 2011.
And by doing so and showing off his dynamic return abilities, he also showed his best is yet to come.
Cobb became the first player ever born in the 1990s to play in an NFL football game, so there's still many productive years ahead of him.
It doesn't hurt that he plays on the Packers, one of the best teams in the NFL, with one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers throwing him passes.
For those reasons and a few more, Cobb could be on the verge of a breakout season in 2012.
Cobb Will Be Even Better as a Return Specialist
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Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011. Opening day in the NFL. The defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers hosted the 2010 champion New Orleans Saints.
With the Packers leading by eight points in the third quarter, Cobb fielded a kickoff and took it 108 yards to tie the record for the longest return in NFL history.
After the game, Cobb admitted to being instructed not to attempt a return so deep in the end zone.
The Packers won the game in a contest that went down to the wire, and as for Cobb's performance, he earned the league's Rookie of the Week Award and would later be honored as having the NFL's Play of the Year.
Cobb would finish the season ranked second in the NFL in kickoff returns and seventh in punt returns, averaging 27.7 and 11.3 yards per return, respectively.
For his efforts, Cobb was named as an alternate to the Pro Bowl as a return specialist in just his rookie season.
As a team, Cobb helped the Packers improve from 27th in kick returns in 2010 to 11th in 2011 and from 22nd to 12th in punt returns.
Based upon the 11th and 12th-place finish in kick and punt returns, there's still room for improvement. Granted, part of the burden falls upon the blocking in front of Cobb.
But with a year of experience under his belt and better decision-making in his second year as a professional football player, Cobb finds himself in a good position to become an even better return specialist in 2012.
Cobb's Role on Offense Will Expand
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Despite his dynamic return abilities, Randall Cobb had a modest impact on offense in 2011.
His 25 catches for 375 yards and one touchdown, however, hinted that he's capable of taking on a bigger role.
Cobb's touchdown reception, coincidentally, came in the same game as his record-tying 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Saints in Week 1.
But after showing what he's capable of doing when the ball is in his hands, the Packers could be making a mistake if they don't use him on offense more often than they did a year ago.
Last season, Cobb's limited role could be rationalized as a rookie who still didn't have a complete grasp of the offense. Perhaps the Packers also wanted to keep him fresh for his kick return opportunities.
Whatever the case, bet on Cobb being used on offense more often in 2012. When he gets the ball in an open area, look out.
Talented Receivers Will Take Attention Away from Cobb
James Jones, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings
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Lucky for Randall Cobb, the Packers have a deep and talented corps of receivers that will take attention away from him.
Arguably the best group of receivers in the NFL, it's impossible for opponents to take away every one of them.
Greg Jennings is a two-time Pro Bowler entering a contract season, which portends a big season ahead of him.
On top of Jennings, the Packers have Jordy Nelson, the team's leading receiver in receptions (68), yards (1,263), average yards per catch (18.6) and touchdowns (15) last season.
As if to prove how highly regarded the duo of Jennings and Nelson are, both were ranked on the NFL Network's recently released Top 100 Players of 2012 list, Jennings coming in at 58 and Nelson at 80.
Even though tight end Jermichael Finley has a long way to go to become a consistent threat on the Packers offense, his size alone causes mismatch problems and attracts extra attention from opposing defenses.
And if that's not enough, the Packers' other receiving options include Donald Driver, James Jones, Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel, a group so deep that it's not likely all of them will make the team's regular season 53-man roster.
With so much talent around him, Cobb will frequently line up across from safeties and linebackers this season, who will have a hard time keeping up with the lightning-quick threat on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
Donald Driver's Mentoring Will Pay off
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When the Packers recently restructured Donald Driver's contract, it may have meant Randall Cobb will have to split some time with the veteran wide receiver.
But it also means Driver will be around for at least one more year to mentor Cobb and provide a role model for the young player.
Driver has lined up all over the field for the Packers over the years, but he's perhaps best known for the job he's done lining up as a slot wide receiver.
For a guy that's only 6'0", some of Driver's most memorable moments are the times he's fearlessly ran routes over the middle of the field, used his leaping ability to make a catch and withstood a punishing hit.
Thanks to his size and quickness, Cobb figures to play a prominent role in the slot as well. And as a three-time Pro Bowl selection, there's still lots Driver can pass onto a relative neophyte like Cobb.
"I’m glad he’s back," Cobb told Bleacher Report earlier this month. "Donald has been like a father figure to me. I’ve learned so much from him off the field and on the field and having him here for another year is going to be a great experience for the both of us."
Cobb's Versatility Is an Asset
Randall Cobb at Kentucky
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Part of what made Randall Cobb so attractive coming out of college was his Swiss Army Knife skill set.
He was used as a quarterback his freshman year in college before moving primarily to wide receiver his sophomore and junior seasons.
Even though Cobb lined up at receiver more often, the threat of using him as a quarterback never went away entirely as he frequently was utilized in wildcat formations.
Cobb was pretty much used everywhere at Kentucky from quarterback to running back to wide receiver to kick and punt returns, and even as the place kick holder.
As a rookie in the NFL, Cobb took one snap as a wildcat quarterback in 2011, throwing an incomplete pass.
And while it's not in the best interests of the Packers to have players other than Aaron Rodgers throwing the football, they'll be able to use Cobb just infrequently enough to keep opposing defensive coordinators on their toes.
Brian Carriveau is a Green Bay Packers Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained through an interview on June 3.