GREEN BAY – It’s not definite, but all signs point to the Packers getting wide receiver Davante Adams back from his ankle injury this week.
Adams has been out since the opening series against Kansas City in Week 3, missing nearly four full games. In the last three games, the Packers offense has hit a prolonged bumpy stretch not often, if ever, seen with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.
The play count has been down (59 and 49 snaps, respectively, the last two games), three-and-outs have been up (10 in three contests) and big plays have been harder to come by in Green Bay’s last three wins.
Is getting Adams back in the lineup the key to getting the offense back on track?
“It could be,” Rodgers said on Wednesday. “It depends on his physical status. His ability is there. He’s got a lot of believers in the locker room and upstairs in what he can do.”
Chief among those believers could be Rodgers. Seeing Adams attack his first full offseason as a pro the way he did after going over 100 yards receiving as a rookie in arguably the season’s two biggest wins – over New England in Week 13 and Dallas in the playoffs – has left Rodgers with no shortage of praise for the 2014 second-round pick.
“You saw last year when he played with confidence, he made some big-time plays in some big games for us. We have to get back to him playing like that,” Rodgers said. “I think it’ll be a quick transition. He’s a second-year player but he’s a very mature player, and he can do a lot for this offense if he gets opportunities.”
Adams’ receiving mates sound just as confident his return will provide a significant boost after seeing him in Wednesday’s practice.
“Another playmaker. Harder for us to guard,” James Jones said of the difference Adams could make on the field. “He looked real good out there today. We’re glad to get him back. It puts another weapon for us out there on the field, man, a very good weapon. I believe ’Te is going to be a special player in this league.”
As he did Monday, Adams stopped short of guaranteeing he’d be on the field Sunday night in Denver, but he remained optimistic. Calling his return “long overdue,” Adams is eager to play again, having missed games for the first time since his redshirt season at Fresno State in 2011.
“I’m getting better day by day and just hoping this is the week,” Adams said. “We’re pushing and it’s looking good so far. Just have to keep working and making sure I’m taking care of myself.”
Taking care of the ball and Rodgers will be priorities Nos. 1 and 1A for the Packers against the Broncos defense. Denver is second in the league in takeaways (17, with four TD returns) and first in sacks (26), an eyebrow-raising combination.
Consider the Broncos also rank fourth in rushing defense and the unit is the most well-rounded and dangerous the Packers have faced thus far.
“There are no weak spots,” Rodgers said. “It’s a great defense from the front line to the back.”
Added veteran guard Josh Sitton: “They stop the run, they get after the passer, and they know how to make plays on the ball when it’s in the air.”
The Packers haven’t faced the Broncos since 2011, before Peyton Manning’s arrival as QB when they were a completely different team on both sides of the ball.
With Oakland last year, Jones faced the Broncos’ defense twice and said they’ve gone from a good defense to one “playing at a faster pace.”
“It looks like they’re all on a string,” Jones said. “It starts up front with the pass rush, and you can tell the DBs are feeding off that in the back end, the way they play and how they try to jump routes.”
Ball security is always at a premium for the Packers, with drills geared toward it in practice every day. Late-game ball security will be especially important on Sunday.
Seven of Denver’s takeaways have come in the back half of the fourth quarter or overtime, serving as game-changing plays in their six wins.
“Our mentality is the same,” Jones said. “Take care of the football, especially on the road. We don’t want to give them easy possessions.”
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