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- American football player
When you have to defend the Green Bay Packers’ offense, Job One is figuring out what to do with receiver Davante Adams, the best at his position in the NFL today. You can’t press him off the line, because Adams is so quick with his first step and so shifty with his routes, he’ll just nuke whichever poor cornerback is assigned to him. You will have a very tough time matching him through a route, because Adams is so exact and correct through any route he runs. And best of luck trying to beat him in a footrace down the field.
One way NOT to deal with Adams is with single coverage concepts, because Adams then has more room to work to his side, and that’s when your secondary is in a real pickle. This season against single-high coverage (per Sports Info Solutions), Adams has run 203 routes, with 54 catches on 67 targets for 744 yards, and two touchdowns. Against two-high looks, Adams has run 151 routes, with 25 catches on 35 targets for 346 yards and no touchdowns.
This is a corrective strategy on the part of NFL defenses after what Adams did to single-high coverage in 2020 — 270 routes run, with 81 catches on targets for 971 yards, and a league-high 13 touchdowns. Against two-high coverage, Adams ran 176 routes, with 32 receptions on 42 targets for 335 yards, and two touchdowns.
It’s not that Adams can’t catch against two-deep stuff; it’s more that when Aaron Rodgers sees two safeties up top, he knows that the defense is focusing on Adams to an unnatural degree, and he’s going to have open targets elsewhere. Receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling and tight end Robert Tonyan were the primary beneficiaries of this in 2020; this season, it’s been MVS and receiver Allen Lazaed.
The Ravens faced this offense in Week 15 down just about everybody in their secondary, so they were going to run deep against Adams. Two-deep, specifically. In that game, Baltimore ran two-high coverage on 15 of Rodgers’ passing attempts, allowing 10 catches for 117 yards, and none of Rodgers’ three touchdowns. Baltimore had single-high on 10 of Rodgers’ attempts, and Rodgers completed eight of those for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
The other touchdown came in the red zone — to Adams, and it was Adams’ usually filthy work.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) December 19, 2021
That touchdown came with 1:09 left in the first half, and all around that play, the Ravens were doing everything they possibly could to keep Adams out of the picture. Adams had six catches on seven targets for 44 yards and that three-yard score, but there was a price to be paid for that focus. Valdes-Scantling picked up the most slack, with five catches on seven targets for 98 yards and his own touchdown.
One of Valdes-Scantling’s more explosive plays, a 25-yard reception with 14:26 left in the game, came on a double-in concept to Rodgers’ right side, and Adams finding himself bracketed by THREE Ravens defenders.
You don’t see that every day, but Baltimore defensive coordinator Don Martindale was not going to let Adams beat him, no matter what. So, on this play, he called for linebacker Anthony Levine to press on Adams at the line to establish inside position, cornerback Robert Jackson to reinforce that position 10 yards downfield, and cornerback Brandon Stephens 10 more yards out from Jackson to keep Adams from anything deep over the top.
This gave Valdes-Scantling an easy pitch-and-catch from Rodgers from the outside of the right side formation.
“I think a lot of that was predicated on the coverage that we were seeing,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said after the game, regarding how the Ravens were focusing on Adams, and how that opened chunk plays up for Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Rodgers’ other targets.. There was a lot of double coverage on him, and he still, in some of those instances, was able to separate and find ways to get open. The third-and-6 that he caught, they had a double team on him, and [Adams] was able to get outside. I thought MVS did an outstanding job. It was really encouraging to see him run through the ball. Being strong with those aggressive hands and then finishing the plays. We need that from him. He is an explosive player. He’s a guy that has elite speed. He can really make those big, explosive plays. And we are going to need more of that from him. He’s got to build upon this game.”
Asked this week about this particular play… well, let’s just say that Adams was more than aware. Adams had a screenshot of the play on his phone (as well as other plays in which the Ravens had at least doubled him).
Davante literally has a pic stitch collage on his phone with circles and everything of six times the Ravens threw the kitchen sink at him 😂 pic.twitter.com/Anq1JuT53R
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) December 22, 2021
“Once they do that, I just start running around in circles, just doing whatever,” Adams said. “I turn it into a playground operation. That’s how they want to do it, I just do unfair stuff, too. So, I don’t know what route I ran, but it wasn’t the route I was supposed to run.
“Seriously, I tried to do that [take all the defenders out of the picture], but…”
Adams then took a second to look at the play again, which gave him a good giggle.
“…there’s a lot going on with people in my way and my path. A lot of times, it’s going to be tough, running my route. It’s just different, man. At the end of the day, it’s something we can study and get ready for, if teams are going to do that. Maybe I can take off across the field, but yeah — it gets really cloudy when there’s three people in your way. It’s hard to run your route.”
A note to the Browns, who face Adams and the Packers on Christmas Day: If you’re going to put three guys on Adams as the Ravens did, watch out for the deep over. And don’t be surprised if Adams beats you, anyway.