GREEN BAY – As Davante Adams draws more and more attention from opposing defenses, Matt LaFleur continues to find unique ways to make life a little easier on the Packers’ two-time Pro Bowl receiver.
Take for example this past Sunday’s 21-13 win over Chicago when the Packers’ head coach and play-caller shifted Adams into the slot at times to counteract some of the coverages the Bears were implementing.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers targeted his longtime receiver six times off those alignments, connecting on four passes for 46 yards and an early 29-yard touchdown that came off an audible at the line of scrimmage.
On the touchdown, Adams was lined up in the slot at the “2” receiver position in the trips-left formation, with Geronimo Allison outside at the “1” and Jake Kumerow in the “3” closest to the line of scrimmage.
Faced with a fourth-and-4, the package usually calls for three in-breaking routes but the Bears shifted into a single-high safety coverage when Eddie Jackson dropped down to cover Kumerow at the line of scrimmage.
Instead of cutting inside, the check called for Adams to go vertical with his route, and he beat Chicago nickel cornerback Buster Skrine for the first score of the afternoon and the receiver’s fourth touchdown catch in as many games.
“I think that’s the beauty in what we did last week, especially with Matt getting (Adams) ‘2’ in the slot,” said Rodgers on Thursday. “There’s been times over the years where we’ve put him at ‘3’, and I think ‘3’ is a dangerous spot, but you know ‘2’ can really be a dangerous spot if teams are going to play more two-high because you have to worry about some of the seam stuff that he’s so talented at doing.
“Him at ‘2’ or ‘3’ is a little harder for the defense to double him and he’s kind of at a danger spot there, which we like.”
Despite missing a month with turf toe, Adams is on pace to lead the Packers in receiving for the third consecutive season (63 catches for 788 yards and four TDs). If that trend holds, he’d become the first Green Bay receiver since Donald Driver (2005-07) to lead the team in receiving in back-to-back-to-back campaigns.
With Adams no longer the league’s best-kept secret at receiver after consecutive Pro Bowl appearances in 2017-18, the Packers have evolved with their competition in how they deploy their star receiver. According to Pro Football Focus, Adams has caught 24 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns in 90 snaps from the slot this season.
Adams has followed a long line of versatile receivers who have lined up everywhere in Green Bay’s offense. At the peak of their own careers, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb shifted around to keep defenses on their toes. By lining up Adams in the middle of the field, the Packers have unearthed a unique offensive chess piece defenses must account for.
“Just like they keep us honest by moving around coverages, it keeps me moving around,” Adams said. “It’s tough to double in different areas of the field. If I’m out wide or if I’m inside, it just keeps them guessing. They don’t really know what’s going to happen if I move around a lot. It puts us in a good position where I can be freed up and potentially mess up their communication.”
The Packers face a tall task this Monday night when they travel to U.S. Bank Stadium to take on the Minnesota Vikings. Historically, that matchup has meant Adams squaring off against Pro Bowl cornerback Xavier Rhodes, but that’s not necessarily a given this time around.
Rhodes has started all 14 games this year for Minnesota but Vikings head coach and defensive play-caller Mike Zimmer has been rotating young cornerbacks Mackensie Alexander, Mike Hughes and Holton Hill more this year, with starter Trae Waynes a constant. In last week’s 39-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers, Rhodes only played 14 defensive snaps.
Regardless of who’s covering him – or where he’s lined up – Adams is merely focused on what he needs to do in an important game that could clinch the Packers their first NFC North championship in three years.
“I try to make my approach the same every time I go out there, which is play full speed and be an impact player,” Adams said. “That doesn’t really change much for me. We know what the stakes are.”