The debate for the NFL’s top wide receiver is always a spirited debate, but at the moment there isn’t another wideout out there as talented as Davante Adams of the Green Bay Packers.
Sunday’s 45-30 victory over the Chicago Bears featured Green Bay’s best offensive performance of the season. Aaron Rodgers had a nearly-perfect game, completing 29 of his 37 pass attempts for 341 yards, four touchdowns, and a 141.1 passer rating. Adams was unsurprisingly Rodgers’ top target, catching 10 passes for 121 yards and a pair of scores.
It wasn’t a great start for the Packers, however. They trailed 10-0 in the second quarter and struggled to find any offensive consistency early on. Meanwhile, second-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson was doing a solid job of sticking to the NFL’s best receiver.
NBC’s Cris Collinsworth even questioned if Adams was fully healthy early in the Sunday Night Football broadcast. Adams had been limited all week in practice with a hamstring injury, and at the time Collinsworth mentioned the knock, the star receiver had been held in check.
That didn’t last long, however.
In order to get Adams involved, head coach Matt LaFleur drew up a nice third-down play in the second quarter designed to give his receiver an easy reception to gain some momentum for the rest of the game.
Running trips to the right with Adams on the outside, the Packers ran a clearout concept, having Allen Lazard and Josiah Deguara break upfield while embracing contact. That left plenty of space for Adams, who cut behind his two teammates and was able to pick up a reception with room to run for a few extra yards after.
Davante had been quiet up to this point. Packers drew up a play to get him the ball on third down.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) December 14, 2021
Nice clearout concept, with Lazard and Deguara inviting contact to clear space for 17. pic.twitter.com/JYTe4HcJLO
That play seemed to get Adams going for the remainder of the contest. Collinsworth’s initial suggestion that Adams was merely going to be used as a decoy for the game couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
Adams’ first touchdown of the game came right before the end of the first half on a beautiful double move. The receiver feigned an out route before breaking back towards the end zone, changing speeds and getting the defensive back to commit by turning his head back towards Rodgers. As soon as that happened, Adams took off, and Rodgers was able to find him for the touchdown.
Davante Adams with the double move.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) December 14, 2021
Absolutely torched the Bears secondary. pic.twitter.com/MPP12oKZYx
The 28-year-old receiver has no problem making defensive backs look like fools, but LaFleur has still done a great job of finding ways to get the ball in Davante’s hands in open space without him having to do much.
The play-action rollout concepts the Packers have run this year have not been pretty, except for one specific wrinkle involving Adams. On a handful of occasions, the Packers have done a PA rollout with Adams breaking across the formation, putting a ton of stress on opposing defenses to recognize the route and close on him after the snap.
The PA rollout has been an issue for the Packers this year, except for this wrinkle with Davante coming across the line. pic.twitter.com/BQ0ERfuBUW— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) December 14, 2021
The Packers worked that concept to perfection on Sunday night for an easy first down without having to rely on Adams to create separation on his own.
That being said, there’s not a better receiver in the league at creating separation at the route stem, the point in the route where the cut is required. His footwork and body control make him an impossible player to guard in one-on-one situation, and even his more casual routes can create ample separation for him and Rodgers.
No one creates separation at the route stem like Davante Adams.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) December 14, 2021
Even his most subtle moves create space pic.twitter.com/GKgSBHw58p
This out route against Eddie Jackson was no problem for Adams, who casually reeled it in for yet another first down.
Of course, no film study piece about Davante Adams is complete without analyzing his release package off the line of scrimmage. Adams has established himself as one of the best in this phase in NFL history, utilizing leverage, body control, footwork, eye/shoulder manipulation, and pure athleticism to make defensive backs look foolish.
On Green Bay’s final touchdown of the night, Jaylon Johnson lined up pre-snap with heavy inside leverage, blatantly encouraging Adams to break his route outside. The Packers receiver baited Johnson into thinking he was going to go outside and run a fade, breaking to the corner of the end zone and even turning his head like he was looking for the pass.
Last, but certainly not least, the @tae15adams goal-line TD.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) December 14, 2021
Lost in all the talk about this is how he uses his head to get Johnson off balance.
Watch him turn his head on the fake fade, then turn back to cut inside on a slant.
Elite, elite, ELITE. #ProBowlVote pic.twitter.com/nZSrAvF57V
The moment Johnson committed to the fade route, Adams quickly cut back inside on a slant instead for an easy touchdown despite Chicago’s cornerback having inside leverage before the snap. These are the plays that made Adams the best receiver in football.
All of the highlight plays were certainly worth talking about in a film study piece, but one of the most impactful plays Adams made all night was to help set up a teammate.
Deguara had one of his biggest plays of the season thanks to a heads-up play from Adams. With Roquan Smith following Deguara in motion, Adams recognized it and made sure to cut off Smith’s pursuit angle, giving the Packers tight end plenty of space for a big gain.
One of Davante's best plays of the night was setting up his teammate for a chunk play.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) December 14, 2021
Adams recognizes the LB following Deguara in motion, and gets in front of the LB to clear the way. pic.twitter.com/G7TswC58z7
Those aren’t the plays that will show up in the box score for Davante, but they’re further evidence of the Football IQ that the 28-year-old possesses.
Plenty of players on offense deserve credit for helping the unit fire on all cylinders on Sunday night. That being said, no one on the field was able to make plays quite like Adams did.