GREEN BAY, Wisconsin – By early September 2016, it had been exactly 17 games since Davante Adams’ last 100-yard day – only the second of his career.
The fans had become impatient.
A longtime NFL scout believed they were justified.
“You keep trotting # 17 out there and throwing at him like he was [Falcons star] Julio Jones or something, “the scout said in a text message sent on September 19, 2016, the day after the Packers lost 17-14 to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2, when Adams was targeted seven times and three Had caught passes for 26 yards.
Since then, Adams has basically been Julio Jones.
In 70 games since week 3 of the 2016 season, Jones ranks third among NFL receivers on catches (449), first on yards (6,865), and twelfth on touchdowns (27).
In the same period of time, Adams finished fourth in catches (413), fourth in yards (5,206) and first in touchdowns (50) in five fewer games.
Adams, who competes for the San Francisco 49ers (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox) Thursday night, has been responsible for the NFL lead with seven touchdown catches this season despite missing two games with a hamstring injury.
What makes Adams so successful and so difficult to cover?
Some of his Green Bay predecessors, as well as coaches and players from across the league, agreed to share their views on the matter. Here’s a look at the 27-year-old three-time Pro Bowl player with eyes:
Jordy, James and Randall
James Jones’ career with the Packers (2007-13 and 2015) included playing with Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and a season with Adams. The driver is the front runner among packers at catches and yards. Jennings was one of the most precise distance runners in the league. Nelson’s body control was second to none, as was his connection with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Cobb was the epitome of the slot goal. Jones was the strongest and toughest of the group.
Jones: “I’m always proud to be a competitor, a humble guy and a very good teammate, and as I sit here right now, I can tell you Davante is better than any of us. And that’s not disrespect to Jordy, Randall or someone else Well, I wouldn’t say that to Davante’s face, I’m going to say right to his face, “I’m better than you.” But to you I say it, he’s the best of us all. “
Nelson (laughing): “J.J. is right. Davante has shown it in the last few years. His playing skills and the way he can break up are very rare.”
Jones: “If you look at the receivers in the league, you can say that this is their strength and their weakness. With Davante, you cannot say any of this [Cardinals receiver DeAndre] Hopkins, and he’s not very good at playing at the limit, for example. But when you talk about Davante, you talk about publication, he’s phenomenal. [Yards after catch] By the meter, it’s phenomenal. Route is running, it’s phenomenal. The ability to go up and do the hard catch is phenomenal. Speed, yes, he’s not 4.3 [seconds]but he always comes back and catches the deep balls or doesn’t get caught from behind. There is something special in every category. “
Nelson: “He’s got everything you need as a receiver. Now you see the last couple of years with him and Aaron, there’s the chemical factor of getting on the same page. When they know you got the ball and you still Get the ball and you will know it’s special. “
Jones had a connection with Adams, a selection of the Packers from the second round in 2014, even before they became teammates at Green Bay. Keith Williams, the receiving coach for Adams in the state of Fresno, previously worked with Jones in the state of San Jose.
Jones: “I was not [with the Packers] when they first designed it. I was in Oakland, but when I saw it on TV – I’ll never forget that I saw the draft with my wife – I immediately called Jordy. “
Nelson: “I remember calling JJ because I knew JJ’s trainer was in Fresno state and he had worked a bit with the guys in Fresno. I just called him and said, ‘Who is this kid? What do we have?’ “”
Jones: “I said, ‘You better do your things right, you better keep playing at a high level because this guy you just drew is absolutely special.'”
Nelson: “Yeah, J.J. knew he was the real deal and that’s what you want. I think [Adams] told you guys and he told me he thought I hate him when he was a newbie. I said to him, ‘No, you were just young and I was trying to get you going because there was more to it than just playing football.’ “
Cobb: “The first indicator [was] just his raw natural ability. The first time I saw Davante out in the field he went up and made an incredible catch and we knew there was something special about him from the day he walked into the building. Can jump out of the building, great hands, great distance runners. You just see the skills he’s built, the focus he’s put into his craft to become the best in the league. I’m proud to have witnessed it to see his growth and to see the person he has become, the father he has become and the soccer player he is now. “
After two big games as a rookie in 2014 – 121 yards against the Patriots in Week 13 and 117 yards against the Cowboys in the divisions playoff round – expectations rose. At the beginning of Adams’ second season, Nelson ripped his ACL in a preseason game on August 23, 2015. Less than two weeks later, the Packers re-signed Jones, who had played for the Raiders last season and was cut by the Giants at the end of the preseason. Adams missed three games in 2015 with an ankle injury and was never the same for the rest of the year.
Jones: “”[Adams] was frustrated with being the competitor he is, but he had a lot of good people in his corner. The good thing about the guys he played with we all went through. And we were all there to tell him, “Bro, it’s all good. These kinds of things are going to happen in your career. Everyone knows what you can do, you just keep going. ‘”
Nelson: “I think part of it might have been the room we had, especially the year he fought [in 2015] with J.J. back as veteran leader with Randall. And just to have the stability in this room and to know that there are other people who can play and it’s not all on your shoulders. And I think for the most part in our room we were very honest with each other and helped each other through the good and the bad. In the building, you know when a guy is in trouble and when it’s someone as explosive as him, and that was due to a lower extremity injury that will affect his game significantly. “
Jones: “We all knew when his time was coming, it would be his time. We saw what he had. You would be blind if you didn’t see this. Our job was just to make sure his thoughts were right I tell people all the time, ‘Yeah, Aaron Rodgers never had a first round receiver, but he had a lot of special receivers: Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, myself, Randall Cobb and now it’s Davante’s turn . ‘ “
Dan Orlovsky breaks the Packers against the 49ers and explains which team will be ahead on Thursday.
The opposite view
Over the years, Adams has consistently pulled an opponent’s # 1 corner kick. Try to be a first or second year gamer with this assignment. At this year’s season opener, Adams set fire to the Vikings for 14 catches, 156 yards and two touchdowns. It was rookie cornerback Cameron Dantzler’s first game. With no preseason action, he could only hope that one of his teammates could simulate what Adams would do. At least someone like Amani Oruwariye, the sophomore cornerback of Lions, had some experience to bring to a game.
Dantzler: “I felt like during training camp it started with [Vikings veteran receiver] Adam [Thielen]go against him every day. I felt like he prepared me very well to cover people like that. I think he’s one of the top recipients in the league right now. He just prepared with him during training camp and helped me tremendously with people like Davante Adams. “
Oruwariye: “You can try to take a look, try to tell people to try and give you that look, but if you come from the real source itself that’s the real thing. You just have to try to manage it and do what you can, but he’s really good at what he does.
“Firstly, he mastered his release. Very patient and just knows when to use his hands depending on when you’re shooting your jam and the like. He’s just very smart. I would say he’s a high profile veteran at this point . And then, along with his timing and chemistry with Aaron Rodgers, that’s the biggest thing, I’d say. He just knows where to be at the right time. “
Two of the three opposing head coaches at NFC North have a defensive background: Matt Patricia in Detroit and Mike Zimmer in Minnesota. Patricia got an early glimpse of Adams in that 2014 game against the Patriots when Patricia was New England’s defensive coordinator.
Patricia: “I’m pretty sure there was a breakout game against us in 2014 when I played him at Green Bay. I think this is one of those games that he really stepped in and you can just do it see all the skills that are shown. His releases are. He has a big leap from the limit. He can go at speed. He can go vertical. He has great movement on the track that he can come back to and just part with at this point he’s got enough speed to go vertically, is instantly guided by guys, has enormous hands, his ability to follow the ball in the air is truly phenomenal. he just never loses sight of it. and he’s in able to make some pretty incredible catches as he goes through. He’s one of the most dynamic players in the league. “
Adams’ last four games against the Vikings: 41 catches, 431 yards and five touchdowns.
Room: “He’s very good in the press. He’s doing a great job with the route combinations he drives. He’s excellent at the top of the route. He makes competitive catches really well. He’s one of those guys when you play.” These guys, they’ll get their catches. They just hope you can limit them to not being big games. I think that’s one of his strong points. He catches the ball well over the middle, he catches the ball outside and he is very, very good against the press. That makes it really difficult. And he has a man who pulls the trigger, who believes in him and can manipulate the defense in so many different ways. “
NFL Nation reporters Sarah Barshop, Courtney Cronin, and Michael Rothstein contributed.