JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Late in the first quarter Sunday, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams created separation on a deep route down the middle of the field. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers rolled to his left and heaved.
Now in his third season, Adams at his best is an acrobatic player with uncanny aerial abilities and big-play potential. At his worst, Adams is a plodding receiver who struggles as much with dropped passes as he does to get open.
When his promising rookie season gave way to nagging injuries (ankle, knee) and a sophomore slump — 50 catches, 483 yards, one touchdown — his job security on the 53-man roster was questioned.
“It is what it is with all that,” Adams said Sunday. “I’m not worried about that; we’re on to a new year.”
BOX SCORE: Packers 27, Jaguars 23
Still, the social media grumbles resurfaced when the pass from Rodgers, perhaps a smidgen underthrown, slipped through Adams’ hands on what would have been a massive gain. Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Prince Amukamara may have glanced the football, or Adams himself, as the ball fell through.
But then, in the waning seconds of the first half, Adams made the kind of play that reminds viewers why general manager Ted Thompson snagged him with a second-round pick.
His moment began with Rodgers engulfed in the pocket, one player tugging on the quarterback’s jersey from behind and another ready to level him from the front. Rodgers, still mentally unencumbered, lunged forward to unleash a dart toward the end zone. The ball traveled some 35 yards, and Adams, draped by former Packers corner Davon House, made an impressive touchdown catch in traffic.
House was flagged for pass interference, which the Packers gladly declined.
“Aaron, from what I saw, it looked like he got hit a little bit,” Adams said. “Then he slung it down there and (Davon) House, aggressive, a good corner, he was on me tight a little bit. So I tried to shield him off and I came down with a tough grab.
“The first one got tipped by Amukamara, so I knew I had to come up with this one.”
His celebration was equal parts defiance and relief. Adams, criticized heavily throughout the 2015 season, rose to his feet for a vicious spike of the football. He turned his back to the fans and pointed to the name on his jersey.
In the locker room, Adams grunted forcefully when describing his emotion in that moment.
“Last year obviously I didn’t get in (the end zone) nearly as much as I planned or wanted to,” Adams said. “So to get one in the first game, it was like I needed that for myself and for the team. It was a critical moment, and it felt good.
“It was more for myself. It had nothing to do with other people out there. Outside noise, I don’t pay attention to it. When I get a touchdown like that in a moment like that it was more just letting a little — like an exhale. It was good for me.”