Packing the Stats: Randall Cobb and Other Movers of the Chain Gang

Packing the StatsGreen Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy wasn’t kidding when he called second-round pick Randall Cobb “very talented,” “multidimensional,” and “a matchup player” after the 2011 NFL Draft. We didn’t see a whole lot outside of kick returns last year, but this season has really seen Cobb explode on the offense. From his role in the slot to his special place in the “Cobra” formation, he has been a dynamic force that tilts the field.

We could talk about his best-in-league 131.0 wide receiver rating from ProFootballFocus.com. We could also look at his 45 receptions (tied for 13th in the league) or six receiving touchdowns (tied for 7th). But what I really want to focus on in this issue is a measure of production not often looked at: first down conversions.

What I have charted below is the number of conversions made by each individual player on the offense through the first nine weeks of 2012. From there, I’ve broken that number down into passes, runs, conversions by down, and touchdowns. (Note that a touchdown is considered part of the total number of conversions. Also note that the trick special teams plays are not included, since they are not produced by the offense.)

Let’s take a look at the numbers before we go any further:


Conversions by Player, 2012, Wks. 1-9


As is always the case, we can glean a few different things from this information. What I want to focus on first, however, is the fact that Cobb, Nelson, and Jones are the biggest “movers of the chain gang.” They’ve accounted for a combined 85 conversions, which is slightly more than half of the entire offense’s total.

We can also note that both Randall Cobb and James Jones are at their best on second and third downs. Jordy Nelson, on the other hand, seems to be equally productive across downs. Furthermore, these three players have accounted for 19 of the Packers’ 27 touchdowns, with Jones currently holding the lead at 8 touchdowns.

But let’s dig a little deeper. The Packers’ receiving corps has been hit by some unfortunate injuries to Greg Jennings (groin/abdomen), Jordy Nelson (hamstring/ankle), and even Jermichael Finley (shoulder). This means that straight-up numbers don’t mean a whole lot without a little more context.



Jermichael Finley: Overrated or Underperforming?

Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley drops the ball as Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Sean Jones defends.

This season, there seems to be no other Green Bay Packers player more controversial than tight end Jermichael Finley. In the final year of his contract, coming off a season spent mostly on injured reserve, he has been under intense scrutiny by fans. Number one, can he stay healthy? And number two, can he be the offensive juggernaut he was predicted to be?

I think we’ve found out the answer to the first question: yes, he can stay healthy. He hasn’t missed a single game all season.

It’s that other question, though, that has fans arguing the most.

While I was sitting in the upper deck of MetLife stadium on Sunday, I couldn’t believe the number of passes I watched Jermichael Finley drop. After his third one, both my older brother and I looked at each other with mutual frustration. And in the heat of the moment, I even called for him to be taken out of the game.

This, of course, is why I am not a coach. Finley’s first-down reception in the Packers’ final possession was a crucial jump start to the game-winning drive. He obviously has the talent and ability to make those big plays, and we’ve seen them all season.

But we’ve also seen the drops.

According to STATS LLC., Jermichael Finley has 8 dropped passes so far this season, tying him for sixth place in the NFL. (He’s third in the NFC behind only Roddy White and DeSean Jackson.) No other Green Bay receiver has more than three drops this year, providing a stark contrast to this issue.

Additionally, TeamRankings.com has Finley listed at just a 62.7% catch rate, ranking him 17th among tight ends and 70th among all receivers (who are on pace for at least 30 receptions or 60 pass targets). Guys like Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Fred Davis, and Jason Witten seem to be more dominating – at least statistically – than Finley. They’ve outdone him in catch rate, targets, and total yardage, and both Graham and Gronkowski each have more touchdowns.

Isn’t he supposed to be this monster tight end who should be impossible to defend? Haven’t some of us been touting him as the best tight end in the league?