GREEN BAY – To Davante Adams, there’s no such thing as a 50-50 ball with Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown.
It’s more like 90-10 for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
“You wonder why Ben just drops back, looking to the right, he turns left and just throws the ball out there – ‘AB’ comes down with it 90 percent of the time,” Adams said this week as he prepares to take the same field as Brown for the first time in his career Sunday night in Pittsburgh.
That’s the type of receiver Adams wants to become, and is becoming, for the Packers – a reliable yet still explosive target any quarterback can rely on.
While Adams’ rapport with Aaron Rodgers reached a new level last season as he caught 12 touchdown passes and piled up 997 yards, it’s the chemistry he has developed very quickly with Brett Hundley that is turning heads now.
Adams followed up a huge fourth quarter in Chicago (three catches, 79 yards and a touchdown) with eight grabs for 126 yards last week vs. Baltimore.
It was the Packers’ first 100-yard receiving performance this season without Rodgers and just the fourth without Rodgers overall.
The others belong to Jordy Nelson (twice, one with Matt Flynn vs. the Lions in 2011, the other with Scott Tolzien at the Giants in 2013) and Jarrett Boykin (with Seneca Wallace/Tolzien vs. the Eagles in 2013).
The shutout against the Ravens didn’t sit well with Adams or anyone on offense, obviously, but Adams’ performance against a top-flight defense still stood out because of the different ways he made plays.
He caught two long passes along the boundary, grabbed slants over the middle, and deftly dodged a tackler on a quick hitch.
Adams may never possess the open-field speed of a guy like Brown, but paying attention to how receivers like him find success has aided Adams in his development, which has been fairly rapid considering he spent much of his second season in 2015 fighting through injuries.
“I’m a huge film guy, so I watch ‘AB,’ I watch all the best wideouts, even guys you might not think are the best wideouts in the league,” Adams said. “I’m watching them, studying, seeing what I can do to mimic that or add that into a piece of my game. He’s obviously a guy I watch.”
Adams’ value to the Packers is undeniable right now, and while many thought the loss of Rodgers in his contract year could hurt his financial prospects, it’s a credit to the 2014 second-round pick that it hasn’t. Maybe it’s even enhanced it.
That’s an issue that will sort itself out down the road, though, and Adams has said going all the way back to the spring that his next contract isn’t his focus, simply playing his game is.
It was the same approach he took at Fresno State with an early entry into the NFL looming. He didn’t worry about the upcoming draft in his final college season. All he did was go out and catch 131 passes for 1,718 yards and 24 TDs.
Adams is quick to say that he loves proving people wrong, going all the way back to high school. There’s a sense that he relishes the position the Packers are in heading into Sunday night at Heinz Field, with outside expectations low and a much greater spotlight on a Pittsburgh offense coming off a 40-point outing.
Brown had a huge three-TD game that night, and as far as receivers who don’t have the physical build of Atlanta’s Julio Jones, the Steelers star is the gold standard right now.
Adams isn’t out to compare himself to Brown or try to outdo him Sunday night. Such a naïve, selfish approach is not his thing.
But if one coming Brown’s way is a 90-10 ball, Adams will be pushing for his percentages to continue climbing above 50-50.
“That’s something I definitely try to make sure I capitalize on those balls,” he said, “anytime I get one from Brett or from 12 or whoever.”
Over the last season and a half, it’s become a different number for him, too.