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Davante Adams trade: Under the learning (route) tree

Adams hints he can learn from Raiders teammate Hunter Renfrow, now that’s a scary thing

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
Davante Adams is already one of the cleanest, crisp route-runners in the NFL. If he and new teammate Hunter Renfrow trade tips on routes and releases, look out.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Authentic. If there were ever an apt one-word description of Davante Adams’ Las Vegas Raiders introductory press conference on Tuesday, it’s authentic. There was genuine happiness when Adams spoke of fulfilling a dream of donning the Silver & Black.

“I was a Raiders fan my whole life,” Adams said sporting a spiffy all-black outfit that included a sport coat with the Raider logo emblazoned on the inside pocket. “It is a dream to be a Raider, man. It’s a dream come true.”

It’s a dream come true on many fronts. Adams because it’s destiny manifested; Derek Carr because he’s reunited with a wide receiver that he made magic with at Fresno State. Also, new Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels and slot receiver Hunter Renfrow.

McDaniels, the new architect of Las Vegas’ offense, gets a bona fide No. 1 wide receiver to go along with his big-armed and accurate quarterback. There should be little to no adjustment period for the Carr-Adams connection. The duo was working out in the offseason together until the last two season — when the Raiders officially became the Las Vegas variant. So devising plays with that combo will be a play designers delight.

But more so Renfrow. Already a master technician of a route runner that’s earned the unbridled trust of Carr, the fifth-round revelation now gets to pick the brain of Adams and exchange the various ways the pair can make defenders look foolish.

While many have postulated Renfrow gleaning tips and tricks from Adams, the Packers-turned-Raiders wide receiver expanded upon that notion in the presser.

“Hunter, people were telling me how much I can teach him, I’m like, ‘He might be able to teach me a few things,’” Adams noted. “He’s a young player, but he’s definitely seasoned.”

Especially the seasoned part. While he’s only been in the league for three full seasons, the evolution Renfrow’s displayed is nothing short of brilliant. He’s not the fastest nor the most physically imposing receiver on the field at any given time, but his penchant for getting open is uncanny.

Adams and Renfrow learning from one another — getting more ways to dust defensive backs (or any defender tasked with covering them) — is a marvelous thing for the Raiders. It’s also a nightmarish scenario for the opposition. Both, in their own right, are tricky to cover as they run routes very smoothly with little wasted motion. Because of that, they often can get defenders off balance by biting on feints and moves. Whether its a double or even triple move (or in Renfrow’s case when he runs the China route variant that includes a succession of moves that sees him go out, up, and in), defenders will often disappear from the frame of the television broadcast due to the footwork and execution.

Both Adams and Renfrow have lulled defenders to sleep before making a move or moves that create unfair separation.

Las Vegas Raiders v Dallas Cowboys
Raiders tight end Darren Waller (83) is another pass catcher who will benefit greatly from having Davante Adams as a teammate.
Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

This is a byproduct of being under the wing of wide receiver coach Edgar Bennett. Renfrow’s had EB as his position coach ever since he entered the league. And Adams was coached by Bennett when they were both Green Bay Packers. If you’re curious as to why both Adams and Renfrow are cerebral in their approach to attacking defenders, Bennett is the inception point.

“First thing I let him know, I said, ‘Man, you got to ease up on the tests.’ That’s the first thing I said to him and he started dying laughing,” Adams joked referring to Bennett. “He has a lot to do with who I am today, just from the mentor aspect of approaching the game. This man used to put together some of the most impossible wide receiver tests to pass ever. It was almost like I was being set up, it wasn’t fun.

“But I look back at it now — the way I look at the game, the way I dissect the game, knowing coverages and things like that — EB had a lot to do with that. It’s a great feeling to get him back too. ... He’s a big piece of who I am.”

Adams is renowned for knowing keen details of coverages deployed against him, where the safety is going to be. That allows him to breakdown corner backs tasked with covering him to get the clean releases by using a variety of moves and head feints and a lot of that comes with the teachings of Bennett.

Adams’ presence on offense isn’t just going to amplify Renfrow, but it’ll have a ripple effect on other Raiders pass catchers. The attention the wide receivers are slated to draw should give tight end Darren Waller breathing room, too. A wide receiver-turned-tight end, Waller is a fluid route-runner too who shakes defenders out of their cleats or leaves them in the dust on vertical routes.

Pass rusher Von Miller has his annual offseason pass rush summit. With Adams, Renfrow and Bennett in tow, perhaps the trio could hold a pass catching summit. A red zone session where all pass catchers trade ideas and methods of getting open should make for a hell of a time in both the film room and practice field. And the Raiders offense going flaccid in the money zone should be a thing of the past. Keyword: Should.

“I was looking at some film and looking at some highlights and just seeing some of the guys that I’m going to be surrounded with now,” said Adams. “Everything I’ve heard from all these guys around here has been amazing, from Derek too. Nothing but good things ahead.”

“This is the best division in football right now. It’d be hard not to say that, even if I was still in Green Bay right now, honestly. It’s loaded. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to. I’m always looking for a challenge. I’m excited. I’m ready to get to work and we’re going to do this thing.”