GREEN BAY – Mike McCarthy has always maintained that the Green Bay Packers’ offense is more dynamic and productive when Randall Cobb gets the ball in his hands.
That’s why the Packers longtime head coach and his staff want to make sure there’s no replay of what happened last Sunday against Tampa Bay.
Cobb wasn’t targeted even one time by backup quarterback Brett Hundley during the Packers’ 26-20 victory over the Buccaneers, marking the first time since a Nov. 6, 2011 win over the San Diego Chargers his rookie year that Cobb didn’t have at least one ball thrown his way. It was also only the fourth game of his seven-year NFL career in which he didn’t catch at least one pass.
“Anytime you have a player of Randall’s caliber,” Packers offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said, “you definitely want to get him the football.”
Cobb’s production has dropped precipitously since starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke his right collarbone on Oct. 15 at Minnesota — although he’s not alone. Cobb enters Sunday’s game at Cleveland having caught just 43 passes for 463 yards and two touchdowns, but fellow veteran receiver Jordy Nelson has also been underutilized, as he enters Sunday with 43 receptions for 410 yards and six touchdowns.
At the time of Rodgers’ injury, Nelson had caught 20 passes for 240 yards (and all six TDs) in essentially four games, having played only seven snaps at Atlanta in Week 2 because of a thigh injury.
Cobb had caught 23 passes for 218 yards and one of his TDs before Rodgers went down, and Cobb missed the Packers’ Week 3 win over Cincinnati because of a chest injury.
Since Hundley, who’ll be making his seventh NFL start against the Browns, took over as the starter, Cobb’s most productive game was a Nov. 6 loss to Detroit (five receptions, 58 yards, including a 46-yard catch-and-run).
With Hundley throwing for just 84 yards against the Buccaneers last Sunday, Nelson caught five passes, but he gained only 17 yards. It was essentially a rerun of Hundley’s first NFL start Oct. 22 against New Orleans, when Hundley threw for 87 yards and Cobb (two catches, 15 yards) and Nelson (one catch, 13 yards) were targeted a combined nine times.
“Randall and Jordy, all of the above, we’ve got to get the ball to our perimeter,” McCarthy said. “There’s been two games this year that really stand out where we didn’t get that done. The run game has been productive.
“Obviously, (the Browns) are watching the same tapes that we watch, so you can clearly see that the demand will be for them to stop the run and put the challenge on us getting the ball to our perimeter. And we need to deliver on Sunday.”
McCarthy also pointed to the offense’s failure to convert third downs and keep drives alive, resulting in low snap counts on offense. The Packers ran just 53 official plays against the Buccaneers, their second-lowest play count under Hundley. (They ran only 50 plays against the Saints.) Bennett said the offense’s target play number is 70 – a number the Packers have yet to reach with Hundley at the controls.
“(It’s) not having a lot of opportunities,” Bennett said when asked why Cobb wasn’t more involved. “We’re at (53) official snaps coming out of the game. We hit a point in the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter where we had those consecutive three-and-outs. That can’t happen. We have to continue to put ourselves in a favorable down-and-distance and give us more opportunities at the plate.”
And that includes getting Cobb more swings. For his part, Cobb said Thursday that he’s willing to do whatever is asked — he even picked up a blitz while playing running back, which might’ve been his most impactful play of the game — but also acknowledged that he believes he can help the offense if given the opportunities.
“You kind of just control what you can control, do what you can do,” said Cobb, who has one year remaining on the four-year, $40 million deal he signed in March 2015. “What kind of competitor doesn’t want to be involved?
“So I think that’s (true of) everybody in this room. They want to be a part of it, they want to contribute in whatever way they can. And I try to contribute whether it’s with the ball in my hand or run blocking or whatever’s called for me to do in any given moment.”
Down on the corner
With rookie Kevin King having been placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury that finally forced him to undergo surgery and veteran Davon House missing his second straight day of practice with a shoulder injury of his own that occurred against Tampa Bay, the Packers could be in dire straits at cornerback Sunday against the Browns.
King became the third cornerback on injured reserve, joining Herb Waters (shoulder) and Quinten Rollins (Achilles’), and having cut LaDarius Gunter back in September, the Packers’ options at corner are limited.
Damarious Randall would be the only clear-cut starter, with youngsters Josh Hawkins, Lenzy Pipkins and Donatello Brown the next men up. Safeties Jermaine Whitehead, Josh Jones and do-everything veteran Morgan Burnett can also cover receivers, with Whitehead and Burnett having worked the slot positions against the Buccaneers.
“Kind of like we’re been doing all year … we’ll have our game management meeting and see who’s available to us,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said.
Making matters worse: Veteran Demetri Goodson was activated off the physically unable to perform list this week but hasn’t practiced because of a hamstring injury and appears unlikely to play as well. That might force more safeties to coverage spots.
“Our guys are excited. They just want to get out there on the field. An opportunity is an opportunity,” safeties coach Darren Perry said. “Unfortunately, we’ve been down this road before as far as injuries, moving guys around. The guys are preparing. We know we have some moving parts.”
Cobb said Rodgers, who took part in his first in-pads practice Thursday, looked good. “It’s nice to see him back on the field, having his leadership back out there definitely helps.
“But at the end of the day, it’s about his health and him being fit and ready for that moment. I think that’s on him and our training staff to make that decision. So I look forward to him getting back out there but I don’t want to jeopardize his future either.” … Not only did the injury report contain less-than-ideal news at cornerback, but outside linebacker Nick Perry missed a second straight day of practice because of foot and shoulder injuries. Perry was on the injury report last week with a foot injury but apparently hurt his shoulder against Tampa Bay. … There was some good news elsewhere on the injury report, as inside linebacker Jake Ryan, who suffered a neck injury against Tampa Bay and didn’t practice Wednesday because of the flu bug, was back and practice and was a full participant. .... Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks (back) and defensive tackle Quinton Dial (chest/knee) increased their respective workloads.