Earlier this week, the Jets announced that they had signed former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb. Today, we break down Cobb in detail.
The 32-year old Cobb is listed at 5’10” and 192 pounds and was a second round pick out of Kentucky in 2011. He has spent most of his career with the Packers, going to one pro bowl and racking up over 7,500 receiving yards and 53 touchdown catches. Cobb caught 34 passes for 417 yards and a score in 13 games last season.
Cobb was a three-star recruit out of high school, where he also ran track and played basketball. He headed to Kentucky where he saw action early in his career as a dual threat quarterback and started four games as a freshman. He completed 52 of 99 passes for 542 yards and two scores with five interceptions. He also rushed for 316 yards and seven touchdowns and caught 31 passes for 197 yards and two scores.
Over the next two seasons, he moved into more of a wide receiver role but still saw action as a wildcat quarterback. He had over a thousand yards from scrimmage and scored 15 total touchdowns as he was named to the all-SEC team as a return man in his sophomore year.
Cobb’s junior year saw him again named to the all-SEC team, but this time as a receiver. He caught 84 passes for over a thousand yards and seven touchdowns but still contributed another 424 yards and five scores on the ground, adding another touchdown on a punt return and throwing three touchdown passes on just 10 attempts.
Having declared early for the 2011 NFL draft, Cobb was selected by the Packers at the end of the second round and he made good contributions as a return man, while also catching 25 passes, as a rookie.
He continued to do a good job on returns in his second season, but his role on offense also increased and he ended up with 80 catches for 954 yards and eight touchdowns.
Cobb, who signed a four-year extension after his fourth season, continued to be productive whenever he was healthy throughout his eight years with the Packers, the best of which saw him catch 91 passes for over 1,200 yards and 12 scores to earn his first pro bowl invitation.
In 2019, he moved on to Dallas and caught 55 passes for 828 yards and three scores, then moved on to play for the Texans in 2020 although his production with them was limited by injury.
The Packers reacquired Cobb via trade in 2021 and he had modest numbers over the past two years with 62 catches. He only had one touchdown last year as he missed time due to injury and then saw his playing time reduce down the stretch due to Christian Watson’s emergence. However, he did have a few productive games, including in London against the Giants where he stood out with 99 yards on seven catches.
The Jets were first rumored to be interested in signing Cobb when news broke that they were trying to trade for Aaron Rodgers and the signing was confirmed earlier this week.
Now let’s take a look at what Cobb brings to the table, divided into categories.
Cobb doesn’t have great size or length but posted some solid numbers at the scouting combine with a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash and 16 bench press reps. However, his agility and explosiveness numbers were underwhelming.
Heading into the 13th year of his career, Cobb has probably lost a step but still flashed some good short area quickness at times last year.
Cobb has generated the majority of his production over the course of his NFL career from the slot. While he has lined up outside, as an H-back, in the backfield and even as a wildcat quarterback at times, you can expect slot receiver to remain his primary role.
Cobb has rushed for 364 yards in his NFL career, but much of this production has come on conventional running plays rather than the end arounds and jet sweeps you’ll typically see from any receiver that gets carries in the running game.
Cobb made a lot of downfield catches during the early part of his career but his production and efficiency on longer throws has been poor from his fifth season onwards.
He’s not been the kind of player who gets behind the defense unless there’s a blown coverage but he still tracks and locates the ball well on downfield throws.
Cobb is an excellent technician as a route runner releasing clean off the line, setting up his break with deception and head fakes and breaking down sharply at the top of his route stem.
He has good balance and is capable of quick changes of direction to free himself on whip routes and double moves.
Cobb has been a great possession receiver over the course of his career with a 73 percent catch rate. He’s never caught less than 64 percent of his targets during any season.
He had some issues with drops early in his career and posted the worst drop rate of his career during his year in Dallas, but he’s mostly been sure-handed with four or fewer drops in eight of his 12 seasons. He’s dropped just three passes in the past three seasons.
Cobb is capable of going down to get a low pass, extending beyond his frame to snag the ball or making catches in traffic and has been adept at getting his feet inbounds and catching the ball cleanly on sideline catches. Here was one of the best highlight grabs of his career.
Cobb has racked up an impressive 53 regular season touchdowns in his career with 35 of these coming from inside the red zone. Cobb may not be a jump ball threat but his ability to get separation in close quarters or find open spots in the defense serves him well and they can scheme him into mismatches in a variety of ways.
The emergence of Watson as a touchdown-scoring threat last season was probably a factor in Cobb only having one touchdown.
After the catch
Cobb’s numbers for yards after the catch have been excellent over the course of his career and he’s often been among the league leaders in this category. He regularly got the ball on receiver screens and turned upfield for extra yardage on downfield passes throughout his career, although that’s been happening less in the past few years.
Although he was an elusive player when he was young, Cobb perhaps doesn’t have these skills any more as it’s rare he’ll break tackles in the open field and his yards after the catch number have regressed somewhat over the last three seasons. Nevertheless, he still shows the ability to turn it upfield and pick up yards after the catch.
Cobb has officially fumbled 19 times in his career, although only six of these were as a receiver. These include several muffed punts, dropped laterals and fumbled handoff exchanges.
Cobb’s blocking grades have generally been poor. Although he gives a good effort and can hold his own against smaller defensive backs, he’s inconsistent in this area and often finds himself overmatched when asked to block down on a bigger player.
During his career, he’s been penalized just once for holding and was also called for an illegal blindside block while in Dallas.
Cobb isn’t renowned for his physicality, although he has some toughness, is prepared to go over the middle and will battle for yardage.
He can fight off press coverage with his quickness and technique, but also uses technique when the ball is in the air to keep defensive backs on his hip. Cobb has only had one offensive pass interference penalty in his professional career.
Cobb was the Packers’ primary return man for his first two seasons but has only done this sparingly in recent years. He averaged 24.6 yards per kickoff return and 9.8 yards per punt return over the course of his college career with two touchdowns on punts. At the NFL level, he’s averaged 9.2 yards per punt return with two touchdowns and 25.3 yards per kickoff return with one touchdown.
His numbers on punts have remained consistent when called upon to undertake that role in recent years, so this is something he could potentially be available for with the Jets. He hasn’t returned kickoffs for several years, though.
In his role as a punt returner, he has had five muffs and also dropped a kickoff once.
It’s unlikely Cobb will have any other role on special teams with the Jets but he has showcased his versatility in the past by operating as a holder and rushing kicks. He even blew a play up on a punt rush one time.
Instincts and Intelligence
Cobb is a player who has always been a reliable safety blanket for Rodgers, finding soft spots in zone defense or anticipating where to run to when he tries to extend a play.
His chemistry with Rodgers cannot be underestimated. You can see the confidence Cobb has in finding an open area even in a tight window and being ready to turn it upfield.
His instincts in the open field in terms of his vision and following his blockers both as a receiver and return man are solid and he also showed good situational awareness to field this ball with his foot out of bounds to get the Packers the ball out at the 40.
Cobb has had eight pre-snap penalties over the course of his career, including six false starts.
Cobb is a player whose college coach Joker Phillips referred to as “one of the best leaders I’ve been around” almost 15 years ago and he’s continued to develop those abilities as a great locker room presence and mentor.
To his credit, Cobb didn’t gripe over a reduction in playing time or targets over the past few years but was always ready to contribute and produced well whenever injuries meant he needed to take on a bigger role. That will be important for him as he joins a deep group.
He hasn’t really had any off-field issues, although he was once fined by the NFL for grabbing an opponent’s facemask and he got into a scuffle with Brandin Echols when the Jets and Packers had joint practices together in 2021. He also had a taunting penalty called on him in one game.
Cobb has had various, mostly minor injuries over the years that have caused him to miss time, including an ankle injury that saw him placed on injured reserve for a month last season.
He also went on injured reserve in 2021 when he had to have core muscle surgery and with a toe injury in 2020. He missed five games with a hamstring injury and also had a concussion in 2018. His worst injury was a broken fibula which limited him to just six games in his third season.
Cobb is obviously going to be a good fit with Rodgers and also reunites with Nathaniel Hackett, although he was actually only in Green Bay for the last of Hackett’s three seasons and only caught 28 passes in that offense.
His role with the Jets will be as a slot receiver but Allen Lazard, Garrett Wilson, Corey Davis and Mecole Hardman are all likely to be ahead of him. This is where his ability to be a good locker room presence whether or not he has a significant role should be useful.
He joins a long list of former Packers players on this roster: Rodgers, Lazard, Adam Pankey, Billy Turner and Malik Taylor.
Watching footage from Cobb’s 2022 season provides confidence that, while he’s not the player he once was, Cobb still has plenty left in the tank and it’s apparent his personality should make him a good fit for this team.
A reliable slot receiver who can handle punt return duties if the need arises is a useful addition, even if his offensive role might not be a significant one if the players ahead of him remain healthy.
Ultimately, if it helps Rodgers feel as comfortable as possible and he performs at his usual elite level as a result, this move was worth making - regardless of what production Cobb himself will bring.