In other words, he’s been inconsistent.
Adams, the Green Bay Packers’ second-round draft pick in May, was the ninth receiver selected. Through eight games, he ranks eighth among those rookies with 24 receptions, 10th with 263 yards and tied for seventh with two touchdowns. Out of the 14 rookies with at least 10 receptions, Adams is ninth with 11.0 yards per reception and, according to ProFootballFocus.com, fourth with a catch rate of 75.0 percent.
In his last four games, he’s scored against Minnesota and Carolina and had six- and seven-reception games against Miami and New Orleans, respectively.
“He keeps getting better weekly,” offensive coordinator Tom Clements said before last week’s loss at New Orleans. “He has a better understanding. He’s working at his route-running and his routes have gotten better. He obviously has physical ability.”
Adams’ game against the Saints was filled with highs and lows. He caught a career-high seven passes and just missed his career high with 75 receiving yards. However, his offensive pass interference penalty on a reception inside the 5-yard line doomed a drive and forced the Packers to settle for a field goal. He also was penalized for a false start. Those two penalties are the only ones against Green Bay’s receivers this season.
Worst of all, with Green Bay on the move and in desperate need of a touchdown while trailing 30-16, Adams stopped his route while Aaron Rodgers threw while escaping pressure. The ball glanced off one of Adams’ hands and was intercepted. Rodgers took the blame after the game, saying, “I missed my spot spot there by a little bit,” but Clements pinned it on Adams on Monday.
Through the highs and the lows, Adams has emerged as the clear-cut No. 3 receiver and is going to have a major say in how far the Packers’ season goes. With only Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb as proven threats at wide receiver and without a difference-making tight end, Green Bay is going to need Adams to play like a veteran down the stretch.
“It’s very important,” Cobb said last week. “His growth is very important to this team. He’s very important to this team. His ability, we’ve seen it since Day 1 and we know what he possesses and what he brings to this team. Just continuing his growth week in and week out. I think he’s doing a great job right now. As long as he continues to improve, I think other teams will start to respect him more and his play style.”
Adams is on pace for 48 receptions. That would tie running back Gerry Ellis for third among rookies in franchise history, behind Sterling Sharpe (55 in 1988) and Billy Howton (53 in 1952). Greg Jennings caught 45 passes as a rookie in 2006, James Jones caught 47 passes as a rookie in 2007, Nelson caught 33 passes as a rookie in 2008 and Cobb caught 25 passes as a rookie in 2011. Those four combined for eight touchdowns, led by Jennings’ three.
Of course, none of those four caught 131 passes for 1,718 and 23 touchdowns during his final collegiate season, like Adams did at Fresno State.
“I’m not surprised. It’s just a matter of time before it starting coming full circle and I started getting more comfortable and everything started clicking,” Adams said. “When I got my opportunity, I just tried to make the most of it. I’ve been like that since high school, college and tried to come on the scene and make an impact right away. Why wait? They didn’t draft me in the second round to come here and collect dust. I’m just doing what I can do to help the team.”
Adams says he doesn’t feel any pressure having to buck the odds as a rookie to bolster a Packers receiving corps that has lost plenty of star power the past couple of offseason. In the eight drafts from 2006 through 2013, only 20 rookie receivers caught more than 50 passes. Among the stars who failed to surpass 50 receptions as a rookie are Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, Michael Crabtree, Victor Cruz, Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall.
“It’s more just doing what they brought me here to do,” Adams said. “I talked to Aaron on draft day and he said there’s no reason why I can’t come in and contribute right away. For him to say that to me, that meant something coming from a quarterback like him. I just tried to step up and provide when called upon.”
Considering Jarrett Boykin’s severe regression after a strong 2013 and the tight ends’ combined 23 receptions, Adams must deliver for this offense to succeed against strong defenses.
That makes him an X-factor, right?
The question made Adams and Nelson laugh. It turns out “X-Factor” is Bryant’s nickname.
Whatever the letter, Adams is going to have to play beyond his years.
“I’m just another piece that’s trying to make plays whenever I can,” Adams said. “Call it what you want to but I’m just trying to continue to grow and keep building trust with everybody.”firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.