Being that I will be at NFL Training Camps nearly every day, I want to take a few moments each day to break down a new player or two that I am relatively unfamiliar with (i.e. a guy that I haven’t worked with before). So in addition to the time that I am spending there analyzing my own players I am going to put out some content including insight regarding what types of things I am see popping out at first glance with some of these other guys.
It should be noted that most of the time I would extensively dissect player’s movement during game analysis which would include frame-by-frame breakdown to truly get an idea of what’s happening when he moves. Thus, I am going to likely miss a lot with these very brief evaluations based on my visual analysis of the guy playing live. Obviously, with the extent of detail that I usually go into with analysis of a player’s strengths and weaknesses, if I was doing this in preparation for working with the guy I would take the time to watch an extensive amount of game-film to see him play in multiple situations. This will be a limitation during camp practices as there are only so many plays that you get a chance to see from each guy.
Today I will be dropping some thoughts about one of the league’s most dynamic, game-changing playmakers, Packer wide-out and returner, Randall Cobb. #18 may still be a bit of an unknown commodity with some of the other talented dudes that he has played around the past two years but with the departure of now-Viking Greg Jennings he should get his hands on even more balls in the passing game to put his name on the map as it belongs. In fact, I have been quoted (on Twitter of course) as saying that Cobb is definitely in the upper echelon of movers in the league and could actually be right behind Percy Harvin (former Viking/now Seahawk) as the most all-around explosive athlete in the league. Though I feel as though Tavon Austin could have something to say about that previous statement this coming season, I am excited to see if/how Cobb has improved as well as take a little more time out of my day to see how he is able to do what he does on the field.
I know there has been some talk from the media-heads about Cobb’s past cases of the ‘droppsies.’ It should be noted though that those are the things that I don’t evaluate when analyzing football-specific movement in my realm. Though that is a significant piece of the tactical side as it obviously greatly impacts the outcome of a play and the on-field success of the player, it is not my area to develop for athletes. Thus, it will not take up a lot of space ever in these player evaluations. Instead, I will be touching on those factors that I believe make him move the way that he does and of course those movement actions or improvements that I believe he could make to go to the next level.
Like I alluded to above, in the past year, I have often compared #18 in green/gold to his former division rival, #12 in purple/gold (now #11 in blue/green). However, the more that I broke down Cobb’s game, the more I realized this maybe wasn’t a fair comparison and it was more-so built on what the Pack was asking of Cobb and what he did with these opportunities than it was on the way that he moves on the field. Though I remain impressed, comparing the tactical side of his game to Percy is fine and dandy (because they are capable of the same outcome), but comparing his movement patterning to Harvin is not gonna fly.
I often talk about how two players can achieve the same result (such as a certain time on a drill or a given tactical result on the field such as a catch or kick return) by doing much different things in their movement in order to achieve it. That all said, though they are actually built very similarly (Percy is 5’11”/185ish, Randall is listed at 5’10”/192), both very lean and muscular for their stature, they use this structure very differently. Quite simply, Percy will have no problem running your ass over if you want to stand in his way. Though he can de-masculinize much bigger guys rather quickly in this fashion, he really makes his money making moves on guys in limited confines of space (i.e. just look at the highlights from week 5 in the 2012 season against Tennessee for full evidence of this).
Neither of these things are really in Cobb’s movement repertoire as of yet. Instead, give Cobb a little bit of space and he is just gonna simply run past you (Percy can most definitely do this too though). He is always looking for these 18 inches of daylight so to say and he will make the most of it. He hits high speeds very rapidly and will go from 2nd to 5th gear in a few mere steps in the open field if given the room.
During route running, he is a bit high & wide in his initial starting stance with too much of his weight shifted too far back rather than loaded over his front leg. Because of this, when the ball is snapped and he is starting from a stationary position he is required to perform a quick countermovement with his rear leg in order to overcome the suboptimal position. However, this helps him greatly to get moving then (a lot like a plyo-step/drop-step but he isn’t actually picking up the foot).
He is very quick with his ground contact in his plants but it keeps a pretty vertical line of force (which can present both an advantage and disadvantage depending on the route being run). He plants with very limited flexion at both his hip and knee but performs this energy absorption very rapidly. He does essentially the same thing when he cuts in the open field. He will utilize an open unilateral plant which allows him to not lose much speed at all in and out of the actual cut but it does often allow some movement variability and loss of control & balance.
Numerous times in movement (both in situations running without a ball and with a ball in his hands in confined & open space), anytime he is cutting he has a tendency to lose control of body segments above his center of mass. Meaning, at times he will lose core control which will lead to further imbalance and energy leakage because he will ‘break’ at the core which will sway his shoulders either front-to-back or side-to-side and cause them to rotate over his center of mass (note: that is not where we want it). Some of all of this is based on his juking actions with his head and shoulders when in space at times but I feel like they get too far away from him at times.
After watching him, I don’t see him utilize a sit/dip/drive type of power cut very often where I think he would be able to take advantage of his very elastic & reactive nature. Depending on how the Packers continue to use Cobb, especially in order to be more a more explosive slot guy in short distances, I feel as though he should get a little more knack of loading into cutting and planting actions to be able to keep better control of his body with a lot of crashing bodies going down around him. When he is cutting sharply on two legs, even though he doesn’t lower himself very deep (like he doesn’t in plants), he does get out of the break sharply and back into re-acceleration but his feet are often too close together to get any deeper as well (this piece would have to be fixed in order for him to gain a little more depth and be more powerful out of the cut).
I actually came across a video on YouTube of #18 training during this past offseason (at a facility that I won’t name as you could easily find the video if you desire). He has very fast feet (quick ground contact) and fantastic front-side mechanics in linear movement patterns (i.e. optimal hip/knee/ankle flexion when his leg swings out in front of him when he is moving straight ahead). As is usually the case, these things showed themselves on the field and on the game-film.
Though I am not here to criticize any other training philosophy or football performance specialist, I will say that if I was working with Cobb, I would be taking a little different approach. I would start by increasing his eccentric ability by constantly paying attention to the joint angles he is using in exercises (this definitely was not happening on the video) to ensure that he is developing strength in a way that is going to have a direct transfer and carryover to the positions and patterns he finds himself in on the field. I would use a similar exercise drill as he did in the video when he did Altitude Drops from a box, but I would focus more on his actual positioning when he lands to continue to reiterate the force absorption ability that could separate him from others on the field. To help this further, I would also have him land in various types of absorption positions (i.e. into different types of lunges to simulate different cuts, laterally off of the box to give him that level of control when taking in those kinds of forces, onto 1 leg to help with his typical unilateral-dominant cutting action, etc). From there, I would follow this up in a sequential fashion by actually performing different movement actions (the running of routes and/or the rehearsal of cutting action drills) in which he can focus on the inclusion of the new energy intake ability.
Somewhere early in the process I would also likely include some specific isometric work especially done in unilateral stances (such as an ISO-Lunge Hold done at multiple heights) which would begin to develop greater starting and acceleration strength in this pattern at deeper hip/knee ranges of motion. All of this would be done in an effort to teach his central nervous system (brain & spinal cord) to adopt a new way of moving that I believe would have a more direct transfer to the movement actions which would be beneficial for him on the field.
All in all, I believe that Randall Cobb is a very explosive player who has enormous playmaking ability as well as a huge potential upside especially if he were to continue to add a few pieces to his movement repertoire.