GREEN BAY, Wis. – The money hasn’t changed Davante Adams.
Not in the Green Bay Packers' locker room, where he and fellow veteran Randall Cobb remain not only the leaders but the spokesmen for the receivers. There’s Adams at his locker on most days, answering whatever questions the three rookies have and also those from the throng of reporters who work the locker room on a daily basis – never big-timing or blowing off either entity. If you didn’t know Adams signed a four-year, $58 million contract extension last December, you’d have no idea he’s the eighth-highest paid receiver in the NFL. There’s nothing entitled about Adams’ approach.
And not on the field, where his play hasn’t dipped a bit since his payday.
Through six games and with the Packers on their bye, Adams ranks tied for the NFL lead in touchdown catches (six) and third in receptions (47). He’s fresh off a 10-catch, 132-yard, two touchdown game in Monday night’s comeback win over the 49ers – his fifth career 10-plus catch game (which ranks third in team history). Since the start of the 2016 season, no one in the NFL has more touchdown catches than Adams’ 28. Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, with 27, is the only other player with more than 23 in that stretch. In that same span, Adams has a touchdown in 22 of the 36 games in which he has played, most in the NFL and three more than the next-best (Brown).
“When you guys ask questions about personnel, ‘How’s Richard Sherman? How’s this person? How’s that person?’ I want to say those people are good, but at the end of the day, I feel like with where I’m at with my game and my confidence in my game and my natural ability, me tying into this offense and [Aaron Rodgers], I feel like a guy can be [dominant],” Adams said recently.
It's no wonder that Rodgers pinpointed Adams, along with tight end Jimmy Graham, as someone who needed the ball in his hands more when the quarterback expressed his frustration with the offense earlier this season.
To be sure, the Packers were in a pass-happy mode against the 49ers, but Adams, Graham and emerging rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling all topped the 100-yard receiving mark against San Francisco.
What’s more, it was Adams’ who drew an illegal contact penalty on Sherman in the final minutes to keep the game-winning drive alive. The penalty wiped out a third-down sack.
“I was going to come to him; I was looking actually at the release on the backside first and then was going to obviously come to Davante,” Rodgers said. “He was the hot hand. I mean, he rolls out of bed he’s the hot hand, he’s a talented guy. Tonight was how we need to play moving forward. Sixteen targets for Davante, I think nine for Jimmy. That’s where we want to be.”
Receivers in Green Bay might not get the credit sometimes; that usually goes to Rodgers. But over his years, the Packers have had dynamic route-runners (see Greg Jennings and James Jones) and receivers with exceptional body control (see Jordy Nelson). Adams fits into a different skill set.
“His releases,” Rodgers said when asked what makes Adams successful. “He catches the ball really well. Obviously, he’s a tough release matchup, because he’s able to mix up his releases. ... He’s a tough cover because he can run and threaten you down the field. He’s obviously a start-and-stop guy. He’s just so tough to guard at the line of scrimmage. You can’t press him, because he can beat you outside and get on top, or he can stick you outside and beat you inside and run away from you.”
It wasn’t always as easy as Adams has made it seem.
He had moments during his rookie season that excited everyone – the six-catch, 121-yard game against New England, the seven-catch, 117-yard playoff game against Dallas. Then, in 2015, when they needed him most after Nelson’s preseason knee injury wiped him out for the year, he regressed in part due to an ankle injury that limited what he does best. He simply couldn’t push off on that ankle and beat people at the line of scrimmage.
Yet Adams didn’t hide from his disappointing second year, prompting teammate David Bakhtiari to say this past summer: “He could have went one of two ways. He could've been a s--tbird -- just a talent who couldn't pick it up -- or he could go the other direction. And he decided, ‘I'm not going to let you guys or anyone else write my story.'"