Packers Aren’t Super No. 2: Adams And Who?

Bill Huber

Note: With an 8-2 record at the bye, the Green Bay Packers are a prime contender to be playing in Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2 in Miami. This is part of a six-part series – three on why the Packers will get to the Super Bowl and three on why they will fall short.

The Packers went 4-0 without Davante Adams in the lineup, including three wins against teams with winning records, but that doesn’t change the fact the team is severely limited in the passing game.

According to Pro Football Focus, 113 receivers have been targeted at least 15 times in the passing game. Adams ranks fifth with 2.67 yards per pass route, Marquez Valdes-Scantling ranks 60th with 1.51 yards per route but is 95th in catch percentage, Jake Kumerow ranks 74th with 1.28 yards per route and Geronimo Allison ranks 101st with 0.82 yards.

That’s a whole lot of snaps without a whole lot of production.

Will it bite the Packers when it matters most?

Valdes-Scantling is one of the great mysteries of the season. He was deemed so important by the coaching staff that he didn’t go through a single special-teams drill during the offseason practices or training camp, instead working with Aaron Rodgers, Adams and a few other key members of the offense. While he is tied for the NFL lead with six receptions of 40-plus yards, he has just one catch for 4 yards the past three games combined. Against Carolina, he played only 11 offensive snaps.

“Quite honestly, he’s been battling through some injuries,” receivers coach Alvis Whitted said. “He’s been battling through a knee and ankle. It’s the first time he’s actually had to go through some adversity like that as a player. I think it’s good for him to understand that this is the National Football League and you’re going to go through adversity as far as playing through stuff. He’s getting back to himself and his practice habits are getting better every week. And those other guys have earned those opportunities. But he’s still Quez and he’s still a guy that we’re going to try to feature in the offense because he does have a unique skill-set. He can run great routes, too. He’s not just a one-trick pony that can clear out the offense. He can actually run routes. For him, he’s got to continue to work through those little things. He’ll be back to normal like himself.”

Other than Adams, Allison played the most snaps (40) last week but produced just three catches for 6 yards. Four times this season, he’s had less than 10 receiving yards. For the season, he’s averaging just 9.2 yards on his 23 receptions.

The best hope for a late-season boost might be big-bodied receiver Allen Lazard. Among the aforementioned 113 receivers with 15-plus targets, Lazard is 15th in catch rate (75.0 percent) and 35th with 1.86 yards per route, according to Pro Football Focus. In five games, Lazard’s caught 18 passes for 220 yards and one touchdown. Put over 16 games, that equates to 58 receptions, 704 yards and three scores. Despite opening the season on the practice squad, he has four third-down conversions – only one fewer than Valdes-Scantling and Allison.

“He’s a guy who’s very smart, has a great football IQ, can play multiple positions,” Whitted said. “So he gets it, he understands football. And what he really brings to the table is just a mentality of being physical when he’s out there. He brings a physical presence.”

One frequent retort among fans is how the Patriots under the direction of Tom Brady have won despite rarely having prolific receiver corps. While that’s true, Brady had one of the game’s premier X-factors in tight end Rob Gronkowski. Jimmy Graham, with 27 receptions for 310 yards, three touchdowns and five third-down conversions, has not been an X-factor.

The question is, is there someone capable of being a legit second option? And if not, can the Packers beat a top defensive team with Adams being the only receiver the opposing defensive coordinator is worried about? Yes, Rodgers is the quarterback and that is the great equalizer. And, yes, the Packers beat the Cowboys, Lions, Raiders and Chiefs without Adams, but none of those teams has an ace cornerback. That equation is going to change after the bye. Can the Packers win at San Francisco, with ageless veteran Richard Sherman on top of his game? Can the Packers earn another victory over Minnesota, which has two quality corners? In the playoffs, can the Packers beat the Rams, who added Jalen Ramsey? Can they beat New Orleans with Marshon Lattimore?

The answer is yes, but the path certainly will be much more difficult if a legit secondary target doesn’t emerge and would fall upon the running game, defense and beleaguered special teams to pick up the slack.

Contenders or pretenders?

Super Bowl contenders: Many ways to win

Super Bowl pretenders: Dangerously explosive

Super Bowl contenders: Here’s the point