Randall Cobb Returning Punts Isn't a Bad Idea
After practice on training camp Friday, Randall Cobb made one thing clear: he wants to return punts this season.
"That’s who I am,” he said. “That was never my decision not to be back there"
Cobb was the Packers’ regular punt returner for his first two NFL seasons, but was largely transitioned out of the role as his responsibilities on offense grew.
Since he was moved off the punt return team, Micah Hyde handled the bulk of the return duties and excelled early, averaging 13.6 yards per return on 38 opportunities in 2013 and 2014. In 2015 and 2016, though, Hyde’s average fell off a cliff. He managed just 5.8 yards per return on 38 chances during those two seasons as he found himself unable to break free for the big returns that boosted his average early on.
Hyde is now in Buffalo, leaving the punt return situation uncertain. Cobb, though, is throwing his hat in the ring, and he has a good case.
Experience could beat out potential on punt returns
During his first two seasons in the NFL, Cobb averaged 10.3 yards per punt return on 57 chances, including two touchdowns. He’s only had 25 chances to return a punt since then, but still averaged a respectable 7.96 yards per return.
It’s possible the Packers may still not want to risk Cobb on returns, but coming off a season in which he was just 60 targets, it would make sense to get him as many chances as possible to get involved.
In addition, the only other player on the Packers roster with significant NFL punt return experience is Trevor Davis, a great mix of good and bad in the return game.
On the one hand, Davis showed every bit of his potential as a game breaking player with an electric 55-yard return against the Atlanta Falcons. He’d also notched a 25-yard return earlier in the season.
But on the other, he showed exactly why dependable players are so important on special teams when he fumbled a punt just two weeks later. He never got another shot on the punt return team.
If the Packers are looking for reliability in the return game, Cobb may be the best option. He may not have the same game changing speed Davis does, but if it’s a choice between a higher chance at a turnover and a lower potential return, there shouldn’t be a lot of deliberation.