GREEN BAY — Randall Cobb is having an identity crisis.
No, not about his role in the Green Bay Packers’ offense. The veteran wide receiver is clearly quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ and head coach Matt LaFleur’s go-to guy in those gotta-have-it third-down situations, as evidenced by his role in last Sunday’s 27-24 overtime win over the New England Patriots.
And no, not about who he is as a human being, as a proud husband to Aiyda and dad to the couple’s two young sons, Caspian and Cade.
Cobb’s issue is with his age — or how old people seem to think he is, anyway.
Finishing a story for @WiStateJournal and @MadisonSport on #Packers WR Randall Cobb, who after Sunday’s win said with a smile, “I don’t know why you’re all acting like I’m geriatric. I’m not in a nursing home.”— Jason Wilde (@jasonjwilde) October 4, 2022
It’s probably @jimmyfallon’s fault for @FallonTonight Superlatives. pic.twitter.com/nQ2HDJ5NEY
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“I don’t know why you’re all acting like I’m geriatric. I’m not in a nursing home,” the 32-year-old Cobb said with a wide smile after last Sunday’s win. “This is the best I’ve felt since I was like 29. I feel really good.”
He looks good, too. Cobb enters Sunday’s game against the New York Giants at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London with 10 receptions for 150 yards on the season, including three catches for 42 yards against the Patriots.
But it was Cobb’s productivity on third down that was especially vital to the Packers winning:
- Midway through the fourth quarter, he had a 24-yard catch on third-and-6 to jump-start that drive, which ended with Romeo Doubs’ game-tying touchdown catch six plays later.
On the Packers’ next series, Cobb drew an 11-yard pass-interference penalty to keep that drive alive long enough for Rodgers to throw what could have been a 40-yard Doubs touchdown had he been able to hold on in the end zone.
And on the game-winning field-goal drive in overtime, facing third-and-1 from the Green Bay 44-yard line, where did Rodgers go? To Cobb, of course, whose 11-yard catch led to Mason Crosby’s walk-off 31-yard field goal as time expired.
And he made that difference while playing only 25 of the Packers’ 73 offensive snaps (34%) in the game.
“That (24-yard catch) was probably the biggest play of the game,” said fellow wide receiver Allen Lazard, who had a crucial 32-yard third-down catch earlier in the second half, with the Packers’ offense struggling. “Randall has been doing that for a while now — third down especially.
“Being a slot guy, a slot receiver, you don’t get as many opportunities, and he definitely has made the most of his throughout his entire career. He just understands Aaron. It’s the chemistry.
“If you’re able to have a guy in the slot that’s able to, no matter what the play is, find that little hole or be able to break away from man like Randall Cobb is, it’s a huge asset to the offense. We’re very lucky to have him in our room.”
Through four games, Cobb has only been targeted 12 times, and of his 10 receptions, eight have gone for first downs. He also has five third-down receptions that have resulted in first downs, despite only playing 107 of the Packers’ 264 offensive snaps (40.5%).
Kansas City’s Travis Kelce and Denver’s Courtland Sutton lead the NFL with eight such receptions apiece, and only six other players in the league have more than Cobb — although none of them have done it in as few snaps as Cobb.
“I just try to provide a spark whenever I get the opportunity to be that guy,” Cobb said. “That’s the guy I’ve always been in my career, and I just try to make the most of it.”
That approach is consistent with what Cobb did last year, upon his return for a second stint with the team after Rodgers pushed for general manager Brian Gutekunst to re-acquire him in a trade with the Houston Texans.
Despite only playing in 12 regular-season games because of a late-season core muscle injury, Cobb caught 28 passes for 375 yards (13.4 avg.) and five touchdowns, while only playing 371 of the Packers’ 1,114 offensive snaps (33.2%).
Of those 28 receptions, 12 of them were on third downs, and 10 picked up first downs (an 83.3% conversion rate). Cobb finished with 203 yards and two TDs on third down, and 21 of his 28 total catches picked up first downs (a team-high 75%).
“When Cobby’s number’s called, you can count on him to do it exactly the way it’s supposed to be done,” LaFleur said. “He’s super reliable, super consistent, especially in those critical situations.”
While he might take mock umbrage with folks overestimating his age — he even playfully went after NBC’s Jimmy Fallon via an Instagram post that also included a few Tweets from fans who joked about his age — Cobb is just happy to be back with his BFF and quarterback and back in green and gold after spending 2019 with the Dallas Cowboys and 2020 with the Texans.
If that means having a niche role in the offense, so be it. He spent eight seasons with the Packers in his first go-round (2011 through 2018), and having arrived a year after the Super Bowl XLV title, he just wants one more chance at a championship before Father Time really does catch up with him.
But that hasn’t happened yet — just like defenses haven’t yet figured out how to stop him on third downs.
“Third down, I’m going to be there, waiting and ready,” Cobb said. “I try to make the most of the opportunities that I get.
“I know it’s not like times before when I’m going to have a lot of targets, I’m not going to be on this field as much as I was in the past. But I try to be the best I can be.
“I feel really good. This is the best I’ve felt in probably two or three years. So I’m just trying to make sure that I stay to the routine and be able to provide a spark whenever I get that chance.”
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