Let’s make one thing clear: losing Randall Cobb is a gut punch for Green Bay Packers fans.
His return to Green Bay was not just a great story during the summer. He’s been a contributor throughout the 2021 season and reliable third down target for quarterback and best bud Aaron Rodgers.
As painful as Thursday’s news was to hear, the season goes on and the Green Bay Packers have a Super Bowl to win. Therefore someone will have to step up and step into the spotlight in Cobb’s absence.
Enter Equanimeous St. Brown.
For St. Brown, this moment has been four years in the making. When he was drafted in the sixth round of the 2018 draft, not a whole lot was expected from him. However, at the time some considered him more “NFL ready” than Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who was drafted one round ahead of him. St. Brown’ skills were more balanced while Valdes-Scantling’ route running and ball skills needed more polish when they were both rookies.
As the 2018 season progressed, St. Brown found himself taking a back seat to Valdes-Scantling (MVS caught 38 passes versus St. Brown’s 21) and would end up missing the season finale with a concussion.
That injury would be a harbinger of things to come, unfortunately. St. Brown would miss the entire 2019 season after suffering a severe ankle sprain in the preseason, starting a run of bad injury luck. He would also end up on injured reserve during the 2020 season when a sprained knee cost him three games thanks to the new IR rules.
Entering 2021, St. Brown was squarely on the roster bubble. He had the support of quarterback Aaron Rodgers who had praised St. Brown before the previous season, but the Packers had plenty of talent at wide receiver, especially with Cobb arriving just as camp began.
St. Brown ended up being the odd man out, but he was able to be brought back to the Packers’ practice squad. He has been moved to the active roster multiple times thanks to COVID and injury issues before earning a full-time promotion back onto the 53, but with Cobb now out for multiple games, St. Brown is finally going to get a chance to showcase what he can do.
Even before the Cobb injury, St. Brown was showing signs he could be a contributor. During the Week 11 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, St. Brown made a beautiful play on an end-around and also made a big catch and run that got the Packers into scoring range while trailing 23-17.
Those two plays rewarded the faith Rodgers had in St. Brown and serve as a sign of bigger things to come for the former Notre Dame star in Cobb’ absence.
“I’m really proud of EQ,” Rodgers said after the Vikings game. The quarterback said he reached out to the receiver after his initial release and told him he felt St. Brown would get his chance to come off the practice squad once the season started.
Rodgers proved himself prophetic and now St. Brown has the biggest opportunity of his career. So how can he cash in on it?
He’s not going to be the field stretcher that Valdes-Scantling is nor can he be Davante Adams (to be fair, no one can), but he can be the slot receiver Cobb was and he could even be used in the backfield like he was against Minnesota. That’s one of the perks of Matt LaFleur’s offense: anyone can be lined up anywhere at any given time.
The thing to remember about St. Brown going forward is that he doesn’t have to be Cobb. He and Allen Lazard can replace the veteran’s overall production. St. Brown just has to be dependable, consistent, and make plays when Rodgers throws his way. That he has seemingly earned the (sometimes) difficult to please quarterback’s trust with limited opportunities is telling, and that trust could help ease the pain of Cobb’s loss.
Like the other receivers, St. Brown isn’t under contract for 2022 but unlike Adams and MVS, he isn’t playing for a huge extension. He is playing to prove he can be a contributor and worthy of a spot on the roster next year and perhaps beyond.
After injuries initially derailed the start of his career, everything is now in front of St. Brown. He will now be called upon in ways he hasn’t been before so it will be interesting to see how he rewards those who kept faith in him these past four years.
The dawning of the age of Equanimeous many finally be upon us and the sun is rising at the perfect time for the Packers.