GREEN BAY, Wis. – Davante Adams knew Xavier Rhodes like the back of his hand. From 2014 through 2019, Green Bay’s star receiver and Minnesota’s ace cornerback squared off 10 times.
Sunday’s season-opening game between these NFC North rivals will have a different feel to it. Not only won’t there be fans at U.S. Bank Stadium but Adams won’t be lining up across from No. 29. In fact, the Vikings are without three of their top cornerbacks from past seasons with the release of Rhodes and the free-agent defections of Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander.
Combined, Rhodes (97 starts, 10 interceptions), Waynes (53 starts, seven interceptions) and Alexander (10 starts, two interceptions) started 160 games and intercepted 19 passes. Minnesota’s new group of corners, third-year players Mike Hughes (five starts, two interceptions) and Holton Hill (four starts, one interception) and rookies Jeff Gladney, Cameron Dantzler and Harrison Hand, have combined for nine starts and three interceptions.
For Adams, the new faces mean perhaps a little different kind of studying than before previous matchups. Mostly, though, Adams is worried about himself.
“At the end of the day, I’m not really concerned with that,” he said on Wednesday. “Like I said, I go out and run my routes, and I try to dictate and make them dictate to what I’m doing. I don’t like to go out and let them set the tone and worry about how this guy plays, if he’s going to press a certain way. I’m just going to play my game and make him, the mentality I have running routes every game is make them chase me. So, at the end of the day, I’m going to go out and play fast and do what I do and make them respond to that.”
Adams has torched the Vikings. Last season, he caught seven passes for 106 yards in the Week 2 game at Lambeau Field. A third-down conversion late in the game clinched the victory and resulted in a frustrated Rhodes slamming his fist into the Lambeau Field turf. Then, in the Week 16 game in Minneapolis, Adams caught 13 passes for 116 yards. Before that, he had a four-game touchdown streak.
His late-season performance against the Vikings was especially noteworthy. The toe injury that sidelined him for four games earlier in the season was still a painful memory for Adams.
“I know you guys loved percentages,” Adams said. “Now that we’re in a different spot, I would probably say at that point, the way I ended the year just based off my pain, it was obviously healed up and ready to go, doctors released me and I was good to go, but just the discomfort and the pain, I would still put it at a 70-percent toe at the end of that year.”
After the season, Adams took some time off. Now, he says he’s “1,000 percent” healthy and ready to go, which might not be good news for a Vikings defense that not only is breaking in a new group of cornerbacks but will be without perhaps their best defender.