Reality is relentless with ridiculous storylines. After a summer that was, at a bare minimum, the most bizarre since Brett Favre’s uncomfortable departure in 2008, the Green Bay Packers were able to come to an agreement to get Aaron Rodgers back into the fold this week. While the Packers didn’t give up much of value, as they maintained the ability to extract value from Rodgers should he ultimately decide he would like to be traded after this season, they did give him some type of power in some personnel decisions.
We’ll probably never get to know the specifics of the personnel power, and the front office will probably deny that any such power exists. Saving face is kind of what front offices do. Rodgers’ fingerprints are all over the acquisition of former teammate Randall Cobb, though, and some reports indicate that the trade for Cobb came at Rodgers’ request. Now that the former Pro Bowler is back in Green and Gold, what can be expected of him this season? In order to answer that, let’s take a look at how the past couple of years have gone for him.
2019 with Dallas
After signing a one-year deal with Dallas in 2019, Randall Cobb had a strong season. He posted his third best yards-per-target in his career at 10.0, and put together a very solid 55/828/3 line on 83 targets. His usage changed in Dallas, as he was not just a target of short throws. He had a career high in yards-per-reception at 15.1, and set a career high in average depth-of-target at 9.5 yards as Dallas looked to utilize him more in intermediate areas than Green Bay had towards the end of his tenure.
The advanced numbers liked his production as he posted a solid 5.5% DVOA, which ranked him 32nd among wide receivers, one spot below Courtland Sutton and three spots below Cooper Kupp. Cobb posted solid volume as well, ranking 35th in DYAR, four spots below Davante Adams and two spots above fellow slot receiver Cole Beasley. The biggest deal for the oft-dinged up Cobb is that he largely stayed healthy and played in 15 games that season.
2020 with Houston
Following his bounce-back season in Dallas, the Houston Texans rewarded Cobb with a contract that to this day makes no sense, especially in the context of their team at the time. Houston already had a bunch of wide receivers, but still gave Cobb a three-year $27 million contract that guaranteed him $18 million at signing.
Despite having his season ended early by a toe injury that was described as “significant” at the time, Cobb played pretty well in the 10 games he appeared in. His 15.8% DVOA ranked 15th among receivers with 10-49 targets (15.8% would have ranked 16th among qualified receivers with 50 or more targets). Houston used Cobb in his more traditional slot role as his average depth-of-target dropped back down to 6.5 yards, even lower than it had been during most of his Packers years. This drop in explosiveness was paired with an elite catch rate, however, as Cobb brought in nearly 80% of his targets, a feat only bested by his low-volume rookie season. It’s also worth noting that the Texans during this season were a complete and total mess. Their coach was fired, their offense became Deshaun Watson (who I will note is currently under investigation for several counts of sexual harassment and assault) hero ball, and despite all this, Cobb was still productive.
So What Now?
Young Randall Cobb would have been a very fun weapon for Matt LaFleur to use, and is likely what they ultimately want Amari Rodgers to turn into. Even though he may lack the punch he once did, Cobb still fits very well into the versatile slot/gadget role that MLF likes to use. The biggest concern is not so much in Cobb’s production, which has been quite good in two very different roles in his two seasons away from Titletown, but in that pesky toe.
The reports on the toe is that the injury was significant, and he wasn’t doing a lot at the Texans mini-camp early this summer, but that could also just be a vet taking it easy during a time largely meant for rookies and younger players.
A significant injury to a toe is probably turf toe. Turf toe is just a weird way of describing a sprain of the ligaments around the big toe joint. There was talk that Cobb was weighing whether to have the toe operated on and I somehow have not found whether or not he ultimately did. However, such surgery would likely be to repair the ligaments of the big toe. The timetable on recovery from such surgery is typically three-to-six months, depending on the severity of the initial injury.
It is worth noting that turf toe was also the injury that Davante Adams played through in 2019 before returning in 2020 to have a career year. So long as the toe is healed, we should not expect it to really harm his game. It’s also worth noting that Randall Cobb talked about how he fixed his hamstring issues while in Dallas after altering his training regimen. If Cobb can avoid the leg injuries that continued to bother him later on during his first stint in Green Bay, the Packers should be getting another quality receiving option for QB1, and a player who can still be dangerous in space.