May 11, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers rookie wide receivers Tori Gurley (86) and Diondre Borel (19) during the Green Bay Packers mini-camp at the Don Hutson Center. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-US PRESSWIRE
Right now there are two great sagas that seem to have captured everyone's imagination in training camp. The battle for the #2 cornerback and the question of what do to do with the last WR spot on the roster. So many Packer fans are wondering what the Packers are going to do with Tori Gurley or Diondre Borel. Gurley has the size, Borel has the speed. It's a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless.
It seems the rumors coming out of 1265 Lombardi Ave. have been that Borel has a slight lead over Gurley. Gurley has had a couple nagging injuries as of late while Borel has consistently produced in practice. Mix this with the fact that Borel continues to have a good, if not great, camp so far and it's not that hard to imagine. But there is also something else happening here that I find interesting in camp, and something that I think will affect the battle for the last WR spot...the rise of Randall Cobb.
The Packers are a team that don't often follow the fads of the NFL. The Wildcat offense was never toyed with here. The Packers didn't make a mad dash for TE's after Gronk and Graham had a big year this year (instead they were a head of the curve on that one with the drafting of Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, D.J. Williams, and Ryan Taylor within a short period of time). No, the Packers have an established system of offense and they run it rain or shine. It's an offense that has been run in Green Bay for about 20 years now (which is an eternity in the NFL). But now more reverses, options, and trick plays are being seen coming out of Packers camp. This isn't being done in order to freshen up the offense or get more diversity in the play calls; no, this is because the Packers have dynamic and unique playmaker in Randall Cobb that they want to take advantage of and give defenses a bit more fits in the process.
There is a problem with indulging with this sort of planning around a unique talent though, namely, what happens if he gets hurt? The best example of this is when you talk about Tim Tebow as a starting QB. Tebow can't run a traditional offense. He just can't, but he can run an effective offense that doesn't look like anything else in the NFL. But what happens if Tebow goes down in a game? You can't expect to roll out a new QB now and run Tebow's offense, it just wouldn't work. Similarly it puts the rest of an offense in a bad spot if suddenly the back up comes in and now they are running a totally different playbook from what they practiced during the week. It's tough and it puts your offense in a bad position. Same thing is true if you are running a Wildcat to show off the talents of a unique RB, WR, or QB. What happens if that player can't be called on during the game? Suddenly large portions of your playbook disappear and you become even more limited during the week and maybe over the season than just losing one big player.
I want the Packers to find ways to use Cobb in new and inventive ways. I think it makes a dynamic offense more explosive. It can also help cover up some of the questions that are currently surround the RB unit. But what happens if Cobb gets hurt?
The answer to this question so far has been Diondre Borel. Borel has been used in many of the same ways as Cobb and in many of the same formations. Borel was a college QB and so he has the ability to read a defense and make throws, so all of Cobb's option plays can stay in the book even if he is not available. Borel is becoming the back up returner as well, providing the Packers a bit more breathing room before we see someone like Tramon Williams or Jordy Nelson going back there to field kicks and punts. Borel has also been used here and there in the backfield in the shotgun. This is similar to the ways Cobb has been used in the backfield and allows a little bit of continuity if something where to happen.
Many of those who expect Gurley to make the team point out the attributes that only Gurley can bring to the table. He's tall, able to be a unique threat in the endzone, and has a knack for blocking punts and kicks. He's a guy that the Packers could definitely use throughout the season. Cobb's rise to prominence in the Packers' offense could open a door for Borel though, and provide a role that Gurley cannot do in the same fashion. Having a backup who can run some of those very unique things that Cobb can do may just give Borel an edge in his competition with Gurley.
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