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Packers at the Bye: Receivers

With 12 games down and a fight for the No. 1 seed and the playoffs on the horizon, here’s the key at receiver for the Green Bay Packers.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – At receiver for the Green Bay Packers, there’s Davante Adams. And there’s everybody else.

This isn’t breaking news, obviously. But the numbers through 12 games amplify that point. Having missed one game with COVID, Adams has 80 receptions for 1,083 yards (13.5 average) and five touchdowns.

Randall Cobb (28 catches, 375 yards, five touchdowns), Allen Lazard (19 receptions, 223 yards, three touchdowns), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (17 receptions, 309 yards, two touchdowns), Equanimeous St. Brown (six receptions, 62 yards), Juwann Winfree (four receptions, 30 yards) Malik Taylor (two receptions, 14 yards) and Amari Rodgers (one reception, minus-4 yards) have combined for 77 receptions for 1,009 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Adams has caught 70.8 percent of targeted passes, according to Pro Football Focus, which takes throwaways out of the equation. The other receivers have caught 63.7 percent. Adams has 409 yards after the catch. That’s more yards than any other receiver has overall. Adams has 43 more receptions than running back Aaron Jones, the biggest difference between No. 1 and No. 2 pass catcher in the NFL.

Overall, Adams is fourth in the NFL in receptions and second in yards. Of the top 19 receivers in receptions, Adams’ 2.81 yards per route trails only the Rams’ Cooper Kupp (3.00), so it’s not as if Adams’ production is being forced by coach Matt LaFleur and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Of 70 receivers who have been targeted 40 times, Adams is eighth in drop rate (two drops; 2.4 percent). Having forced nine missed tackles, he’s almost matched his 10 from the 2019 and 2020 seasons combined. Man or zone, receiver screen or deep shot, Adams is a lethal weapon.

“Every time I run a route, I’m going to try to murder you, so that’s my mentality and most people don’t have that mentality,” he said before the Cincinnati game.

While the numbers suggest Adams has been flying solo at times, the reality is there’s generally been another player who’s stepped up every week. When Adams caught eight passes for 121 yards vs. Detroit in Week 2, Jones had three touchdown receptions. When Adams caught 12 for 132 yards and one touchdown vs. San Francisco in Week 3, Valdes-Scantling and Lazard combined for 101 yards. Pittsburgh limited Adams to six catches for 64 yards in Week 4, but Cobb caught five passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns.

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And on and on it goes. Lazard caught five passes for 60 yards vs. Washington. Valdes-Scantling and AJ Dillon had long gains vs. Seattle. Valdes-Scantling caught four passes for 123 yards and one touchdown vs. Minnesota. Cobb had four catches for 95 yards and one touchdown in one half vs. the Rams before dropping out with a groin injury.

Overall, the passing game hasn’t been balanced. But, on a week-to-week basis, there’s been enough balance. That will be the key moving forward as defenses sell out to limit No. 17. The Packers need Lazard to get out of his funk, but Valdes-Scantling has provided the explosive element they lacked when he missed five games with an injured hamstring, Cobb has been exactly what Rodgers envisioned when he convinced general manager Brian Gutekunst to bring him back at the start of training camp and St. Brown made three key plays vs. Minnesota and had a big third-down catch vs. the Rams.

“He’s a guy that’ll make you pay,” Adams said of Cobb on Sunday. “If you don’t want to respect him, he’ll go out there and do what he did today. It’s really just about having somebody in there that can make you pay when it’s time to go win a one-on-one opportunity. If they want to continue to cloud me and he’s open, you see what he went out there and did today. He’s a clutch player and he’s made so many plays for this organization. That’s definitely why they trust him and brought him back.”

Also critical will be maintaining the overall efficiency of the passing game. According to SportRadar, the Packers are the only team in the top five in yards after the catch per catch, drop percentage and completions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. That’s not just the receivers but Adams and Co. have generally made plays.

As receivers coach Jason Vrable put it when asked about Rodgers’ uncertain status recently, “The standard, no matter who’s out there, that’s not going to change for us. We’ve got to win our one-on-ones, we’ve got to play fast and every week we’ve got to improve, no matter who’s throwing us the ball. Tae’s a leader and he talked to us before we went out there and said, ‘Hey, if 12 ain’t out there, we’ve got to pick up the standard of the whole offense. The receivers should carry us. We don’t have to lean on everyone else. We should be the group that steps up and does that.”

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