Though the writing isn’t permanently penned on the wall, the end of the Cecil Shorts era in Jacksonville seems inevitable. If and when the Jaguars part ways with Shorts, the remaining primary passing attack will be completely built of second year players. Adding age and experience to a young offense if something that Dave Caldwell is on record saying he wished he had done last year. This offseason, Caldwell has another opportunity to add experience and upgrade a Shorts-less void in one swoop.
Randall Cobb isn’t the most experienced free agent WR prospect. In fact, he’s only 24. The thing that separates Cobb from the other free agent receivers is the same thing that segregates most high-priority FAs from their field of standard FAs – his versatility. Versatility allows a free agent to fit into roles that have not already been predefined for him. Arguments like "not fitting the scheme" or "he can only produce in his old role on his old team" don’t hold any weight pertaining to a receiver like Cobb. The guy can create production on his own in almost any situation.
The Jaguars’ need for a true slot receiver would probably be the foremost reason for going aggressively at Randall Cobb. Cobb is a slot machine; put your money into any one-on-one situation and he’ll cash out every single play. I have taken a lot of time to break down his game, but here's something that doesn't need to be broken down:
Jaguars need production on offense? This guy bleeds production. Sure, Cobb's slot numbers lean a little on the pass-friendly arm of his MVP quarterback. But his versatility lends itself to a plug-and-play kind of game; find a spot for him within your offense and get him the ball.
Before diving into Cobb's on-field attributes, I think it's important to understand his progression as a player. Randall came into the league as a missile. Raw, determined agility allowed him to move through defenses like a hot knife through butter. During Cobb's first two seasons, he was the only Packer consistently getting open versus elite defenses. Part of this was his elusiveness, and part of this was his fluid transition through multiple positions.
His first two years, Cobb lined up as a slot receiver, X receiver, RB, and kick returner. He got consistent reps at all of these positions, and was utilized more than usual against better defenses. He was pretty much the Packers' secret weapon. Much like the Saints were using Darren Sproles at the time, Cobb was fed the ball in any capacity that could beat the defense.
After an injury derailed his 2013 season, Green Bay assigned him to a more exclusive slot receiver role in 2014. Over night, he became the best slot guy in the NFL.
Cobb has an unmatched ability to change direction while his momentum is completely sold out. Meaning, in more ways than one, Cobb can shift his velocity instantaneously. Often times, it takes nothing more than a step in his progression. He doesn't always have to sink into the field to change direction, leaving secondaries chasing him through his route and leaving his one-on-one match-ups settled before the ball is even snapped. Below is my favorite example of this.
The Packers stack Cobb and Jordy Nelson. Above, you can see the route Cobb will run.
As the ball is snapped, each Eagles defender picks up his responsibility. It's now a one-on-one match-up, and Cobb already has this one chalked up as a win.
Cobb accelerates to full speed while the defender is peaking inside. His hips are facing where he anticipates Cobb traveling to. In the next frame, you can tell how aggressive Cobb's change of direction is.
ANKLE-BREAKER ALERT. Cobb cuts himself free from the defender with one step.
The defender is crawling towards Cobb. Seriously, he's crawling. The easiest way to separate yourself from the defense is to leave them dazed on the ground.
Rodgers slings it to Cobb, now sitting in his self-created open window.
In another example, Cobb's ability to change direction leans more on his knack for planting and turning than his ankle-breaking speed.
Cobb is going to run out to the flat. Green Bay ran a variation of this play a lot, trying to get the ball into their playmaker's hands.
This is the moment that Aaron Rodgers starts to throw. The Seahawks' Jeremy Lane picks Cobb up, rushing to meet him at the same time Cobb's hands meet the ball. It's important to understand that Cobb is selling the hell out of his route, moving full speed towards the sideline.
This is the moment that Cobb catches the pass. Almost instantly, Cobb plants as he catches the ball and turns up-field. The stop and go is so drastic that it makes Jeremy Lane look like he took an awful angle while pursuing Cobb. In reality, the angle Lane took was only sort of bad.
Here's another camera angle. To change direction, Cobb sinks into the field and plants. Jeremy Lane runs past him.
Cobb gets back onto his feet faster than any mortal person should be able to. He gets up field a few more yards before Sherman and Earl Thomas bring him down.
I included this frame to point out that this is pretty much the only way to bring Cobb down. The Seahawks do a fantastic job containing Cobb here by planting their roots and holding their ground. In any other scenario, you have to find a way to force Cobb out of bounds or tag-team tackle. He's too quick for any other option.
I actually have another play that highlights this point very brightly. Cobb wins one-on-ones. There is absolutely no exception to this statement.
On third and 6, the Panthers are bringing heat. Cobb is Aaron Rodger's hot read. It's another flat route.
Here's where Cobb catches the pass. Davante Adams gets enough of the initial defender on a pick to set Cobb free towards the sideline.
Cobb is going to get the first down, but the Panthers should have him easily contained to that 6-yard gain. However, the defenders aren't set in stance like Sherman and Earl Thomas were, which mean they have already lost the battle. If you're running towards Cobb, you might as well be running after him. In this situation, Cobb breaks the two tackles like he's ripping through wet paper.
lol no chance
The tape on Cobb paints the same picture that his front-running stats create - this guy wins on the field. From a Jaguars point of view, the take-away is obvious - a young receiving core that struggled to create separation at any capacity last season could only benefit from plugging in someone among the best in the business at creating their own separation. Increasing offensive production starts with assessing the talent you have. The Jags don't have elite talent to work with right now. However, give Greg Olson Randall Cobb, and the excuses are diminished. Excuses just don't exist when you have someone on the field that produces his own numbers.
There are other WR options out there, of course. Cobb seems to be a more expansive and better economical fit than other prospects, though. The Jaguars will face stiff competition should they try to make a run at Randall. The Raiders are reported to have strong interest in him, which makes as much sense for them as it would for the Jags.
A plug-and-play guy with a knack for overproducing has surely drawn a lot of attention. The best slot receiver in 2014 is going to get paid. The Jaguars have enough money to make it rain, and Cobb sure would be an aquarium-sized splash.