As Mike Daniels left his team’s week 11 game against the Seattle Seahawks, the Green Bay Packers were left without one of their — and the league’s — best interior linemen. Many astute Packer fans should already know what Daniels brings to the table, but if you need a refresher, I wrote about him a few weeks ago. After that article was published, Daniels picked up his second sack of the season against the Patriots and continued his run-stuffing ways against the Miami Dolphins a week later.
Daniels was well on his way to another very good season until he injured his foot against the Seahawks, sidelining him for multiple weeks. The heir-presumptive to replace him is former 3rd round draft pick Montravius Adams; while Adams has played sparingly so far in his career, he logged a career-high 23 defensive snaps against Seattle with many of those coming after Daniels exited. As the third round pick in Ted Thompson’s final and possibly worst draft, Adams has a pretty high billing to live up to. Let’s review some film to take a quick peek at how Montravius has been used so far and see how he will try to fill the hole left by Daniels.
The 2017 season was essentially a lost one for Adams; after undergoing surgery for a stress fracture in his foot, he played in only 66 snaps, and a lot of those snaps left room to be desired. He didn’t generate much in terms of a pass rush, and was late in disengaging from his blocks. There were a lot of plays like this, simply giving up too much ground:
Playing in Daniels’ 3-technique spot, Adams was consistently pushed around in the run game and, when he didn’t give up ground, was unable to disengage from his blocker. He definitely has a good first step for a DT, but if his initial pass rush was stymied, there weren’t a lot of moves to try again. With a shortened rookie campaign due to injury, however, there was a built in excuse for his lack of production in his 2017 season.
The 2018 season, one filled with promising off-season headlines about getting back on track, has now become a golden opportunity for Adams to prove his worth. Still only playing about 8% of defensive snaps before last Sunday’s spike, the first half of this season hasn’t provided as many results as one should expect. While it was always going to be difficult for Adams to see significant playing time with a starting rotation of Daniels, Kenny Clark, and Muhammad Wilkerson, only 8% of snaps is a bit concerning. When he is on the field, there are signs of improvement, but only time will tell how much.
Adams has been used as a clone of Diesel; it even shows up in his pre-snap stance.
He predominantly lines up in the 3 technique, Daniels’ main spot. This spot is tasked with taking on double team blocks and eating up space to free linebackers; i.e., you need to be strong as an ox to succeed here. While it generally takes longer for defensive linemen to excel as opposed to their skill position counterparts, Adams’ work so far has been...less than inspiring.
Let’s start with the good. Adams has, on occasion, flashed good handwork with his pass rush moves. In notching his first career sack against the Brock Osweiler-led Dolphins in week 10, Montravius displayed a top notch swipe and rip move. Watch how fluid his right arm transitions from swiping the linemen’s hands to dipping and ripping:
Active hands are important for an interior lineman, as they unlikely to beat their man with pure speed, and there is less room to work with blockers and your own linemen on either side of you. Against the Vikings, in one of his six snaps on the day, Adams timed the punch of his blocker well and swatted away his hands:
Unfortunately there was another blocker there to stop him. On the next series, Adams showed pretty good handwork and utilized a swim move, but again was stymied by interior help.
Montravius has tried to work in the ‘hump’ move as his counter move, a move that Reggie White made famous. (Quick tangent - if anyone ever seriously compares the skill level of Montravius Adams to Reggie White, have them seek immediate medical attention.) Anyway, the general premise of the hump move is to have the defender fear your speed around the edge so much that they open up their base and lose leverage. The defender then lodges their inside hand under the armpit of the blocker and converts speed to power and shoves the blocker out of their way.
It’s not easy to execute, and you need good leverage and upper body strength to make the shove. Adams has tried it a few times when he doesn’t really have either:
It’s good that his repertoire doesn’t just doesn’t consist of the bull rush, but he clearly needs to work on his pass rush moves if he wants to succeed with any consistency.
More importantly, however, is Adams’ ability to defend the run. Mike Daniels exists in Pettine’s defense to take on multiple blockers without losing ground, which frees up linebackers to make tackles. If Adams loses ground on the double teams or gets controlled in one on one matchups the defense will be in trouble. Due to his limited snap count so far in 2018, there haven’t been many instances of Montravius having to defend the run. When he has, the results haven’t been very good.
In his limited snaps, Adams hasn’t shown the playing strength needed to hold the 3 technique spot. Here against the Rams, Montravius gets pushed back on the double team block so easily that the offensive linemen don’t even have to peel off him to block Blake Martinez; they simply push Adams into him (right side of clip):
A little bit later on in the same game against the Rams, Adams again was victim of a combo block, this time going to the right.
Adams improved on this one a bit; while he still gave up way too much ground, his arms were extended which allowed him to read the ball carrier, shed the block, and go in for a tackle. Without Kenny Clark knifing in or Clay Matthews holding his ground, though, Todd Gurley would have had a much wider lane to run through.
Nobody is going to be 100% against double team blocks; as much as I laud Daniels for his run stuffing ability at the 3 tech, he gets beat sometimes too. That’s just how the position goes. Daniels rarely gets beat one on one though, and Adams hasn’t yet shown the ability to consistently win the one on one battles.
In this clip against Washington, Adams does a good job getting his hands extended against the guard. His eyes are up and locked on to Adrian Peterson - all good things. Where he screws up is in shedding the blocker; instead of cleanly disengaging, he stands straight up and tries to cut off Peterson’ path with his feet instead of his hands.
His blocker is still attached, Peterson reads Adams’ mistake, and runs in the hole that Adams just vacated. He essentially blocked himself; had he stayed lower and actually shed the block instead of leaving his gap responsibility, he would have had a good opportunity at a tackle.
Adams played better against Seattle. This clip shows what he should have done against Peterson and the Redskins:
There’s great arm extension and placement; even though the guard originally starts out with better leverage than Adams, Adams’ hands hit low enough that when both players extended themselves Adams ended up with better leverage. He didn’t give up an inch vertically, and he didn’t jump out of his gap to attack the ball carrier, instead waiting until the running back chose his hole and then shedding the block. If Reggie Gilbert hadn’t taken everybody out, Adams could have made the tackle.
He also managed to win a double team block with Seattle backed up on their own goal line too; while Seattle backed up in their own end zone, Adams hunkered down and didn’t budge against both the guard and tackle.
If he can manage to continue taking on double team blocks like the above clip, he should hold up OK. Unfortunately, there just isn’t a lot of evidence out there yet as to whether or not that will happen.
The lack of big playing time makes it hard to place where Adams is at in his progression. Heck, against the Patriots, Adams played a then-season-high 13 defensive snaps and the Patriots called quick pass plays before Adams could make any impact on 8 of the plays, while one other was the Edelman to James White pass. There are good flashes of talent, particularly while rushing the passer, but there have also been some poor plays. Has he not seen the field because the coaches realize he’s not that good? Or is it because the group in front of him is deep and better than average? Either way, it’s make or break time for Adams in the next few weeks. He can play well against the run, he can get blown off the line of scrimmage, or he can do just OK — time will tell which of those is most reflective of his ability.