Davante Adams looks bigger, seems happier and is ready to put the 2015 season behind him — even if he will not totally forget it.
“You want to kind of keep some of the struggles in the back of your mind because, I mean, it’s going to happen. There’s going to be adversity. So, it’s how you get through that,” said the third-year wide receiver after Tuesday’s OTA practice on Ray Nitschke Field. “That’s the difference between the greats and the goods and the not-so-goods.”
Adams fell in the “not-so-good” category last season. With Jordy Nelson out, Adams was unable to take the first- to second-year jump that the team had anticipated. A nagging ankle injury, dropped passes (six to 12, based on different accounts) and misconnections in the passing game with quarterback Aaron Rodgers were all unwanted themes of his season. He had just two touchdown receptions in 14 games (13 starts).
On Tuesday during the team’s second OTA practice, Adams leaped high to snare a contested deep ball from Aaron Rodgers for “the play of the day.” It was similar to some the spectacular catches he made during training camp a year ago after coach Mike McCarthy referred to Adams as an offseason MVP.
“I’m trying to be better than that. I can’t be content with where I was,” said Adams. “Really, the thing is to have a short memory with that. You want to have the memory that you appreciate the coaches and your teammates — especially a guy like Aaron saying good things about you — but you want to take that and get on to a new year. You can’t ever get comfortable. That’s when bad things happen. You have to be better than that.”
Ultimately, Adams needs to transfer his practice performance and playmaking into game performance. Really, only two games in his two years in the league stand out — a 2014 regular-season game against the New England Patriots (six catches, 121 yards) and a postseason game against the Dallas Cowboys (seven catches, 117 yards and a 46-yard touchdown). He came on strong in the most recent postseason with four catches and a touchdown in just more than two quarters of play at Washington before leaving with a knee injury. He was inactive the next week for the divisional playoff at Arizona.
Early in the 2015 season, he missed most of the Kansas City Chiefs game and three games after with an ankle injury. When he came back, he was either still hampered by the injury or just struggled to get open. Perhaps the low point of his season was also a high point. On Nov. 15 at home against the injury-riddled secondary of the Detroit Lions, it took 21 forced targets from Rodgers for Adams to catch a career-high 10 passes for just 79 yards. Two games later, on Thanksgiving night against the Chicago Bears, he caught just two of 11.
For the regular season, Adams caught just 53.8 percent of the passes thrown his way. His 9.7 yards per reception was third-lowest among the 48 wide receivers in the league who caught at least 50 passes.
To his credit, Adams is doing everything he can to move forward and has changed in at least one notable way.
“Davante’s a very steady personality. It isn’t like he’s going to walk in the building banging drums any time,” said McCarthy on Tuesday. “But I think he’s a lot stronger. He’s stronger this year than in the past. And he’s healthy. We’ve talked about this a bunch throughout the season and I think he definitely demonstrated that on the catch today. He can go up and high point the football, and I think you’re seeing a stronger Davante Adams. And he needs the offseason just like everybody else.”
Added Adams, who focused on his upper-body strength after the season when he could not run because of his knee injury: “I definitely made some strides in the weight room to get a little bigger. But my conditioning, my speed, does not change.”
How the added bulk factors into Adams’ game remains to be seen. But separating himself from the pack in the offseason has never been a problem. The Packers have a deep group of wide receivers with different skills, so roster spots at the position will be tough to come by, even for a guy like Adams, who has two years remaining on his rookie contract.
“It’s not just proving it to the team but proving it to myself,” said Adams.
“It’s a new year. Obviously, not everything goes the way you plan it to go. You can’t control some things. My thing is just control what you can control, and that’s my work, what I put in, how I go about this offseason and in-season. I hurt my ankle, I hurt my knee. I can’t do anything about that. What I can do is bounce back from it and that’s all I can do.”
Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org