Proof positive: Davante Adams’ Pro Bowl selection shows he’s finally gaining deserved notoriety
GREEN BAY — Equanimeous St. Brown had a confession to make.
Although the Green Bay Packers rookie considered himself a football fan during his college days at Notre Dame and an aficionado of the NFL’s great wide receivers while striving to become one himself, St. Brown arrived this spring as a sixth-round pick not knowing much about the elite receiver who was sitting next to him in meetings: Davante Adams.
“I’d heard about him, but I didn’t really know how good he was until I got here,” St. Brown said. “You only hear the big names like (Atlanta’s) Julio (Jones) and ‘AB’ (Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown), guys like that. Davante is definitely underrated.”
That might finally be changing— better late than never.
Adams, who entered the league as a second-round pick from Fresno State in 2014, has finally gotten his peers’ and NFL fans’ attention in this, his fifth season. Although, it’s still fair to wonder if his play has gotten as much respect as it deserves amid one of the greatest performances by a Packers wide receiver in the club’s 100-season history — despite Green Bay’s disappointing season.
He enters Sunday’s game against the New York Jets having caught 100 passes for 1,315 yards and 12 touchdowns, meaning he needs 13 catches in the final two games to break the single-season franchise record for receptions (112 by Sterling Sharpe in 1993) and 205 yards to break the single-season team record for receiving yards (1,519 by Jordy Nelson in 2014).
“I’m really happy for Davante. People have been debating, I think, on whether or not he’s an elite player, a No. 1 receiver and all this garbage,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “He’s had a fantastic year. And he deserves it.
“I would love for him to break some records. The fact that he’s put up these numbers already — 100 catches and over 1,300 yards — is fantastic. I’d love to get him over those records because we’ve been around for a long time (as an organization).”
Adams, who went to last year’s Pro Bowl as an injury replacement after being chosen as an alternate, had never surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving threshold before this season, having finished 2016 with 75 receptions for 997 yards and 12 touchdowns, and having managed 74 receptions for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, when Rodgers missed nine-plus games with a fractured right collarbone and now-departed backup Brett Hundley was under center instead.
Why it’s taken Adams to get his due is anyone’s guess, but he has a few theories: That 2015, when Nelson missed the whole year after a preseason knee injury and Adams — hobbled all season by an ankle injury suffered early in the year — put up pedestrian numbers (50 receptions, 483 yards, one touchdown), gave observers the wrong impression about him; and that playing with Rodgers, a future Pro Football Hall of Famer, has made people think his otherworldly talent makes any receiver effective.
“Everybody thinks that anybody can make plays (in this offense), given the quarterback that you have. That it’s just super easy,” Adams said. “And then, I didn’t burst onto the scene with groundbreaking numbers. I didn’t wow anybody. I had a solid first year (38 receptions, 336 yards, three touchdowns), and then the second year wasn’t what I wanted. And then I think people got hung up on that and stopped paying attention to me.
“Maybe they just need to see more years in a row and they’re not convinced yet. That’s really all I’ve got for you at this point.”
Asked if breaking Sharpe’s and Nelson’s records would provide validation, Adams said other numbers — namely the Packers’ 5-8-1 record — take away from his own.
“It would mean a lot. It would be a great individual accomplishment. But obviously the main goal is to be successful as a team,” Adams said. “I’ll definitely accept any milestones or accomplishments along the way, even if it doesn’t come exactly how I wanted them. But it obviously takes a little bit away to be in a position where you’re not going to the playoffs while you’re breaking records. It just doesn’t feel the same.”
For Rodgers, whose season has not lived up to his standards, Adams has been a savior. Without Nelson (who was cut in March) all year, Randall Cobb (whose season has been derailed by a recurring hamstring injury) and Geronimo Allison (who was supposed to replace Nelson but is on injured reserve after surgery for a core muscle injury), Adams has been the one trusted pass catcher in Rodgers’ arsenal.
“He’s been a lot of fun to throw to this year,” Rodgers said. “That’s why he’s a No. 1 receiver and one of the top guys in the league — because he can make those plays. He can get open on anybody, he can go up and get the ball, he can get down the field over the top on guys, he can make contested catches.
“I think the beauty in his game is that there’s some room for improvement, too, I really do, and I think he would say the same thing. As tactical that he is at the line of scrimmage and his ability to make plays down the field, I think he can get even better. That’s scary for the defense and exciting for myself and the future of this team.”
Adams said he didn’t know exactly how many catches and yards he needs — “I’m not counting, but hopefully A-Rod’s counting,” he joked — and admitted that he can be even better than he’s been this season.
“I feel like I’m still scratching the surface now. I’m nowhere near my prime. A lot more positive things to come, but I’m definitely happy and it’s a great accomplishment.”