Cobb was drafted in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft out of Kentucky, and the former quarterback was not a consistent threat in the passing game as a rookie, and clearly was still learning the offense.
He finished the season with just 25 receptions for 375 yards and a touchdown. But he made his impact felt on special teams, finishing second in the NFL in yards per kickoff return and seventh in yards per punt return. He had two returns for touchdowns.
But Cobb’s Week 1 performance shows that he has clearly picked up the intricacies of the Packers’ offense and is on the same page with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Cobb was never targeted more than four times in an single game in 2011, but Rodgers threw his way nine times against San Francisco, and the second-year man reeled in every ball.
Three of his nine catches came on third down, and each one of these receptions gave Green Bay a new set of downs. This accounted for half of his team’s six third-down conversions.
Cobb also lined up in the backfield with Rodgers on several plays, then motioned out into a standard pre-snap position for a wide receiver. The Packers are moving him around at the line of scrimmage to try and get him into open space.
With a clear commitment to taking advantage of Cobb’s electrifying abilities in the open field, it is reasonable to expect his production to drastically increase this season.
Last year, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley and Jordy Nelson were all targeted more than 90 times. Donald Driver and James Jones were thrown at 56 and 55 times, respectively.
Cobb’s looks ranked with the running backs, as Rodgers threw to him just 31 times this past season.
This year, Driver’s targets will likely decrease due to his age, and fewer passes will go to the running backs as Cedric Benson is not a dangerous receiver.
Cobb will easily get as many looks as Driver did last year, and likely will be more involved because of his versatility. He could be thrown to as many as 70 times this season, and he would rack up an impressive amount of yardage with that many opportunities.
With 70 targets, it is realistic to expect him to pull in between 50 and 55 passes. If he maintains his 15 yards per catch average from 2011, he would gain between 750 and 825 yards.
Lastly, receivers’ touchdown totals are difficult to predict and sometimes do not correlate in any way with receptions and yardage. For example, Jennings caught 68 passes for 1,113 yards in 2009, but got in the end zone only four times. He had just eight more receptions the next season and scored eight more touchdowns.
Cobb’s increased role in the offense may not lead to a significant spike in touchdowns, but his running ability in the open field will likely allow him to get in the end zone a few times.
Ultimately, a stat line similar to 55 receptions for 800 yards and six touchdowns is what Packer fans can expect from Cobb this season.