GREEN BAY — The only thing Davante Adams has ever asked for on the football field is opportunity. Just give him a chance and the Packers receiver will take it from there.
That was the case when he caught 233 passes from current Raiders quarterback Derek Carr in two seasons at Fresno State, and it hasn’t changed since Adams was selected by the Packers in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Coming off a career night against Chicago in which Adams caught 13 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns, the Packers’ coaching staff approached the third-year receiver with a proposition entering last Sunday’s game in Atlanta.
With Randall Cobb’s and Ty Montgomery’s status uncertain for the Falcons game, the Packers asked Adams to run a few plays out of the backfield in practice in case neither receiver was available.
“We have different opportunities for you to get the ball in your hands,” said Adams, relaying what the coaches told him. “I said, ‘I’ll try it.’ If it looks good, then we’ll continue to run with it.”
The crash course came in handy when Cobb (hamstring) and Montgomery (illness) were among the Packers’ seven inactive players against the Falcons.
Adams lined up everywhere at the Georgia Dome – outside, in the slot and even caught a few passes out of the backfield – on his way to registering a team-high 12 catches for 74 yards.
Adams’ 25 catches in two games are the most for a Packers player in back-to-back games in franchise history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
For as many catches as Adams had in college, he only recorded more than 10 in back-to-back games one time in his career at Fresno State. It came between the final game of his redshirt freshman and sophomore campaigns.
“I know the whole offense. I could get in and play any position. Well, I’m not going to get in and play line,” said Adams, stopping himself with a smile.
“I can play slot, I can be outside. I can come out of the backfield. It’s just a matter of what they want me to do.”
Adams’ 40 catches this season already have surpassed the 38 he caught in 16 regular-season games as a rookie in 2014 and are rapidly closing on the 50 he had in 13 games last season.
It’s a breath of fresh air for Adams, who was hampered by a lingering ankle injury for most of the 2015 season. Adams was starting to feel like himself again in time for the playoffs before injuring his knee after a four-catch first half against Washington.
Adams made a few changes with his body this offseason to maintain his explosion, but also be stronger when trying to shed would-be tacklers.
His ability to turn a short catch into a double-digit gain is one area of his game that’s stood out during the early portion of this season.
“That’s one thing we’ve been emphasizing even more lately than usual, just trying to break that first tackle,” Adams said. “There’s a lot of space, especially if I have a linebacker or safety-type guy guarding me out of the backfield, I like to take advantage of that because I feel like that’s a favorable matchup for me.”
After a trying sophomore NFL season, Adams has tried to take each opportunity as a chance to develop more chemistry with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and gain the coaches’ trust.
That meant taking his career day against Chicago and building upon that against Atlanta, even if it wasn’t always in his traditional perimeter position.
Adams said getting a chance to bounce ideas off Rodgers during the practice week helped him develop a greater sense of comfort in the backfield and it translated on game day.
“I think we do a really good job of moving people around, and last week Davante had to step up and take some of that role,” receivers coach Luke Getsy said. “He did an outstanding job. He’s playing well and we hope to continue to do that – move him around, let him play a bunch of different positions and get the ball in his hands.”
The biggest thing for Adams is not having to worry about how his ankle is going to feel when makes a sharp cut or plants his foot in a certain manner on his breaks.
When asked about his clean bill of health this season, Adams joked with reporters that he doesn’t want to jinx anything. His focus is on showing his “teammates and the rest of the world” that he’s worthy of the targets he’s receiving.
It remains to be seen how much, if at all, the Packers will need to use Adams in the backfield going forward, but he’s certainly showed he can handle whatever is thrown at him.
Adams isn’t throwing any long-term projections out there in terms of numbers. It’s about catching the next pass that’s thrown to him and helping the offense move the ball.
If that happens, Adams will be happy with the result.
“I just want to win. I don’t have to catch 13 passes,” Adams said. “It’s great. I love it, but I just want to make sure I’m doing my job out there.”