Packers WR Davante Adams demonstrates he belongs in elite company
GREEN BAY - His greatness is so expected at this point, so exceptionally ordinary, it can go unnoticed.
Davante Adams catches two touchdown passes. He accounts for almost half the Green Bay Packers' points in a 31-12 win against the Miami Dolphins.
It’s just another week.
There’s no flash in his game. He plays the wide receiver position the way an engineer constructs a bridge. Every bolt in the right place. Every detail inspected.
He isn’t the most exciting player to discuss, not when running back Aaron Jones is pirouetting his way through four tacklers for first downs. Not when Aaron Rodgers is dodging pass rushers blind, then chucking completions downfield.
Adams’ game is substance over style. You watch it for 60 minutes on a football field, blissfully unaware of the beauty in its design.
“I don’t see how you’re not going to give him the respect he deserves,” teammate Randall Cobb said Sunday while sitting at his locker. “He’s one of the best in the league.”
Even now, that statement might induce arched eyebrows. One of the best in a league with Julio Jones … A.J. Green … Antonio Brown. The NFL has never been more flush with superstar receivers, a byproduct of its soaring pass game. No, Davante Adams doesn’t get their respect.
But Adams did something Sunday that Jones, Green and Brown didn’t.
Even Adams was unaware.
His second touchdown, a 25-yard catch that gave the Packers a comfortable, 28-12 lead midway through the third quarter, was the 35th of his career. In sports culture, the number 35 isn’t celebrated. There will be plenty more milestones ahead for Adams. But, given Adams doesn’t turn 26 until Dec. 24, those 35 touchdowns offer an interesting barometer.
Green had 29 touchdowns before age 26. Jones had 26. Brown had 15. Among contemporaries, only New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who had 40 career touchdown receptions when he turned 26 last week, can match Adams.
Of course, playing with the rapidly decaying Eli Manning, Beckham has only five touchdowns the past two seasons.
Adams now has 19 touchdowns in the same time.
“I put the numbers up there,” Adams said. “I put the work in to do it, but I can’t change peoples’ minds if they already have it made up. All I can do is keep getting open and keep scoring touchdowns.”
That’s not to say Adams has done the same as Jones, Green and Brown. Not yet, anyway. There is more to playing receiver than catching touchdowns, though that’s a rather important part. Jones, Green and Brown have been their offense’s top receiving threat for much longer, attracting the primary focus of opposing defenses each week.
But Adams has made it clear this season: He’s on his way.
“I think he just hasn't put up that 'wow' season yet,” Rodgers said.
If there were ever any concerns Adams would struggle in the wake of Jordy Nelson’s departure, those doubts were quelled long ago. A little more than a year after he surpassed Nelson on the Packers' receiver pecking order, Adams’ production hasn’t dipped even a little. He’s having a potential All-Pro season through nine games, catching 62 passes for 787 yards and nine touchdowns.
Opponents certainly have noticed.
New England constantly double covered him last week. Adams caught a touchdown anyway. Miami dropped mostly in Cover 2, designed to provide constant help against Adams. He caught two touchdown passes.
And when defenses try to cover Adams with one cornerback? Well, he ran circles around Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters in late October.
“People respect him,” Rodgers said. “I mean, other teams do. You’re seeing how other teams play him, it’s a lot of cloud to his side, or he’s getting star coverage. To him, that matters and that’s respect, and the outside respect is going to continue to come in.”
Why hasn’t it arrived yet? There are theories. Maybe Adams would get more attention if he grabbed a flip phone from underneath the goal post. A little flash to spice up those numbers.
His game is scary enough.
“I played against those guys,” Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said, “and Davante is different as far as the explosiveness. Obviously, Julio is very, very explosive, but Davante is not only explosive vertically, he’s explosive laterally. So any time you get guys who can move explosive laterally also as vertically, it makes them tough to cover. He’s got that wiggle to him. Not a lot of guys have that wiggle. It’s hard to press a guy like that at the line all day long.”
Of course, Adams’ production gets a boost from playing with Rodgers. Stick him with Miami quarterback Brock Osweiler and he wouldn’t be on his way to a third straight season with at least 10 touchdowns. But Jones has an MVP quarterback in Matt Ryan. Green plays with a franchise starter in Andy Dalton. Brown has Big Ben.
Why isn’t Adams getting their respect?
“Because he plays with Aaron,” Cobb said. “Everything always goes toward Aaron. It don’t matter what we do as receivers. At the end of the day, Aaron is going to get the praise of that. It’s just the way it’s always been.”
Even still, Nelson had six touchdown catches before turning 26. Cobb had 31. Greg Jennings had 25. Donald Driver had two.
Adams wonders if the memories of his second season still linger. Perhaps the most impressive part of his early-career success is how miserable that sophomore year became. Only one touchdown in 13 games. Many more drops than that.
He recovered these past three seasons, placing himself in elite company. If he hasn’t caught the game’s best receivers yet, Adams isn’t far behind.
“I mean,” Cobb said at his locker, “what more do you want?”