An ankle injury to Randall Cobb in the Packers’ blowout of the Titans put a bad taste in fans’ mouths and has many calling for Cobb’s removal as a return specialist. Cobb’s expanding role on offense means that the Packers can afford to lose him less. However, special teams remain a sizable portion of Cobb’s total threat to opponents and a major reason for his drafting by Ted Thompson.
The Packers special teams units have been just as good, if not better than the offense and defense this season. And it’s no secret that Cobb has been an instrumental part of that success. If Mike McCarthy is committed to his special teams units, he needs to allow the qualified personnel to see playing time there. But, is the added value on special teams worth the extra risk of losing Cobb as an offensive weapon?
This season the Packers have the depth at wide out to support an injury to Cobb. However, the offseason could bring the departures of Greg Jennings via free agency, Jermichael Finley via trade and Donald Driver via release. Losing all three would leave the wide receiver corps unusually thin – even if a receiver is added in the draft. At that point, Cobb would be a bad player to lose to injury.
One way of reducing Cobb’s risk of injury is to only play him on one special teams unit. With the change in kickoff rules, Cobb’s talents may be best utilized exclusively on punts. If the Packers still view this option as too risky, they should consider the Patriots, who employ Wes Welker as both a receiver and return specialist and have arguably less depth at wide out.
As the Packers move forward with their new superstar wide receiver, they must be smart, but not scared, with his usage. His expanded role on offense cannot come at the expense of the special teams units. Should another capable return specialist emerge on the roster, the coaching staff will need to evaluate Cobb’s role. Until then, Cobb’s talents should be leveraged on more than just offense.