Davante Adams ready to make 'Leap'
Davante Adams thought he had a touchdown. Twice, actually.
There he was, dashing through the open field near the end of the first half Sunday against the New York Jets. He had a step on rookie safety Calvin Pryor, nothing but green field between him and a leap into the stands.
Adams didn't trust his speed. He juked away from Pryor, into the path of cornerback Dee Milliner.
"I should've scored, if I kept running," Adams said. "But I thought that he was kind of a little faster than he was."
He was closer to the goal line in the second half. Feet in the end zone, Adams caught a dart from quarterback Aaron Rodgers. His momentum carried him out of bounds, near the pylon.
The sideline judge spotted the football at the two-foot line. Adams whirled around, pointed at the goal line, adamant he had his first touchdown at Lambeau Field.
"Man, I thought I scored," Adams said. "I saw the replay, and it looked like I scored. My feet were in, but I guess the ball never crossed."
Adams didn't want to wait another game for his first Lambeau Leap. Playing before a sellout crowd in his first home game with the Packers, the second-round receiver from Fresno State craved an introduction worth remembering.
Instead, he watched veteran Randall Cobb score his second straight touchdown on the next play.
Standing at his locker after the game, Adams didn't mind. He said the crowd was "alive" Sunday. There were 78,000 fans wearing green and gold, almost double the capacity of his college stadium. Adams felt the energy. His first taste of Lambeau Field was everything he'd hoped.
It helped that Green Bay completed a historic comeback. Adams played a significant role in the Packers' win, catching five of the seven passes thrown his way and finishing with 50 yards. Only Pro Bowl receiver Jordy Nelson had more receptions.
"It's a whole completely different type of feeling coming out here in front of our fans," Adams said. "It's our home opener. I've never felt that type of feeling before, so I knew I had to rise to the occasion."
The production was one thing. More impressive, the rookie came through in clutch moments.
Adams didn't flirted with the scoreboard on arguably his most impressive catch. Before his dash through open field set up Green Bay's first touchdown, the Packers were stuck in the shadow of their own end zone near the end of the first half.
On the 3-yard line, with his drop back entering the end zone, Rodgers had to be selective with where he threw the football. So it means something that the quarterback's first pass – and completion – on what became a 97-yard touchdown drive went to his rookie receiver.
"I thought Davante really stepped up," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "You talk about a young man taking advantage of his opportunities. He made clutch catches, strong after the catch. I thought he had a good day."
McCarthy stopped short of formally placing Adams above Jarrett Boykin as the Packers continue searching for a No. 3 receiver to replace the departed James Jones. But, a week after seeing limited snaps through Green Bay's opener in Seattle, Adams clearly was Rodgers' third option Sunday behind Nelson and Cobb.
The gap between his first and second professional game was wide. Adams played 37 snaps against the Jets. Two more than Boykin, 28 more than he had in Seattle.
Twice, Adams converted third downs, including the big play for 24 yards on third-and-10 that set up Green Bay's first touchdown at the end of the half.
Rodgers said the difference started in practice last week. Adams was more consistent, and his quarterback noticed.
"I need to see a guy do it in practice before you can really trust him in a game," Rodgers said Tuesday on his weekly ESPN Milwaukee radio show. "To Davante's credit, he has been doing it in practice more. I'm not sure if it was the limited playing time in Week 1, or just something clicked in, but he's been practicing a lot better.
"As you watch him more in practice and in the drill work, you see which routes you feel really comfortable throwing the football to him."
Rodgers said Adams was his No. 1 option on the long catch-and-run, a high honor for a rookie in his second game. In practice, Rodgers said he's seen Adams run that specific route well. Visual evidence breeds confidence.
When game time came, Rodgers trusted the rookie would do it again. He wasn't disappointed.
"I wanted to get him a throw at some point," Rodgers said Sunday. "He ran a really nice route on the two-minute drive that he ended up catching and avoiding the safety and turning into a big gain that put us down there in tight to score. It's plays like that that give you a lot of confidence as a young player, and I'm really proud of him.
"He stepped up, he played really well, and I think he'll start to settle in and you'll see even more big plays from him."
No, Adams didn't find the end zone against the Jets. It was only one game. Inside, he knows there's plenty of time to make the Leap.
Sunday was a good, first step.
"It's big," Adams said. "This is the type of stuff I've got to do to keep showing my whole team and the staff – even myself – that I'm capable of playing and making plays at this level."