Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cobb Impresses in Packers' Pre-Season Debut

The fun thing about pre-season games is evaluating individual players. Determining which new additions to the roster might make the cut, and, more importantly, make an impact. Rookie Randall Cobb showed encouraging signs of being one of those impact players the Packers hoped he was when they drafted him.

The Kentucky product could give a real boost to our return game, which was fairly anemic last year through a rotating door of return men. Cobb had two nice kick returns out nearly to the 30 both times, and showed elusiveness and sure hands, though no yards, in his one punt return. Cobb also lead Packer receivers with 3 receptions for 60 yards, including a beautiful quick cut up the field on a 5-yard crossing pattern that netted 28 yards and nearly a TD.

Cobb could be a perfect addition to an already potent receiving corps. His speed, cutting ability and good hands will present match-up nightmares for opposing defenses. They will need to cover him with a corner, and particularly in a 4-receiver set, that corner isn't likely to be very good. Cobb will either be open or he will open up something for another receiver. And his impact on the return game could be dramatic. Even if he averages just a few more yards per return, it will make a big difference in field position. And if he breaks one or two this season for scores, those are the kind of plays that decide games.

Another player I was watching closely was Derek Sherrod. He and T.J. Lang are in a dead heat to replace Colledge at the left guard position. Sherrod looked good and sounds very comfortable at the guard position, despite playing only tackle at Mississippi State. Sherrod and Lang actually were both in the game with the second team, rotating between the left guard and tackle positions. And, with the exception of a blown blitz pick-up which resulted in a sack, fumble and return for a touchdown, they both played well. One will start and the other looks start-able should the other guy or Clifton get injured.

Other players who stood out Saturday against the Browns included James Starks -- who only had 2 carries but looked to be back into his beastly form, blowing guys backwards for gains of 5 and 9 yards. Starks is just one of those guys who seems to stride 2-3 yards with every step, breaks multiple tackles, and finishes every run falling forward for several additional yards. He and Grant will give us one of the most high-impact running back tandems in the league.

Matt Flynn also had a nice night. He finished 11/18 for 126 yards and a TD with no interceptions. He clearly has a full command of the offense, calling audibles at the line several times based on his reads. He has the arm strength and accuracy to make tough throws. And he has great poise for a young player -- efficiently leading the Packers on a 9-play, 89-yard touchdown drive with less than two minutes left before halftime. As Flynn showed last year against the Patriots, he can effectively lead the Packers in the event Rodgers goes down -- which in the era of concussion sensitivity (which I support, by the way) will be increasingly likely.

Overall, it was great to see the Packers back on the field. Although they didn't win, the only mild concern was watching the first-team defense give up a touchdown (granted, it was 3rd stringer Pat Lee who gave up the TD catch). It all whets the appetite for the regular season opener against the Saints on September 8. Can't wait!

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