Lions need to keep eye on Packers WR Randall Cobb
Allen Park — The number of times Randall Cobb has his name mentioned during Sunday's Lions-Packers game will likely be directly tied to the result.
In Cobb, Green Bay has a speedy threat who can produce as a runner, receiver and returner, and the Lions will have to minimize his impact to win the NFC North matchup at Ford Field.
"He gives you all kinds of problems," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said.
With quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Cobb, Lions cornerback Rashean Mathis said the Packers have a "triple threat" in the passing attack. Nelson already has 18 catches for 292 yards and a touchdown this season and will test Mathis and Darius Slay, the Lions' other outside cornerback.
Cobb has 11 catches for 97 yards and three touchdowns and will be a challenge for whoever handles slot duties among the Lions defensive backs. Top nickel cornerbacks Bill Bentley (knee) and Nevin Lawson (foot) are on injured reserve and Cassius Vaughn (ankle) is out Sunday, so the Lions will rely on Danny Gorrer, who signed Tuesday, or safety Don Carey to handle those duties.
The Lions could, though, use one of their outside options to defend Cobb.
"When you're facing talent like that, you look at all options and you adjust accordingly," Caldwell said.
The problem, though, is the Packers have more than two capable receivers. Jarrett Boykin played well after Cobb suffered an injury in 2013, and second-round pick Davante Adams has shown flashes so far with five catches for 50 yards in Week 2.
"He's come along and made some things happen and a guy that's kind of emerged for them," Caldwell said of Adams.
But the 5-foot-10 Cobb isn't just a threat as a receiver. In many ways, he plays like Seattle's Percy Harvin and is a threat even when he doesn't have the ball in his hands, but the Packers do try to get him involved when possible. Last year against the Lions in Week 5, Cobb had a 67-yard run.
"He's a very good football player in all phases," Mathis said. "If a guy got Percy or a guy got Cobb, he wouldn't be mad. He's a threat. And we face threats every week, and we have to be ready for him."
Cobb also has two touchdowns on punt returns and one on kickoff returns. The Packers have used running back DuJaun Harris and defensive back Micah Hyde on kickoff returns so far this season, but there's always a chance Cobb ends up back there.
So far this season, Lions punter Sam Martin has eight touchbacks on nine kickoffs, and the only return gave the Giants starting field position at their 14 in Week 1. Earlier this season, Caldwell said there are some games where the Lions might want to give returners a chance, but the goal Sunday will be to put every kickoff out of the end zone.
Martin also ranks fifth in gross punting with a 48.9-yard average and 12th in net punting with a 40.6-yard average.
"This game is going to be one where we need (Martin) to be at his absolute best, particularly in the punt return game and in the kickoffs," Caldwell said.
Slay said the key to containing Cobb is stopping big plays, but in four games against the Lions, he has 22 catches for 232 yards and four carries for 91 yards.
"Obviously he's a guy that has top end speed. I mean, he can really run," Caldwell said. "He's a game-breaker. He's a guy that can catch a 5-yard slant and turn it into a substantial gain. He's a guy that is certainly tough, not afraid to catch the ball over the middle or in traffic."