Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams take Packers' lack of deadline deal for receiver in stride
GREEN BAY – Davante Adams certainly would have welcomed a different result from the NFL trade deadline Tuesday.
The Green Bay Packers' top receiver has carried quite a load on offense for a long time. Since the Packers jettisoned Randall Cobb after the 2018 season, their passing game has been Adams and everyone else. With Tuesday’s deadline passing without any trades, the last significant opportunity for the Packers to give Adams some meaningful help before Super Bowl LV is over.
The gap between Adams and other receivers down the depth chart will continue to be vast.
“I wouldn’t say we necessarily need to (trade for a receiver),” Adams said less than two hours before Tuesday’s 3 p.m. deadline, “because I think we’ve shown what we can do. When I went down, guys stepped up and did what they had to do. Stepped up big. I wouldn’t say it’s a need.
“Obviously, I’ve said this before, I don’t think it’s any secret that could help us potentially. I wouldn’t be opposed to it. It could help us. But I definitely got full faith and trust in my guys here to be able to get it done.”
There were several reports the Packers inquired about Houston Texans receiver Will Fuller. The two teams could not agree on draft-pick compensation, according to reports. Fuller, who has 31 catches for 490 yards and five touchdowns this season, easily would have been the Packers’ second-best receiver. He’s also a free agent after this year, and with the Packers already flush with players in the final year of their contract, Fuller might have been a rental.
The Texans are 1-6 and going nowhere, a reason they explored trading Fuller. They could dangle him on the trade market, requesting teams overpay for a half season of his services. If no team would meet that demand, the Texans had little incentive because of the NFL’s compensatory pick system. The Texans will likely be given a mid-round pick if Fuller leaves in free agency.
Aaron Rodgers surely wouldn’t have minded more help in the passing game, but the quarterback continued to toe the company line before Tuesday’s deadline.
“I’m not going to get into those conversations,” Rodgers said when asked if he’d even broached the subject of needing more help on offense with general manager Brian Gutekunst. “Again, I’m just going to reiterate what I said and continue to say, that I clearly understand my role and my place on this team, and that’s my focus.”
Coach Matt LaFleur suggested the Packers never got particularly close to making a trade Tuesday, saying talks never got "serious" between them and any other team. He spent the day focusing on the San Francisco 49ers game plan, he said, while Gutekunst focused on his primary role of player acquisition. Still, the two had some communication during the day, and LaFleur emphatically struck down an ESPN report that there was disagreement at the team's top levels.
"I have no idea where anything like that would ever come from," LaFleur said. "We’re in constant communication, we’re on the same page and there is no truth to that. I promise you that."
Adams isn’t the only Packers playmaker who could have used help from Tuesday’s deadline. Across the line of scrimmage, there’s another highly paid playmaker who faces constant double teams.
Kenny Clark has had little consistent, complementary support on the Packers' defensive line. With the run defense continuing to struggle, Gutekunst might have been interested in adding depth to the defensive line, something he didn’t do this offseason after the Packers allowed 285 rushing yards in the NFC Championship game at San Francisco.
Clark was adamant the Packers' defensive line does not need reinforcements.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I love the guys that we’ve got. We’ve got to just do our job. It’s as simple as that. We’ve just got to do our job. I’ve got full confidence in everybody.”
Packers' run D needs more swarm
After LaFleur made clear he’s aware opposing offenses have identified the run game as their “formula” for beating the Packers' defense, Clark echoed those thoughts Tuesday.
Clark said there’s nothing special about what the Packers need to fix on their defensive front to finally get a handle on a problem that has plagued them since the start of last season.
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“Guys just got to do their job,” he said. “That’s just what it comes down to. We’ve all got to just buy into it, do our job, beat blocks and fill in and be where we’re supposed to be. It’s as simple as that.”
The Packers got a reminder Sunday of their porous run defense when Minnesota Vikings tailback Dalvin Cook went off for 163 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries. Now they face a short-week trip to San Francisco, where they had their lowlight against the run last January.
“We’ve got to have 11 guys running to the ball,” Clark said. “It’s part of the reason. If we do have him in the backfield, guys just got to make that play. It’s as simple as that. We’ve got to wrap up, we’ve got to make plays, and if somebody misses a tackle in the backfield, it’s good that he’s taking his shot making the running back stop his feet in the backfield behind the line of scrimmage, and the other 10 guys have to be running to the ball to get him down and help him out.”
Filling the voids
With running backs AJ Dillon and Jamaal Williams and inside linebacker Kamal Martin on the COVID-19 list, LaFleur has some critical positions to fill.
He will be allowed to add three players to the 53-man roster to fill those positions and the key question is whether he will have running back Aaron Jones and inside linebacker Christian Kirksey to man their normal starting spots.
Jones has missed the last two games with a calf injury and Kirksey, who is on injured reserve, has a week of practice under his belt after a three-game absence due to a shoulder injury. LaFleur said he would give Jones up to game time to prove he’s ready and see where Kirksey is Wednesday.
If Jones can’t play, LaFleur will have to hope second-year running back Dexter Williams and Tyler Ervin, a former running back playing wide receiver, can handle the load. Williams is the big question mark given the Packers didn’t think enough of him to keep him on the 53-man roster and watched him allow a punt to get blocked when he was elevated from the practice squad.
“I mean, that’s what we have to work with and, you know, those guys work hard and they’ve been a part of our system now for over a year and they know what the expectations and the standards are,” LaFleur said. “So, it was good work for them to get the reps today and we’ll see come game time if Aaron Jones can go or not.”
At inside linebacker, Kirksey’s return would help make up for Martin’s loss. The rookie has logged considerable playing time and has added a physical presence since coming back from knee surgery two weeks ago.
LaFleur refused to show his cards on whether Kirksey will be active, but if he is, Krys Barnes could move over to the weakside position and play next to Kirksey. If Kirksey can’t play, recent addition James Burgess or practice squad linebacker De’Jon Harris might have to see action.
“Those guys are working hard to prepare and get ready to play and if they’re ready to go, we’ll let them go, and if not, we’ll get the other guys, whether it’s Burgess or whoever it may be, ready to fill a void,” LaFleur said.
Lazard close to return
There is a chance receiver Allen Lazard could be activated off injured reserve after core muscle surgery at the end of September.
Lazard practiced all last week and LaFleur said he was close to a return.
“He wants to be out there in the worst way, and he wishes he was out there yesterday,” LaFleur said. “But we're going to take our time and be smart with him."
The Packers do not have any injuries at receiver so it’s possible he’ll give Lazard another week and a half of healing before putting him out on the field.