If one Packers rookie jumped out on his first day as a pro in pads, it was second-round draft pick Randall Cobb.
Cobb, a receiver and kick-returner from Kentucky, caught at least a half-dozen passes in team (11-on-11) drills during Monday night’s workout at Ray Nitschke Field.
Working with every quarterback on the roster, Cobb started his impressive night by grabbing a couple of throws over the middle from third-stringer Graham Harrell. He ended his night with a leaping two-handed snag of an Aaron Rodgers bullet on a deep crossing route in the final team period.
“Randall is everything physically we thought he would be,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said after practice. “Very bright, bright-eyed, communicates very well and seems to be picking things up very rapidly.”
Cobb is trying to learn all the receiver positions in the offense rather than be slotted into one, and he admitted the playbook was “huge” when he first saw it but, as he dug into it, he began to recognize some things.
“It’s not really as bad as it looks,” Cobb said earlier on Monday. “It’s just the terminology. I ran a lot of the same plays and the same concepts in college. It’s just the terminology that’s different.”
If there was one flaw to Cobb’s work on Monday, it was that he went to the ground too many times, either as he was catching the pass or afterward the catch, negating opportunities for yards after the catch.
McCarthy feels that will get smoothed out the more Cobb works with Rodgers and tries to become another reliable weapon in a deep receiving stable that already includes Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson and the newly re-signed James Jones, who was in attendance watching from the sidelines.
“It’s the ‘cheat system’ as I always refer to it,” McCarthy said. “Everybody plays football, everybody has similar plays, but it’s the ability to cheat within the particular play – with anticipation, coverage recognition, all the things that help a receiver be productive and create a smart path to run a good route and create separation for the quarterback.”
Cobb also will get an opportunity to be the team’s punt-returner, said McCarthy, who also likes another rookie, Alex Green, on kickoff returns.
As for the first padded practice as a whole, McCarthy felt it looked like, well, the first padded practice.
“We need a lot more of them,” he said. “I think that was evident.”
McCarthy called the workout “sluggish,” lacking the necessary tempo, but not altogether abnormal for this stage of camp. He complimented the players for finishing the longest practice thus far – a shade over 2 hours, 25 minutes – better than the previous two nights, something the coaches emphasized in meetings on Monday.
“We have a lot of work to do,” McCarthy said. “My impression tonight is, boy, we have a lot of work to do.”
Other observations from Monday night:
Backup quarterback Matt Flynn made what looked like his best play of camp so far. Trying to decipher a blitz from the shotgun, Flynn went with a hard count to get the defense to show its hand. He then pointed out the blitzer, made the proper protection adjustment, and fired a perfect strike on a middle seam route to tight end Tom Crabtree. Flynn used a similar strategy to foil another blitz later, hitting rookie Diondre Borel on a short comeback route.
For the third straight practice, a different outside linebacker worked with the No. 1 defense opposite Clay Matthews. On Monday, it was Brad Jones. Frank Zombo took the first-team reps on Saturday and Erik Walden did so on Sunday. That’s a full-fledged competition. Game on.
Left tackle Chad Clifton didn’t take any snaps during the team periods and second-year pro Marshall Newhouse took those first-team reps. McCarthy said the time off for Clifton accomplished two things – it gave the veteran his usual rest and it allowed for more of the reps at left tackle and left guard, the two spots rookie first-rounder Derek Sherrod is playing, to be spread around.
Two of the team’s draft picks, Davon House and D.J. Smith, were on the first kickoff coverage unit. Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum had the group working on the new rules that don’t allow them to start more than 5 yards behind the kickoff spot. With the kickoffs at the 35-yard line, the coverage guys were lined up in 3-point stances on the 30.
During a punt period, Tim Masthay got off a long, spiraling boot that traveled between 60 and 65 yards from the line of scrimmage, though it may have been a tad low. Nelson on the return had to backpedal at least 10 yards to haul it in.
The only player new to the injury list is guard Adrian Battles, who sat out practice with an Achilles injury.
McCarthy said tight end Jermichael Finley and safety Morgan Burnett, who have been held out of team drills thus far in coming back from season-ending surgeries, could be back to full duty on Wednesday after the off day on Tuesday. Defensive end Mike Neal is a little further behind and may not be fully cleared as soon.