Cobb Might Return Punts

Cobb (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Randall Cobb is listed No. 1 on the depth chart, which special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum didn't back away from on Monday. If you think that's crazy, the Seahawks will use star receiver Percy Harvin and All-Pro safety Earl Thomas as their returners.

In the Green Bay Packers’ “Dope Sheet” preview packet, Randall Cobb is listed as the No. 1 punt returner.

Should that be taken as gospel?

“Yeah, sure. He’s been there all along,” special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said on Monday.

To be sure, going with Cobb would be a calculated risk, but the Packers never have shied away from using a key position player on returns. It is, in the view of Slocum and coach Mike McCarthy, the first play of the offensive series.

Charles Woodson returned punts for his first two seasons in Green Bay. Tramon Williams returned punts and Jordy Nelson and Sam Shields returned kickoffs in 2010. Cobb did double duty on kickoffs as a rookie in 2011, when he wasn’t a pivotal figure on offense, and again in 2012, when he caught a team-high 80 passes. Cobb had just three punt returns in the 2013 regular season, when he missed 10 games with a broken leg, but was back on kickoff returns for the playoff game against San Francisco.

Still, it would be a major gamble to use Cobb this season considering the lack of proven depth in the passing game in general, never mind a receiving corps with a depth chart rounded out by two rookies. At least there’s depth at safety should something happen to Micah Hyde. Then again, the Seahawks are expected to use star receiver Percy Harvin on punt returns and All-Pro safety Earl Thomas on punt returns.

Slocum said Cobb and Hyde are atop the depth chart at punt returner. On kickoff returns, DuJuan Harris and Hyde are the front-runners, with rookie Jeff Janis in the conversation, as well.

Asked if he’d use a rookie like Janis in a Week 1 game that comes with an enormous spotlight or if he'd rather use a veteran, Slocum said: “I think you have kind of have to look at the person and get a feel for how they are.”

And what does he see from a player who’s not just a rookie but a rookie who was playing Division II football at this time last year?

“I see a very mature guy. A lot that’s very accountable. A hard working guy. A tremendous athlete. In regard to special teams, he hasn’t played a lot of that. So some of the stuff had some newness to it but he adapts quickly and does a good job with it.”


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com, and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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