GREEN BAY, Wis. – On paper, the Green Bay Packers have one of the worst receiver corps in the NFL.
Randall Cobb doesn’t want to hear about paper or opinions.
“I really don’t care,” Cobb said after Tuesday’s organized team activity. “I’ve been doubted my whole life. You think I care? I wouldn’t be here. People don’t want me here, I’m here. People didn’t want me to leave, I’m here. People didn’t want me on the Packers, I’m here. People don’t want me traded back here, I’m here. I don’t care what anybody got to say. I’m going to go out and do what I’m supposed to do and have fun doing it, put a smile on my face and try to win some games.”
To be sure, there are legit questions about the Packers’ crop of receivers. Last season, Davante Adams caught 123 passes for 1,374 yards and 11 touchdowns. Every other veteran receiver on the roster – Cobb, Allen Lazard, Juwann Winfree, Malik Taylor and Amari Rodgers are back and Sammy Watkins was signed in free agency – combined to catch 109 passes for 1,399 yards and 14 touchdowns.
So, it’s not just that the Packers have a lot of production to replace, it’s that there’s not a lot of production on the roster.
Other than perhaps Lazard, there’s not a lot of reason to be bullish about the veterans. Cobb, who will turn 32 in August, had his one and only 1,000-yard season in 2014 and has failed to reach even 500 yards in three of the past four seasons. Watkins, who will turn 29 in a few weeks, had his only 1,000-yard season in 2015. In the succeeding years, he topped 40 receptions once and hasn’t touched 700 yards. Playing sparingly, Winfree had eight catches but two drops and one fumble, Rodgers caught four passes and Taylor caught two passes in Week 1 and wasn’t targeted the rest of the season.
On the bright side, over the last five games of last season, Lazard among receivers ranked 27th in receptions (21), 19th in yards (290) and second in touchdowns (five). And it’s perhaps worth noting Watkins caught 39 passes for 593 yards (15.2 average) and eight touchdowns with the Rams in 2017. That’s when Packers coach Matt LaFleur was their offensive coordinator.
“I would say there’s a lot of differences between our offense when we were together in L.A. and what we’re doing here, just in terms of maybe not conceptually, but how we call things and how we coach different things,” LaFleur said before practice. “So, there’s certainly a lot for him to learn, but I think he’s done a nice job.”
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and LaFleur will find a way to get it done, and more opportunities will mean more production for everyone involved, but it’s not ideal to be counting on rookie receivers, which might be the case. Green Bay drafted three, led by second-round pick Christian Watson and including fourth-round choice Romeo Doubs and seventh-round selection Samori Toure.
Cobb has shared some of his 11 years of professional wisdom with the rookies, in general, and Watson, in particular.
“Just making sure that they understand that they have all the tools, that they’re all special. They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t,” Cobb said. Of Watson, he continued, “He has the total package. Just being around him for the past week and seeing some of the things he can do, he has all the tools. He’s very gifted. It’s about applying it, taking the stuff he learns in the classroom and taking it to the field.
“He has the tools. It’s about refining those tools. It takes time. It’s not going to happen overnight. That’s what I was trying to tell him on our ride up earlier today – it’s a process. Just enjoy the process and have fun with it, don’t get so caught up in your head and press and think that it’s going to happen overnight. Because it never does.”