30

August

Packers News: Team to work out Joe McKnight

Joe McKnight will work out for the Packers on Saturday morning.

Joe McKnight will work out for the Packers on Saturday morning.

Running back Joe McKnight, formerly of the New York Jets, announced via Twitter that he is headed to Green Bay.

(UPDATE: According to ProFootballTalk, citing multiple sources, McKnight is only in Green Bay for a tryout.)

McKnight, 25, was cut during the 75-man reduction last week, which makes the timing of the signing a little odd.  McKnight has been the backup running back and primary kick returner for the Jets since 2010 after being drafted in the 4th round by New York.  Overall, he’s returned nine punts with a 9.9 yard average (long of 25 yards) and 76 kick off returns with a 29.0 yard average (long of 107 yards).

One possible explanation for the Jets decision to cut McKnight have been a lingering concussion injury that McKnight suffered this offseason and a bizarre off-the-field incident involving twitter and the media.

As no corresponding moves or cuts have been made by the Packers as they work to get to the 53 man roster limit, it will be surprising to see how the Packers work McKnight unto their roster.  Perhaps most in danger of losing their spots are back up running backs James Starks, Alex Green and kick returner/wide receiver Jeremy Ross.

Rookie running back Johnathan Franklin might also be in danger of being cut, but that’s less likely considering his 4th-round draft status during the last draft.  Either way it’s a telling piece of information; the Packers are likely not happy with either their running back and/or their returner situation and are looking at other options.

This might be Thompson is just keeping his emergency list up to date or might be an indication that he’s not all that happy at running back and/or returner.

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Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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14

August

Jeremy Ross’ Hands Will Be His Undoing

Jeremy Ross, Training Camp DrillIn the grand scheme of the game, it might not have been the significant difference between a win and a loss, but it’s a moment Green Bay Packers fans won’t soon forget, no matter how hard they try to repress the memories.

Mike McCarthy won’t soon forget it, either. His decision to have rookie wide receiver Jeremy Ross return punts in the playoffs against the San Francisco 49ers backfired in the worst way possible. With the Packers up 14-7 and building some momentum, they managed to stop the 49ers offense at midfield to begin the second quarter. Unfortunately, the ensuing punt was muffed by Ross at the Packers’ 10-yard line, and Colin Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree for a touchdown three plays later. The game was now tied, and all the momentum had shifted.

Make no mistake, Jeremy Ross could be an exceptional return man – maybe even better than Randall Cobb. He has the right combination of vision, speed, and elusiveness that can create substantial returns. The one ingredient that is missing, however, is ball security. And all things considered, it’s perhaps the most important ingredient. Teams can recover from poor field position, but it’s ten times harder to recover from a turnover.

Fast-forward to training camp, and Ross hasn’t shown any improvement in being able to field punts or make catches. He’s been given multiple reps as a returner, and it’s no secret that McCarthy would prefer him to be “the man” at that position. The head coach’s decision to put Ross into the Divisional Round game was, in large part, due to his desire to keep star wide receiver Cobb from unnecessary injury, and that desire hasn’t changed much. If the Packers can have a back-up wide receiver fielding punts and kickoffs, it reduces the risk of them losing a key player in the part of the game where injuries occur most often.

But so far, Jeremy Ross hasn’t done much to help the situation.

As training camp reports from the beat writers come out, we’ve seen some all-too-frequent accounts of muffed punts and dropped passes from Ross. JSOnline’s notes from Tuesday’s practice mention another pair of dropped passes by Ross, which adds to a growing list. Dropped passes obviously aren’t the same as muffed punts, and the mechanics of each type of catch are completely different; nevertheless, they both show a propensity for poor ball security. But even besides that, if he wants to make the 53-man roster, Ross will still need to show he’s valuable as both a wide receiver and a punt returner.

30

July

Packers 2012: Randall Cobb is Here, There, Everywhere

Randall Cobb at Packers training camp

The Year of Cobb?

Following along with the twitter training camp reports from Packers beat writers, one name seems to be popping up (pun intended) everywhere: Randall Cobb.

Wide receiver

Kickoff returner

Punt returner

Tailback

Quarterback

Place kick holder

That pretty much covers everything an offensive skill player can do with the football. An impressive list, for sure.

Back in the early spring of 2011, with the Packers having just come off a Super Bowl XLV win in Dallas, there were three positions I considered to be “needs” for the Packers going forward.  One was offensive tackle (In came Derek Sherrod, then cornerback (in came Davon House) and my final need was an all-purpose WR/KR. I had grown so tired of the Packers’ futility in the return game, but beyond that, I felt the Packers offense could be fairly unstoppable with the addition of a different type of wide receiver to their group.

What if the Packers offense had a smaller, quick, shifty receiver with the ability to make defensive backs miss after the catch? A guy you can use on quick wide receiver screens that can make something out of nothing. A guy that could be used for the occasional end-around.  Why not present your opponents with another dimension they’ll need to prepare for? A Percy Harvin-type player, for example.

In my draft research that year, I had narrowed down my WR/KR “wish list” to 2 players; Jerrel Jernigan and Randall Cobb. In all honesty, I preferred Jernigan. Watching tape of these two players, Jernigan looked like the faster and more dynamic of the two. But I would have been pleased if the Packers drafted either one.

When the Packers selected Cobb, I was a happy man, but I could never have envisioned what we are seeing now.  While Jernigan has struggled to see the field in any capacity for the NY Giants, Cobb was an immediate contributor and as listed above, is being looked at in a myriad of ways to help the Packers in 2012.

25

July

Packers Sign Utah WR/KR Shaky Smithson

The Green Bay Packers have signed Utah wide receiver and returner Shaky Smithson to a deal Monday night, kicking off the undrafted free agent signing period that followed today’s agreement on a new CBA.

Smithson was scouted throughly by the Packers pre-draft, as he was one of 12 players who made an official visit with the Green Bay before April’s NFL draft. At his pro day in Utah, Smithson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds, the 20-yard dash in 2.71 and the 10 in 1.65. He also put up 10 reps at 225 pounds and had a vertical leap of 30.5 inches.

Shaky Smithson College summary

Smithson is listed as a receiver but he made his name at Utah as one of the more dynamic returners in the NCAA. While he started just four games on offense and caught only 25 passes for 383 yards his senior year, Smithson’s 19.1 yards per punt return and four 100-yard punt return games led the nation.

He also returned two punts for touchdowns and was 24th in the nation in kick return average (24.1 yards). His 2010 totals on punt returns broke the Mountain West record for a season. For his efforts, Smithson was named second team All-Mountain West in 2010.

Commentary

Smithson is an electrifying return man, but the Packers drafted Randall Cobb in the second round and it’s widely believed that he’ll be the main returner on both punts and kicks. If Cobb has a larger role in the offense than previously expected, Smithson could be asked to be the primary returner. The Packers have been desperate to help their return game for the better part of a decade.

But like any undrafted free agent, Smithson has to be considered a long shot to make the team. He won’t contribute much as a slot receiver, and the Packers haven’t generally kept players who are one dimensional on the roster. Unless Smithson has developed some kind of offensive game, that’d be exactly what he is.

In all likeliness, Smithson will need a terrific camp and some errors from Cobb in the return game to warrant a roster spot.

Video highlights

 

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

26

April

Packers Prospect Profile – WR Randall Cobb, Kentucky – 2011 NFL Draft

1) Profile:

Randall Cobb

College: Kentucky

Position: WR

Height: 5’11″ Weight: 191 lbs.

Born: August 22, 1990 From: Alcoa, TN

2) High School / College Highlights: At Aloca High School, Cobb was a standout both on and off the field. As a four-year member of the track team, Cobb finished third in Tennessee in the 100-meter dash his senior season with a time of 10.75 seconds. He also was an All-District basketball player his junior and senior years, and a member of the academic honor roll.

Even with all those accolades, football was still the sport where Cobb excelled the most. He earned All-State honors during his last two years, quarterbacking the Tornadoes to a 27-3 over that span. His senior year, the dual-threat quarterback was picked as Tennessee’s “Mr. Football.” Rivals still only rated him as the 18th best prospect in Tennessee, and Scout.com gave him just a two-star rating.

Once at Kentucky, however, Cobb proved his worth. He made the SEC All-Freshman team in 2008 by playing at quarterback, receiver, running back and returner. Cobb was named All-SEC First Team his final three seasons at Kentucky, and an All-American his senior year (2010).

3) College Stats: 144 catches for 1661 yards and 13 TD’s; 228 rushes for 1313 yards and 22 TD’s; 44 kick returns for 1081 yards; 63 punt returns for 619 yards and 2 TD’s; 62 completions for 689 yards and 5 TD’s

4) NFL Combine Results: 4.46-second 40-yard dash, 16 bench-presses at 225 pounds, 33.5″ vertical leap, 115″ broad jump, 7.08-second 3-cone drill, 4.34-second 20-yard shuffle, 11.56-second 60-yard shuffle

5) Strengths/Weaknesses: Cobb is as versatile a player as there is in the 2011 NFL Draft. While his main position in the NFL will be receiver, Cobb has the ability to line up at running back, punt and kick returner or quarterback in the Wildcat formation.

As strictly a receiver, Cobb is best suited to play in the slot. He never shies away from contact and isn’t afraid to go over the middle to make plays. Once he gets the ball in his hands, Cobb is tough to get down. His history at running back and compact frame allow him to break tackles and gain yards after the catch.